Taylor Graveman holds an impressive collection of state championships, national rankings, and world records. But at the end of the day what’s most important to her is showing up and working hard.
Taylor has more accolades going into her junior year than many high school athletes will attain in their entire career. She recently won a wrestling state championship, placed sixth at nationals, and holds four world records in powerlifting. She’s been incredibly successful, but it hasn’t been an easy road.
“At first my dad was worried about me wrestling because there weren’t any weight classes for girls, but my mom believed in me so they let me go to a couple practices,” she says. “My dad and my brother have been helping me. My brother is my wrestling partner and my dad always helps me work on things I need to improve on. They’re always there when I need them, and they’re my biggest supporters.”
While she competes in powerlifting too, Taylor prefers wrestling over lifting. “Wrestling pushes your body to a limit that I feel like no other sport does,” she says. “It brings out your true colors and if you put in the work — or didn’t — it’s going to show.” She has plans to compete in powerlifting in the future, but her primary goal is to grow as a wrestler.
Paving the way
Taylor has done a lot to grow the sport of girls wrestling in South Dakota, but recognizes that she’s only part of the story. Her role model, Ronna Heaton, was the first female wrestler to qualify for the South Dakota state tournament. A year later she also became the first female wrestler to place at state when she took fourth in her weight class.
“I look up to her because she was able to do what people tell me I can’t do,” Taylor says. “Because of her, I know it’s possible. So I just keep my head down and keep working hard because I know there’s someone who’s done it, and I’m going to be the next generation.”
Being a role model for girls coming up in the sport is something Taylor is proud of, but she hopes it doesn’t end with her: “I’m super excited and proud of being able to help boost the growth of the sport, but also show the next generation of girls that they can do something great. But also they can be the pioneers for the next girls, and them for the next girls, and hopefully it just keeps going.” Her hope is that girls wrestling grows in South Dakota to the point that our state is at the same level as the rest of the country.
Just getting started
Looking to the future, Taylor wants to continue wrestling at the collegiate level. “I’ve had a couple of colleges talk to me, which is exciting. I still have two years left in high school, so I have some time. But I want to keep going, and one day I want to be on the Olympic team,” she says.
For others who would follow in her footsteps, Taylor has just one piece of advice: “It doesn’t matter what other people think of you or what you’re doing. You shouldn’t be doing your sport or activity or whatever it is you want to do for anyone else. Do it for yourself. I don’t go out and wrestle or place high to make anyone else feel good. I know I put in all the hard work to get there, not someone else, and that’s what makes me feel good.”
WORDS: ASHLEY JOHNSON
PHOTOS: JESSE BROWN NELSON