Team USA wrestling dreams come late in career for Early

January 7, 2020


For Gralan Early, wrestling has opened a window to the world.

In October, the Indiana Tech assistant coach and former North Side High School state champion took bronze in the 70kg freestyle competition at the 2019 Veteran World Championships in Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia.

“When I see the bronze medal in my trophy case, it always reminds me of that experience,” Early tells “I’m very proud of it, and very proud of the United States allowing me to represent: to wear the singlet, to represent the country, to represent the State of Indiana and to represent Indiana Tech.”


All told, Early finished 4-1 in the 70kg bracket. He started with a 10-0 technical fall over a Turkish competitor, then won an 8-2 decision over a German grappler. After losing a quarterfinal match to an Iranian wrestler, he won a 6-3 decision over his Russian opponent. In the bronze medal match, Early pinned his Georgian foe.

“Every part of the world is what makes this event special,” he adds. “Wrestling is something that brings us together. You talk about all these countries that we may be in turmoil with on the political side; but when you come and step in, it’s still a community because we love this sport. I learned a lot of different things about different countries and how they wrestle. And I can bring that back here.”

Early’s international trip started at the encouragement of his friends, who urged him to compete at the U.S. Open. Early earned 2nd place in the veteran division, an age grouping for wrestlers 35 years and older, and qualified for the veterans world games. He cites extensive training with his Tech wrestlers with getting him in shape, keeping him sharp and helping him reach the podium. Early, also a Youth & Family Director with YMCA of Greater Fort Wayne and leader of the Warrior Elite Wrestling youth club, hopes his achievement can inspire so many young sees on a daily basis.

“I wanted to be able show kids around Indiana and Fort Wayne that if you put your mind to something, and you’re determined, and there’s a connection to it by living a healthy lifestyle and doing the right things, it will help you live out some of your dreams,” he says.


And wrestling has become the family business of sorts for the Earlys. Gralan was a three-time state finalist at North Side, winning the 119-lb. state championship as a senior in 2003. He would go on to wrestle at Northern Illinois University. His cousin, Eric Early, won a state title at North Side in 1991; and Gralan helped coach another cousin, Erique Early (Eric’s son), to an NAIA national championship at Indiana Tech in 2019.

“Our family is known for wrestling. Any chance we get, we still wrestle each other – no matter how old or young you get. It’s definitely a way of life, and a lifestyle, and it’s a way to live out your dreams.”

Early admits his competitive wrestling is winding down, but his renewed success in the sport has forged new goals before retirement. He will wrestle at the senior level in last-chance qualifier for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials this spring. Next year, he hopes to return to the veteran world championships and win Gold.

“I know I’m on my way out, so I’m using this as a great way to retire on the senior level. But I’m going to still compete at the veteran level,” Early says. “I never dreamed of being a world medalist in my life.”


Anyone interested in the possibility of competing at the world level for USA Wrestling may contact Gralan Early through the Indiana Tech athletics department.

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