Grajales ready to move on to bigger and better things

Eric Grajales has been linked to David Taylor for several years. The two wrestlers have dominated age-group national events for close to a decade.

Eric Grajales
Grajales, who wrestled for Brandon High School in Brandon, Florida, and Taylor, who competed for Graham High School in St. Paris, Ohio, are widely considered to be the top two high school wrestlers in the U.S. from the Class of 2009.

Grajales finished his high school career with a perfect 218-0 record and won four state titles in Florida. Taylor finished his high school career with a record of 180-2 and claimed four Ohio state titles.

The two competed in the same weight class (103) as freshmen before Grajales hit a growth spurt and moved into higher weight classes for his sophomore and junior seasons. Taylor never got above 112 pounds until senior season. Then Taylor had his growth spurt, which caused him to move up four weight classes and into the 135-pound weight class, which included Grajales.

Even though Grajales and Taylor were the consensus top two high school wrestlers in the U.S. from the Class of 2009, there was no consensus as to which wrestler was No. 1 and which wrestler was No. 2. InterMat and Amateur Wrestling News both have Taylor No. 1 and Grajales No. 2, while WIN Magazine has Grajales No. 1 and Taylor No. 2.

The two wrestled a few times when they were younger. Both have beaten each other. But the two have not met since junior high. Since the two were not scheduled to face each other during the high school wrestling season, the debate as to who is No. 1 raged on.

In late January, Taylor bumped up from 135 pounds to 140 pounds and defeated Ohio State-bound Collin Palmer, a four-time state champion from St. Edward in Ohio. After the match, Taylor made it clear that he wanted to face Grajales.

"I want to wrestle that match," Taylor told "First things first, I want to win my fourth state title. After that, I got picked to go to the Dream Team against Oklahoma. The Dapper Dan Team is undecided. I want to wrestle Grajales. Senior Nationals, I'll go if he goes."

The dream matchup never materialized.

Eric Grajales won his second Junior Nationals Greco-Roman title in Fargo last summer (Photo/Dave Jedlicka)
For the Dapper Dan, a postseason all-star event, both Taylor and Grajales were placed on the team. Taylor was the 135-pounder, while Grajales was the 140-pounder. Taylor was given the nod for the USA Dream Team at 135 pounds that competed against an all-star team comprised of Oklahoma seniors.

At the Dapper Dan, Grajales pinned three-time state champion Dane Johnson of Shady Side Academy, Pennsylvania in 3:28. He was named Most Outstanding Wrestler of the event. After that, Grajales was ready to move on with his high school wrestling career.

"I definitely wanted to wrestle David Taylor just as much as he wanted to wrestle me," said Grajales. "He's a great wrestler. Everybody knows that. I know that. He knows I'm a good wrestler. It would have been great for the sport of wrestling. I would have loved to have had the opportunity. But it was never able to happen. It would have been too hard to figure out. After the Dapper Dan, I was ready to move on. Senior Nationals was not where I felt like I wanted to be. I wanted to be out in Vegas (competing in Greco-Roman). After that, I was done with high school wrestling. I had nothing left to prove at Senior Nationals."

Grajales was recruited by all the nation's top wrestling programs. His older brother, Cesar, is a two-time NCAA qualifier for Penn. Grajales visited Penn, as well as two other Ivy League schools, Cornell and Columbia, but eventually decided on Michigan.

"Between my teammates, coaches, and the area, it was just the perfect package at Michigan," said Grajales, who ranked in the top 10 percent of his graduating class. "All the other schools I visited were great schools. I pretty much knew that I needed to be at a place where I could not only fulfill my athletic goals, but also my academic goals. I want to come out of college with a great degree. Michigan was my first visit and I knew right after it that it was going to be really tough for any other school to beat. I got along really well with the wrestlers. I loved the coaches. Other than the cold, of course, Ann Arbor reminded me of my hometown."

Grajales plans to study business at Michigan and hopes to get accepted into the Roth School of Business at Michigan in two years, although he admits that he's not one-hundred percent sure that's what he wants to do. But that's his initial plan.

Grajales plans to compete collegiately for Michigan at 133 pounds, but he's not yet certain if he will compete in the lineup next season for the Wolverines or redshirt.

"I'm going to go in there and see how I feel in the wrestling room," said Grajales. "I might need a year to get acclimated to the college scene. But I might not. We'll see."

As for collegiate wrestling goals?

"I definitely have very high expectations for myself," said Grajales. "I have never been one to think that I'll just let it go how it goes. I have always set out a plan and had goals. I don't always achieve them. But in mind, if you don't have those goals, you can't really judge your success. As long as everything goes well, barring any major injuries, by the end of my career, I want to be able to say that I had won at least one NCAA title. I know that with a lot of hard work and the proper training, I can achieve my goals."

Eric Grajales has his sights set on making the 2012 U.S. Olympic Greco-Roman team (Photo/Dave Jedlicka)
Grajales has won major national events in all three styles of wrestling -- folkstyle, freestyle, and Greco-Roman -- but he favors Greco-Roman.

"I will definitely try to pursue my goals in Greco," said Grajales, who was one of only two wrestlers with high school eligibility remaining to compete at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Greco-Roman. "I don't know if I will ever wrestle freestyle again. I think I'm at a point where I need to concentrate on one or the other Olympic styles. I have had some success in freestyle. But that's just not where my heart was at. I've never really liked it very much. I feel like between Greco and folkstyle, I'll have my hands full."

And so will his opponents.


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