The honors keep rolling in for Grady Griess.
The Northwest senior was named this week as a Wrestling USA Magazine All-American honorable mention selection, one of only four Nebraskans to appear anywhere on the list of All-Americans.
“We’ve never had anybody do something like that before in my 15 years here,” Vikings wrestling coach Brian Sybrandts said.
That could be said a lot about Griess.
Griess capped off a wrestling season that saw him take on — and defeat — some of the best competition in the nation by claiming a second straight state championship. This time he took gold in the Class B 220-pound division after winning at 195 pounds as a junior.
That came after Griess proved to be one of the most dominant linemen around and helped Northwest’s football team go 9-2 and advance to the Class B quarterfinals.
For his performance, Griess has been selected as the Independent’s boys athlete of the year for 2020.
In some ways, Griess considers himself lucky for how his senior year went.
“I’m glad I was able to get my final year of high school sports in,” he said. “I really enjoyed them. Track season got cut off, but I was able to play football and wrestle, and those are the two sports that I love. I’m lucky that the coronavirus didn’t affect them.”
Griess repeated as a state champion and went 47-4 against a much tougher schedule than he had faced earlier in his high school career.
Two of his losses came in the Walsh Jesuit Ironman Tournament in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. His other two losses came to Class A heavyweight champion Isaac Trumble of Millard South.
“I like getting tough competition,” Griess said. “That’s the whole reason I wanted to go to the Ironman. It’s why I’m glad I got to wrestle Trumble. Wrestling those types of kids definitely helped me get better for college. I felt they made me a better wrestler than I was as a junior.”
Sybrandts said Griess’ competitive nature and work ethic made it a natural decision to try and get him to face some tougher challenges on the mat as a senior.
“We were trying to get him Div. I attention,” Sybrandts said. “We talked last summer about going to bigger meets. If you are there with Div. I coaches, you can draw their attention. At the event in Ohio, when he beat one of the kids in the top 10 (in the nation), Grady was jacked and I was too. That took him to the next level.”
After finishing as a state runner-up as a sophomore, Griess claimed his first state title as a junior. That can lead to different pressure entering a final high school season.
“At first, I thought that what he accomplished as a junior last year would put a lot of pressure on him,” Sybrandts said. “But he competes and he’s one of those kids who is up for any challenge. He’s up for anything.”
Griess said he felt fairly relaxed for his senior year. Most of the pressure that he had put on himself melted away when that gold medal was placed around his neck in Omaha during his junior season.
“There were different emotions this year because I lost to (Wahoo’s Sam) Kolterman my sophomore year (in the 195-pound state finals),” Griess said. “I definitely felt a lot of pressure to get back into the final last year. It was a relief my junior year to get back there, and I was so happy that my work paid off.
“During my senior year, I lost to a few people and I knew that (Bennington’s Garett) Menke is a great wrestler. But I made the finals for the last time and I expected to do my best.”
Griess’ best was impressive. He won all four of his state tournament matches in the first round. That included pinning Menke in 1:44 and handing him his lone loss in 49 matches this season.
Griess’ impressive performance on the wrestling mat came after he used many of his same strengths and skills to excel on the football field.
The two-way lineman often was lined up against the opposing team’s best players throughout the game, and he still dominated.
His 40 unassisted tackled from his left defensive end spot were 15 more than any other Vikings. His 118 total tackles were tied for second on the team.
“His self-discipline along with his abilities make him such a good player,” Northwest football coach Kevin Stein said. “He always tries to compete against the best. On the football field, there wasn’t one game that we didn’t try to line him up against the best guy (the opponent) had. He relished that.”
Stein said Griess’ skills on the wrestling mat transferred over perfectly to the football field.
“He’s so strong,” he said. “If you look at him, he doesn’t look extremely strong by his physique. But he’s so strong in his hands and shoulders. And his wrestling background really helps him with his hips and his balance.”
Griess offers some advice to up-and-coming linemen.
“Any big linemen who are coming up as a freshman, if you spend a couple years wrestling I guarantee you’ll become a better lineman,” he said.
And Griess’ mind was also a big part of Northwest’s success. If you talk to him after a game that the Vikings won by two touchdowns when it appeared that they should have won by twice that amount, he’s already thinking about how both he and the team as a whole could get better over the next week.
“He sees the big picture,” Stein said. “He wanted to do well both right now and he wanted to see where we needed to improve to meet the next challenge better.
“He was extremely forthright with us coaches. He had a lot of adult meetings with us when he would initiate tough conversations. He stands by his morals and ethics, and what a blessing that was to know you have a leader like that who can approach you in an adult manner.”
Griess proved to be a great role model for younger athletes at Northwest. His dedication to his sports and his relentless effort in the weight room showed exactly what is needed to reach a high level.
“Work ethic in my opinion is one of the best things that an athlete can have,” Griess said. “You could have great coaches, but if you don’t work hard you won’t become a great athlete. But if you’re a decent athlete, you can take your God-given talent and be successful if you put in the hard work.”
Now it is time for new challenges for Griess. That will begin on June 28 when he reports to the Naval Academy, where he will continue his wrestling career.
And just like with previous challenges, Griess is ready to throw himself fully into the opportunity it presents.
“One of the things that will really be beneficial to me is I will always be in the (wrestling) room,” he said. “I’ll always be able to practice and not take a break like in high school when I was playing football.
“It’ll be an adjustment to doing a college sport. It will be a lot more intense than in high school. But I can’t wait to start.”
Sybrandts can’t wait to see what Griess does at Navy.
“They’ll probably redshirt him his freshman year, and I’m hoping he eventually gets the chance to be in the Naval Academy’s lineup,” he said. “If I get to see him in the lineup and someday he makes it to the national tournament and becomes an All-American, I’ll be jacked.”
Griess has provided plenty of exciting moments for those around him over his four-year high school athletic career.
But he’s quick to point out that those same people are the reason he accomplished everything that he did.
“I need to thank all my coaches for everything that they’ve done for me,” Griess said. “I couldn’t have done this without my teammates, parents and friends. I’m very grateful for them. And I couldn’t do anything without my lord and savior Jesus.”
You can also add humility to the honors that Griess has collected.