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|New Jersey standout Grey shows true colors while making historic run|
By Craig Sesker USA Wrestling
A boisterous packed house of 11,772 fans stood and cheered when the winner's hand was raised following the 125-pound championship match at the New Jersey state wrestling tournament.
They rose to their feet again during the post-meet award ceremonies before coming back with two more thunderous standing ovations on a historic day in the Garden State.
It was a fitting finish to a fabulous career for Delbarton High School's Mike Grey, who received one standing ovation for each state title he won after becoming the first athlete in New Jersey's rich wrestling history to capture four state championships.
Grey's 13-7 win over Jimmy Conroy of South Plainfield in the championship match on March 12 in Atlantic City capped a brilliant 157-2 career. Making Grey's feat even more impressive is that New Jersey is one of the few states that have a single-class state meet.
He was named outstanding wrestler for the second straight season. He earlier won titles at 103, 112 and 119. He also broke the state record for wins.
"Obviously, it was a great honor to win four state titles," Grey said. "It was very exciting and also was a relief. It was really nice to see the fans respond the way they did. I could've never imagined anything like that with all the standing ovations. It was awesome."
Grey, a Lehigh recruit who was a Junior National champion in freestyle in 2005, hasn't stopped there. He rolled to the championship at the Senior Nationals in folkstyle last weekend in Pittsburgh, winning by a 14-2 major decision in the finals against three-time Utah state champion Levi Mele.
So what makes Grey, ranked second nationally at 125 by Wrestling International Newsmagazine behind Henry Cejudo of Colorado Springs, so dominant on the mat?
"Everything Mike does just amazes me," Delbarton coach Brian Stoll said. "He has it all - flexibility, athleticism, smarts, techniques. What sets him apart is he is pretty dominant and almost flawless in all three positions. He's extremely talented, but his mental approach is just as impressive. He's so confident, especially in the big matches."
Grey was hoping for a shot at Cejudo in freestyle last summer in Fargo, but Cejudo did not compete because of an injury. He also hoped to face him in folkstyle, but that never materialized either. Cejudo doesn't plan to wrestle in college and is concentrating on freestyle as he trains at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.
"I definitely was looking forward to wrestling him," Grey said. "I know he's great in freestyle, but I would like to wrestle him in any style. I love challenges like that."
Dealing with all the pressure and media attention associated with trying to become New Jersey's first four-timer was something Grey didn't let bother him.
"Mike handled everything very well," Stoll said. "He focused more on winning one title as a senior than on trying to win his fourth. He kept everything in perspective and approached it day-by-day and match-by-match. He's a great kid who is very mature and very respectful, and I think that helped him cope with all the pressure."
At 5-foot-7, Grey also is taller than most guys he competes against.
"I try to use my leverage to my advantage," he said. "I look for ankle picks because of my reach, and I also use my height and length with cradles, bars, singles and doubles. I can shoot from farther away because my arms are so long."
As you might expect, Grey's aspirations beyond high school are lofty. He hopes to become a four-time All-American and win at least two NCAA titles.
"I came into high school hoping to win one state title and I won four," he said. "I will take it year-by-year and see what happens. Winning one national title would be great."
Grey is close friends with Lehigh All-American Cory Cooperman, whom he trained with at Blair. He also was coached by Blair coach Jeff Buxton at the club level.
"Those guys have had a big impact on my career," Grey said. "Knowing Cory had an impact on my decision to go to Lehigh."
Grey also had college offers from Michigan, Northwestern and Indiana.
"Lehigh is a real good school with a great wrestling program," he said. "Plus it's a lot closer to home than those other schools."
Grey said he plans to return to Fargo again this summer to defend his title.
Another Grey already is making his mark on the mat. Mike's younger brother, Mark, a sixth-grader, already has won Tulsa Nationals seven times.
"My brother's very tough," Mike said. "He's ahead of where I was at that age."
Mike Grey received another prestigious honor recently when he was awarded the Delbarton Medal. The medal traditionally goes to an alumnus of the school or an important guest. This year was the first time a current student had received the medal.
"I was very honored to receive it," Grey said. "That means a lot to me."
Grey's an excellent student with a 3.2 grade-point average while attending Delbarton, a strong school that is considered among the top 25 academic schools in the country. He hopes to major in business and finance at Lehigh.
"Mike's the model student-athlete," said Stoll, who became Grey's head coach during his senior season. "He's just an outstanding young man and a great role model. He has a tremendous work ethic. He can achieve anything he sets his mind to."