It’s pretty rare to have two solid high school wrestlers from the same state decide on the same collegiate wrestling program 1,000 miles away from home. It’s a whole different story when those two wrestlers combined for seven state championships while competing for the same high school and are dominating at the collegiate level in the most difficult wrestling conference in the country.
Both redshirt junior Tyler Graff and redshirt freshman Connor Medbery decided on the University of Wisconsin wrestling program coming from Loveland High School in northern Colorado and have been Wisconsin’s two best wrestlers this season, with both being ranked every week since the start of the year.
Graff and Medbery are currently ranked in the top ten of the 133-pound and heavyweight weight classes, respectively.
Head coach Barry Davis said it’s not every day you see two teammate wrestlers who combined for six undefeated seasons and a totaled 323-3 record in high school.
“Those guys are rare,” Davis said. “To have that type of athletic talent and that they came from the same high school.”
The relationship between Graff and Medbery began well before high school. The pair was part of a small group of wrestlers from Loveland who trained and wrestled throughout grade school together starting at an early age.
Entering his first year of high school, Medbery already knew the talent and work ethic of Graff, who had won three state championships before Medbery was even out of eighth grade. He said his other teammates quickly respected Graff just as much for what he had already accomplished at Loveland High School.
“We had a good friendship, definitely,” Medbery said. “All of the other underclassmen looked up to Ty to see how he was working hard, so when it was time to wrestle, everybody knew this wasn’t a time to mess around. It was a time to wrestle, so everybody could stay focused.”
The admiration for Graff, however, was not one-sided. Graff knew of Medbery’s dedication and talent long before Medbery joined Graff on the high school team.
“I knew even before [high school],” Graff said. “The way he held himself to standards already gave me an idea of how I should look at him. I didn’t see him as some typical high school wrestler; he was somebody who could take it all.”
Graff and Medbery are not the first two successful wrestlers to come out of Loveland. Tom Clum was a two-time All-American for Wisconsin in the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons after wrestling for Loveland High School.
As a 133-pound wrestler like Graff, Clum had an enormous influence on Graff becoming a Badger three years after his graduation. He is now a top club-level coach back in Colorado.
Davis said Clum was one of the most technical wrestlers he has ever coached and noted that he is a trustworthy candidate to take references from in regards to recruiting.
“With the techniques he knows and the skills he teaches, it’s unbelievable,” Davis said. “So when Tommy Clum recommends somebody, that’s high praise … Tommy Clum has helped take [Colorado] to a whole different level, wrestling knowledge wise.”
The Loveland lineage continued when Graff recommended the promising Medbery to wrestle as a Badger. Graff and Medbery have been two of Wisconsin’s best wrestlers in recent memory — Graff has been a two-time All American in his two full seasons on the team, and Medbery has won 11 of 12 dual matches in his first season competing as a Badger.
Davis said he’s been pleased with the performance of his star wrestlers with both their athletics and academics.
“They’re both very focused in the classroom, out of the classroom, on the mat,” Davis said. “They have high expectations in both areas, and they’re both high achievers.”
The success of the Loveland natives at the collegiate level partially comes from the mutual weight trainer that Graff and Medbery worked out with in high school. Graff met volunteer trainer Dave Jackson coming into high school when Jackson noticed that Graff needed some help with his form in the weight room.
Medbery starting training with Jackson when in eighth grade he decided to join Graff and Jackson at an open practice session.
“He knew what we needed to do, how to get stronger,” Medbery said. “He knew our goals, too. He knew that Tyler wanted to be a national champion and same with me … He really pushed us. I think he has a mindset that he wants to help the kids, he does everything for free, so he’s just a great guy that wants to help out the community and help kids get better.”