Gray becomes MAWA national champ

Published 10:32 pm Friday, May 9, 2014

Nansemond River High School freshman Dia Gray, top, wrestles his older brother, Demetrious Gray, who helped coach him to the heavyweight MAWA national title.

Nansemond River High School freshman Dia Gray, top, wrestles his older brother, Demetrious Gray, who helped coach him to the heavyweight MAWA national title.

Dia Gray is wasting no time in setting a high bar for himself and his fellow wrestlers.

He swept the Middle Atlantic Wrestling Association Eastern Nationals in Salisbury, Md. over the weekend to be crowned MAWA national champion at the heavyweight level, despite only being a freshman. He is also the first ever Nansemond River High School wrestler to achieve this honor.

“It means a lot,” Gray said of winning the title. “Actually, having my brother coaching me, that definitely made it more special.”

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Demetrious Gray is a 2011 Nansemond River graduate who wrestled with the Warriors in the 152-pound weight class.

He shared his reaction to his little brother’s accomplishments thus far when he said, “He’s been wrestling me forever, so it means just a lot to see him flourish like that. It’s a good sight to see that he’s wrestling close to his full potential. He’s not there yet, because he hasn’t fully grown yet.”

During the regular season with the Warriors, Dia experienced great success at the 285-pound level, despite only weighing around 230 pounds.

“He’s put some size on since the season ended,” said Nansemond River head coach Tripp Seed.

Dia Gray said he is up to around 250 because he has been working out, and Seed praised him for his strong work ethic that has persisted, even when no one else has been pushing him.

Gray was hungry for the title after last year when, as an eighth-grader, he finished fourth, hampered by an injury on the first day of nationals.

“I felt like I made a good statement of showing that I will be back next year for that national championship,” Gray said.

To reach the eastern nationals, he had to advance through a divisional and a regional round. He went undefeated at every level, finishing 10-0 overall.

Though the MAWA Eastern Nationals tournament does not represent the entire country, Seed said it still includes some of the nation’s best wrestlers, coming from New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

On Saturday, Gray first had a bye and then pinned Jorge Canales from Bedford, Pa. in 4:15.

“He basically stopped me from doing my normal moves, and I basically had to change up the whole situation,” Gray said of Canales.

In the semifinal, Gray defeated Andrew Tanner of Boonville, N.Y. by a score of 2-0.

“I actually did a duck under, and I ended up slamming him,” Gray said, noting this happened in the first period.

He won the championship match 3-0 against Tommy Killoran of Perkiomenville, Pa. His points came off an escape in the second period and a takedown with three seconds left in the third.

“Just seeing your little brother in there wrestling, and especially me wrestling before, seeing him win just made me proud,” Demetrious Gray said.

Of Dia’s win, Seed said, “It’s a big accomplishment for him, for the program, especially for him only being a freshman.”