Northfield’s Graber makes history – in 89 seconds

By Brian Jerzak

89 seconds.

That is how long Northfield’s Caley Graber took to make Minnesota high school wrestling history. Wrestling in the first round of the boys’ Class AAA 107 bracket, she quickly got a takedown and locked up a turn to get a fall late in the first period. When the referee slapped the mat, Graber became the first girl to win a boys’ state tournament match. Although it only took 89 seconds of mat time, it is a goal Graber has been shooting for much longer.

“It has been a goal of hers (winning in the boys’ state tournament) for a long time,” Northfield head coach Geoff Staab said. “This year, that was her goal from day one. She has competed with the boys her whole life. She has been our 107-pounder all year. She placed second at the Rumble (on the Red) this year. She has shown she can wrestle with the boys and beat them.”

When match day arrived, Graber and the coaching staff had a plan.

“We talked to her about being aggressive,” Staab said. “In the section tournament, she came on strong in the third period, and we told her we need that in the first period. Let’s go and get after it. Let’s not feel anybody out. You know what you are good at. You know what your setups are, and you know what you are going to do. That is what she did.”

“I wanted to come out and be aggressive,” Graber – who, with the win, moved her season record to 40-4 – said, “wrestle how I normally wrestle and let it play out there.”

“She got in and got a (firemen’s) carry,” Staab explained. “She trapped the arm and got the bar, and when she gets that locked up, it is tough to defend.”

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Northfield’s Caley Graber secures a first-round pin.

The Raiders’ sophomore got the historic pin by using her go-to stuff.

“That armbar is one of my best moves,” Graber said. “I have gotten a lot of pins against some good wrestlers this year. I have done an arm bar since I was four years old. It has always been one of my favorite moves.”

After winning a state championship in the girls’ division last year, Graber contemplated staying with the girls or competing against the boys.

“I knew this was probably my last year I would be at 107 for the boys,” Graber explained. “(At 107). They don’t have as much strength in the lighter weight class. A lot of the (girls) competition would have been the same as last year, so I wanted to challenge myself.”

Staab didn’t sound surprised that Graber wanted a new challenge.

“She was going back and forth on it and decided to go with the girls last year. This year – kind of from the beginning – that was in her mind. She was going to wrestle boys. She got her state title with the girls last year. She wants the competition – she wants to get better. That is the kind of person she is.”

A successful offseason made the decision much easier.

“I have matured a lot in my wrestling and have gotten a lot stronger – which was important to wrestle boys,” Graber said. “I have been our 107 on varsity this year. All my matches have been against boys this year. It has been tougher mentally and physically. It is a different game – wrestling boys. They are stronger and usually more aggressive – things I have to adjust to. Overall, it has made me a tougher wrestler.”

When the referee slapped the mat, Graber knew what it could mean for others in the sport.

“I felt a lot of happiness. I know that I am paving the way for other girls, and a lot of those younger girls who are joining wrestling look up to me. It is nice to show them girls have a place – even amongst the boys.”

Graber achieved a wrestling goal this morning – now she wants more.

“Winning that first match was nice, but I am not done. I want to hopefully get on the podium.”

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