Graham High School is on an athletic run few districts in Ohio – if any – can match. The Falcons are a heavy favorite for their ninth straight Division II state wrestling title and are ranked No. 1 in the state in boys basketball. Did we mention they have some coaching openings?
Piqua High School graduate Nic Black, who has coached football on both the college and high school levels, is getting his first crack at a head coaching job and the Graham Falcons seem to be the perfect fit for the young, energetic journeyman.
“I like the momentum of the athletic department right now,” Black said. “Their basketball team is a power and the wrestling team has been for a long time.”
Black, who has had four jobs in seven seasons, will be a gym teacher at Graham in the upcoming school year. He is currently a guidance counselor for the seventh and eighth grades in the Springboro Local School District.
Said Black: “With the athletes they have at Graham right now on the basketball court and wrestling, I’m not sure how the football team didn’t see success.”
Black has seen his share.
After graduating from Piqua where he started on the defensive line, Black had a solid career at Wittenberg University as a weak side outside linebacker. A three-year letterman, he started for the majority of two seasons and was named second team all-North Coast Athletic Conference as a senior.
From there, Black got his first coaching job with Central Buckeye Conference foe Springfield Shawnee, and after a year moved off to Millikin to coach linebackers.
He quickly made a return to Dayton where he coached defense for two seasons and then to Springboro where he has been the defensive coordinator for the past three seasons.
While Black is a veritable defensive guru, he has ideas for his offense as well.
“We are going to run a pro-style offense, but we are going to limit our passing and running schemes,” Black said. “Our offense is going to be built on maximizing our execution, and not making it confusing. We are going to protect the ball.”
Defensively, expect to see what looks like a 4-4 … sometimes.
“We run a multi-front set,” Black said. “Defense has become a lot like offense in that you come in with different packages and try to put pressure on the opposing team. We are going to put pressure on the offense. We are not going to let them know where we are coming from, either.
“The 4-4 is basically a formation to teach from. We will look like everything from a 4-4, to a 4-3, a 3-4, a 5-2, a 5-3, a 3-3-5. We aren’t going to bounce around too much, either. I learned from coach (Mike) Kelly (the former coach at UD) that you don’t sacrifice a good position for a joker.”
In layman’s terms, don’t try to fool someone if the offense can catch you out of position.
But just because Black has bounced around so far, doesn’t mean this is a job he plans to stay at for only a few seasons.
“I like the commitment they have put into the football program,” Black said. “They do the best they can for their coaches and are trying to get them a staff. I think (Brook) Cupps is doing a good job as the athletic director and the superintendent and school board want to have a winner on the field.
“I think the program as a whole is moving in a positive direction.”
Graham will be tearing down its current athletic building for additions to the school according to Cupps and the school is looking for corporate sponsors to help with the funds for building a new athletic building, which will house the wrestling, weight room, and hopefully new lockerrooms.
“I know that Black really wants to be part of the fund raising effort,” Cupps said. “We are not trying to have the kids sell candy bars or anything like that. We are looking for corporate sponsors and we are trying to get the word to some of the bigger corporations in the area.
“I am sure we are going to be able to get it done.”
And Black certainly likes that attitude amongst the board, staff and students.
“I have gone to a few of the basketball games and the kids are so competitive,” Black said. “I really like that. The community support is great, too. I really like how many people were in the stands at the basketball game and 1,000 people at the most recent wrestling event.”
The other thing Black enjoys is the lack of distractions in St. Paris.
“I like that it isn’t close to a whole lot,” Black said. “There are fewer distractions. I think as a whole the kids are more focused on sports and other things that are better for them.”
Cupps likes the exuberance that comes with his new, young coach as well.
“The thing I liked the most was his attention to detail,” Cupps said. “He has great enthusiasm about the kids and when he was talking about getting the kids in the weight room was when we really started to take a serious look at him.
“He has a commitment to the game and that carries over. He has great excitement for the game and that makes him a good fit.”
And after the athletes, facilities and support there is still something else that Black likes about Graham.
“It is a little closer to my parents and my wife’s (Lehman graduate Cassie Miller) parents, too,” Black said. “She is excited about wearing Black and White.”
There is a new young face at Graham, but with his experience and desire, don’t be fooled by age.
IT’S GOOD TO BE GRAHAM (By Eric Frantz)
Few districts in the state – if any – can lay claim to a better upward athletic swing right now than Graham.
For years Graham has been a wrestling power, but suddenly it’s pretty good in boys basketball as well.
In fact, the Falcons own the state’s No. 1 ranked boys basketball and wrestling teams.
“We’re just fortunate to have dedicated kids and kids that work hard,” Cupps said. “We’re fortunate – and our fans are fortunate – to be in the situation that were in.”
The Graham wrestling team is ranked No. 2 in the country and looking for its ninth straight Division II state title.
The Falcons boys’ basketball team is looking for its second straight undefeated regular season and trip to the state Final Four. Last year Graham made the Division II state semifinals and won its first district and regional titles.
As of now, Graham has three coaching vacancies heading into next school year. Cupps is still searching for varsity volleyball, varsity boy’s soccer and varsity girl’s soccer head coaches.
“This really is a tribute to our kids,” Cupps said of the recent success. “We don’t have the greatest facilities, we don’t have the most money. We just have tough, hard-nosed kids that will listen and are coachable. I like that type of kid.
“Hopefully that is a lure for somebody.”
Last Saturday Graham hosted arguably the biggest wrestling match in state history when three-time state champions David Taylor (Graham) and Collin Palmer (Lakewood St. Edward) met in a dual meet. Taylor, wrestling up from his regular weight of 135, beat Palmer 8-5 at 140. Both wrestlers are ranked No. 1 in the country in their respective weight classes. Click the links below for the full story.