Iowa high school senior Aaron Graves
made national news on Feb. 17 when he pinned a heavyweight opponent in the state wrestling meet the same day he scored 33 points in a playoff basketball game.
Incredibly, neither sport is even his best.
The strapping and studious 6-foot-5, 270-pound two-way lineman for Southeast Valley (Gowrie)
is regarded as a top 150 national football recruit by 247Sports
and led the Jaguars to their first state title in the fall.
Graves capped his prep career this spring with a fifth-place finish in the shot put at the state track and field meet.
The University of Iowa football signee's multi-sport resume culminated in today's announcement that he has been named the 2021-22 MaxPreps National Male Athlete of the Year.
Graves is the first four-sport athlete — and first from Iowa — to win the prestigious honor, previously awarded to such all-around stars as Patrick Mahomes, Kyler Murray and Jalen Suggs.
He likely comes from the smallest school. With an enrollment of 302, Southeast Valley opened in 2014 after 15 rural communities consolidated.
Even though he led the state in sacks as a freshman and was the youngest football player ever to be offered a football scholarship by Iowa, Graves was stunned at the news of him beating out more than a dozen highly-decorated athletes from more metropolitan regions.
"When I heard I won I was like ‘What in the world?,' " Graves said. "You never think a kid from Dayton (Iowa), population 800, would be in the running for an award like this, let alone win it. I'm very humbled to even be considered."
It didn't particularly surprise his high school football coach Mike Swieter, who has been watching Graves since he was a kid.
"Nothing he does shocks me," he said. "I know we're a small school but I've been around a lot of good coaches around a big area and they all say he's the best he's ever seen. He's the real deal."
Swieter watched Graves pile up 221 career tackles and 37 sacks, including 63 and 7.5 as a senior when he was double- and triple-teamed. Graves also was a dominating offensive guard, punted, kicked and was a wedge blocker on kickoffs. He never left the field during the team's 30-13 upset of perennial state power West Lyon in the state final.
"They threw everyone at him," Swieter said. "But he was everywhere. So powerful. He wouldn't let us lose."
Said Graves, who grew up idolizing A.J. Epenesa, J.J. Watt and Aaron Donald, of winning the state title: "That day was incredible to say the least because it never happened before. Nobody was expecting it except us and our coaches."
Swieter watched Graves play basketball for the first time when his star player was a freshman.
"My son was a junior on the team so I thought it would be good to see Aaron try something else," Swieter said. "He dominated the game. I think he had 32 or 34 points."
Graves went on to score more than 1,000 points in his career and averaged 22 points and nine rebounds as a senior. At the same time, in just his second year of wrestling, he went 28-3 and finished fourth in the state.
"My coaches were very understanding and flexible with my schedule," Graves said. "I must admit, those three months in the winter I've never been more fatigued or tired."
Academics were equally important. He not only finished high school with a 4.0 grade point average, but also found the time to attend Iowa Central Community College, where he earned an Associate of Arts degree before his high school diploma.
A few weeks after graduation, Graves was helping Swieter train linemen for the 2022 Jaguars team. He'll report to Iowa City and Hawkeyes camp in July.
"That's just the kind of kid Aaron is," Swieter said. "He could have been out doing his own thing, but he's never been ‘look at me, I'm the great Aaron Graves.' He's one of the boys, doing everything he can to make others better. He's the complete package."
Why did he feel the need to help out the Jaguars after putting in quite a strenuous senior year? "I guess I want to leave some sort of legacy at the school," he said. "And I want my teammates to succeed after I leave."
Among those Graves beat out for the award were a trio of football-baseball standouts in Rob Snelling
of McQueen (Reno, Nev.)
, Sam Horn
of Collins Hill (Suwanee, Ga.)
and Justice Haynes
of Buford (Ga.)
Football-basketball stars Sonny Styles
of Pickerington Central (Pickerington, Ohio)
and Jaden Greathouse
of Westlake (Austin, Texas)
were also among those considered along with speedy track-football athletes Rodrick Pleasant
of Serra (Gardena, Calif.)
and Pierre Goree
from Duncanville (Texas)
. Past Winners
2007-08 — Terrelle Pryor, Jeannette (Pa.)
2008-09 — Garrett Gilbert, Lake Travis (Austin, Texas)
2009-10 — Dorial Green-Beckham, Hillcrest (Springfield, Mo.)
2010-11 — Kasen Williams, Skyline (Sammamish, Wash.)
2011-12 — Anthony Alford, Petal (Miss.)
2012-13 — Derrick Henry, Yulee (Fla.)
2013-14 — Patrick Mahomes, Whitehouse (Texas)
2014-15 — Kyler Murray, Allen (Texas)
2015-16 — Lonzo Ball, Chino Hills (Calif.)
2016-17 — Tim Tawa, West Linn (Ore.)
2017-18 — Jordyn Adams, Green Hope (Cary, N.C.)
2018-19 — Joe Girard III, Glen Falls (N.Y.)
2019-20 — Jalen Suggs, Minnehaha Academy (Minneapolis, Minn.)
2020-21 — Lebbeus Overton, Milton (Ga.)