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Bartlett wrestler Maggie Graham sets sights on 2024 Olympics while breaking barriers for girls in the sport

Updated: Jun. 20, 2021 at 9:43 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Bartlett wrestler Maggie Graham started her summer winning a silver medal at the 2021 Pan American Games.

“It was awesome to see everyone else compete and go against everything,” Maggie Graham. “It was awesome.”

It was her first international competition in the sport. She just started wrestling two years ago and already medaled against the best wrestlers in the world.

“I’m 16,” she laughed. “This is a great first step into a hopefully a big career in wrestling.”

Maggie Graham grew up in martial arts. She started Jiu Jitsu when she was seven years old. When she got to high school she thought it’d be a natural progression to start wrestling. But it wasn’t always easy.

“I didn’t have a practice partner my first year, so I would practice with the guys,” she said.

According to her coach, Mark Beckwith, “She gives the guys a good run.” She added, “And then in tournaments I would just hope there were girls.”

When Graham first started going to competitions there would be times she would weigh in, and find out there were no other girls to compete against. So she’d end up just cheering on the guys.

“It’s kind of like a cliff, yeah I’m here and then kind of drop down. OK, I have no one to compete with so I was like OK then, I’ll adapt I guess,” she said describing the feeling.

Graham continued to train and continued to go to meets. She gradually saw more and more girls join the sport. And she gradually saw her dedication to the sport pay off. She won back-to-back TSSAA high school state championships her freshman and sophomore year.

“She was something special from the start,” Beckwith said. “And it was like, OK, this is another level of athlete we can building and keep building.”

It was only three months ago when Mark Beckwith started training Graham for international competitions. She finished second in her first one.

“That’s the kind of talent we’re dealing with,” he said.

The finish in the Pan Am games set the bar for the big career Graham is working toward.

“Long term dream is to go to the 2024 Olympics,” she said. Graham also hopes to inspire other young girls to wrestle.

“It’s incredible that I’m able to participate in this and help grow it.”

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