Young wrestlers combines talent, faith to overcome challenges

PLYMOUTH — Graham Calhoun isn't quite like other boys his age.
For starters, the Riverside Elementary fifth-grader has been ranked the No. 1 wrestler in the country in his division on's Future Olympian rankings.

But Graham was also born a little different.

He was born with only one kidney, a fact that the Calhoun family only discovered a little over three years ago in November of 2009.

During wrestling practice one day, Graham noticed blood in his urine. When he went to the hospital to get checked out, the doctor gave him his life-changing diagnosis.

"He was wrestling in Rochester, and I was at work and my wife was in Missouri with her parents, and the wrestling coach called and said he was urinating blood, so I said go ahead and take him to the hospital and get him checked and I'll come meet you," said Graham's father, Jim. "So I went down to Riley, and they told me to go ahead and have my wife come in immediately, that it didn't look good. They said he only had one kidney and the one kidney that he had had a blood clot."

"I was shocked because I'd never seen that before," said the soft-spoken youth. "When we went to the hospital I got pretty scared because the doctor said I wasn't going to live."

But live Graham did. In fact, he's turned his condition into something of blessing in disguise.

The 11-year-old can no longer eat sweets, he hasn't had a soda in three years, he'll have to receive annual check-ups for the rest of his life to make sure his one kidney is functioning properly. He's also no longer medically clear to play his other favorite sport, football, due to the kind of collisions common to that sport.

But that last fact is one that helped Graham rededicate himself to wrestling. Because he could no longer play football but was clear to wrestle, he intensified his efforts on the mat, becoming a year-round grappler. And that focus and commitment has helped propel him to his current status as the No. 1-rated 85-pound Novice in the country.

"I think that changed his goals; it changed his work ethic," said Jim.
"I knew I couldn't have any pop for the rest of my life, and I knew I couldn't play football, so I just dedicated myself to wrestling and just stuck with that for the rest of the time," echoed Graham.

"I don't know exactly when you look at him and say this is the point at which he's gotten pretty darned good, but he definitely has," said Plymouth High School wrestling coach and Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Famer Bob Read. "I've coached for a long time, and Graham's the first kid that's come along and had a commitment at the level that he has. He just loves to work at what he's doing, and it shows in how hard he goes at it."

(Read the complete interview in the Wednesday, April 24 edition of The Pilot News)