Greenbrier aide headed for hall

Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Evans' Gralyn Harris will enter the Connecticut chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. He is an assistant coach at Greenbrier and founder of the Columbia County Mat Club.

To the long list of titles that precede Evans resident Gralyn Harris' name -- former U.S. Defense representative, wrestling state champion and judo national champion -- another impressive distinction was added last week: Hall of Famer.

 

Harris, who currently serves as an assistant wrestling coach at Greenbrier and director of the Columbia County Mat Club, will be inducted into the Connecticut chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in April.

"It's astounding. It's not something that I ever thought would be possible," said Harris, who grew up in Waterbury, Conn. "It's humbling. I've done what I was taught to do and it's resulted in someone recognizing that, appreciating that."

In his day, Harris was among the nation's elite in both wrestling and judo.

He won the Connecticut state wrestling championship in 1976 and, three years later, he represented the United States in judo at the Pan-American Games.

Harris became a national champion when he won the U.S. Judo masters title in 1994.

Perhaps his greatest achievements in the two sports have come from his work as a coach and club director.

Harris is credited with starting the first judo club at the University of Connecticut and California's chapter of the United States Judo Foundation.

He is also the founder and director of the Columbia County Mat Club in Evans.

Harris coached at the U.S. Military Academy and headed Yemen's judo national team before landing at Greenbrier, where he works as an assistant for one of the area's top wrestling programs.

His son, Caleb Harris, is one of the Wolfpack's top wrestlers.

"Other teams may have a local guy that was good in high school or college, but we have a world-class caliber, experienced wrestler coaching us," Greenbrier junior wrestler Beau Allen said. "That's what makes us so good."

For all that Harris has accomplished on the mat or as a coach, he said he is most proud of the time he has spent serving his country.

Harris retired after 23 years as a Lt. Col. in the Army, where he served with the Military Intelligence Unit.

He later became a U.S. Defense representative in charge of protecting American civilians and allies in Yemen.

Harris credits some of his experiences in wrestling with preparing him for a career in the military.

"Making the Hall of Fame is great, but to take what I've learned in wrestling and turn it into a career by applying those principles of discipline, it's like icing on the cake," Harris said.

Reach Joey Jones at (706) 823-3304 or joey.jones@augustachronicle.com.

 

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