The Edmond Sun

Sports

April 11, 2014

The unwavering Bulldog

Graham’s success, loyalty lands him in Hall of Fame

EDMOND — You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone as Edmond as Byron Graham.

He was born in 1947 at St. Anthony’s and was soon brought home to his house on Eighth Street. He never left, except for a stint to go to college at Oklahoma State and upon graduation, he landed right back teaching in the Edmond school district.

Monday, Graham, a longtime educator and coach in Edmond, received a call informing him that he had been selected for the Oklahoma Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame. He will be inducted formally at 6:30 p.m. July 27 in the Southern Hills Marriott in Tulsa.

“It’s quite an honor,” he said. “I was surprised because I know the high school put out some information last year and I didn’t make it. I thought it was a one-time deal and really didn’t know.”

He retired after 40 years of teaching biology in 2011 and had won a state wrestling title in 1988 and baseball state crowns in ‘92 and ‘93.

Byron began coaching baseball in 1971 at Edmond Middle School and stayed with Edmond Memorial to the end of his career.

“My blood is kind of maroon,” he admitted. “I love those Bulldogs.”

Graham remains active in the athetic program at Memorial by running the scoreboard clocks at football games and wrestling matches and you may see him at the gate at baseball contests.

“You have to have to have good players and good assistant coaches,” Graham said of the opportunity to get into the Hall of Fame. “And, I’ve had some of the best of both. It was a wonderful career in sports.”

He was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2003.

“I learned from one of the best wrestling coaches in Sherman Tyler and baseball coaches John Schwartz and Larry Geurkink,” Graham said. “They were great coaches and great ambassadors for baseball.

“They’re the ones who gave me the desire to be a coach and I always fell back on their knowledge.”

Nearing the conclusion of his Memorial High School coaching career in wrestling, Graham knew he possessed a pair of outstanding assistants in Darren Huff and Steve Dunlap, so he handed the reins over to Huff, who is still the head Bulldog wrestling coach. Dunlap went on to win eight state championships at Broken Arrow and is now the athletic director at Tulsa Union.

Another standout assistant, Ricky Bollenbach, went over to become the head wrestling coach at Edmond North.

Graham then took over baseball for Wendell Simmons, who became the University of Central Oklahoma’s head baseball coach in 1992. Graham also noted he was supported greatly by Memorial baseball assistants Steve Herron, Lonny Cobble, Rick Nordyke and Marty Seeley.

Byron’s wife, Chris, taught for 39 years at Will Rogers Elementary and then Cimarron Middle School giving them 79 years worth of Edmond teaching between them.

Daughter Rexi Phillips has taught at Boulevard Academy for two years and was an Edmond Public Schools Teacher of the Year finalist.

“There is no one better,” lauded Justin Coffelt, who is the current Edmond Memorial principal and a former teacher alongside Graham. “There is no one that is more of an Edmond Bulldog than him.

“He went to school here and came back and taught and coached here for 40 years. We couldn’t ask for a better role model.”

Edmond’s Cecil Devine is also getting inducted into the Oklahoma Coaches Association Hall of Fame along with Graham. Devine worked for the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association.

Other inductees include Carl Albert’s Gary Rose, Collinsville’s Terry Don Due, Lawton MacArthur’s Ernie Manning and Ron Hartline, Okarche’s Cherie Myers, Heritage Hall’s Ricardo “Dick” Villaflor, Bristow’s Jerry Lomenick, Westmoore’s Mike Whaley and Don Sumner of St. Gregory’s University.

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