By Will Estel
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
It took a lot for Patrick "Bubby" Graham to be an active part of the Oklahoma men's wrestling team this season, but he made it. Now that he is here, no one is more grateful than first-year OU head coach Mark Cody.
Graham, a junior, spent his freshman season at American University. After a program-best fifth-place finish at the NCAA Championships last year, his coach, Cody, left for the University of Oklahoma.
Through the recruitment process players and coaches form unique bonds. Graham and Cody were no exception. As a recruit, Graham developed an unmatched respect for Cody as a person and a coach, and when he heard Cody was leaving for Oklahoma, he was determined to follow.
"When he was recruiting me, he told me he wanted to make multiple-time national champs and that struck a chord with me," Graham said. "His leadership has made me reach heights and do things I didn't think I could."
American's new coach told Graham it would be no problem, but while on a mission trip over the summer, something changed. After arriving back in the states, Graham discovered his transfer request had been denied, but he was set on being a Sooner.
"I was enrolled in school at OU," Graham said. "Basically to show them no matter what I was coming here, even if I had to sit out a year of wrestling."
Eventually things were cleared up, and Graham was cleared to start wrestling this season.
"We were grateful that American did release him," Bubby's father David Graham said. "I think they could have kept him or made him sit out a year."
Although Cody was pleased to have a former player follow him to OU, he did not want to start a trend of American players following him to Norman.
"When we left, the one thing we didn't want to do was gut the program and bring all these guys with us," Cody said. "I didn't think it was good for them; I didn't think it was good for the sport."
Upon arriving at OU, Cody brought with him a unique policy for his athletes, one that might have caused problems if not for Graham.
"He has some policies that not everyone would normally be on board with," Graham said. "It's helped him have me here as someone who has already bought into his policies, like no drinking and year round training."
Cody recognizes how vital Graham's presence has been in his first season as the Sooners' coach and carrying out his policies.
"It helped in the transition coming here," Cody said. "If I had brought Bubby Graham in here and he was a big drinker on the weekends, they'd also follow that. It's good to have a role model outside the wresting room."
Graham's impact as a role model has impacted the team in more ways than he could have imagined.
"I really think it has turned a lot of guy's attitudes around," Cody said. "The guys see, ‘If I don't drink booze and use drugs, I'm going to compete at a whole different level.'"
Graham's father couldn't be more proud of the role his son has taken with his new teammates.
"It makes you feel good as a parent," David Graham said. "Part of it is just a tribute to believing in the program that Mark runs. I think he is very committed to that. It feels great to see him grow and mature and realize wrestling is just part of the process here."
Although he was only 45 minutes from his hometown of Annapolis, Md. while attending American, Graham enjoys Norman and being a part of everything at Oklahoma.
"The friends that I've made here, the team, the church. It's awesome," Graham said.
His parents fully support his decision to transfer to Oklahoma as well.
"My parents, they were completely supportive the whole time," Graham said. I think wherever they felt like I wanted to be, they were happy for me to do it."
Graham's parents still get to visit their son and catch some matches.
"My parents have been amazing. Between Christmas break and Spring Break, I will have seen them seven or eight times, including Bedlam."
Although the road was winding, Graham's decision to come to OU has proven to be beneficial for everyone. His parents are happy. His coach is happy. Most importantly, Bubby is happy to be a Sooner.