American Press Male Athlete of the Year: Montet finds football, wrestling go hand in hand

Published 9:25 am Friday, July 5, 2024

Whether it was on the wrestling mat or gridiron, Graham Montet’s opponents were going to end up on the ground.

The two-time state wrestling champion and state football defensive MVP is the American Press Male Athlete of the Year.

“(Sports) has taught me a lot about life — accountability, hard work, dedication, having to get up really early in the morning,” Montet said. “It kind of turns you into a man because you have to be a man.”

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Montet said playing both sports made him better in each.

“I think wrestling helps a lot with football, especially with tackling and getting low and conditioning as well,” Montet said. “There is football shape and there is wrestling shape.

“Whenever I am in wrestling shape in football season, I never get out of breath. With football, that transfers to wrestling, it is the hard work and people pushing you all the time in football and in the weight room.”

Montet’s wrestling career at St. Louis Catholic started with an injury-shortened freshman season in 2021, but he was inspired by his teammates to push past that and one his first state championship the next season at 170 pounds. He was third at 182 points as a junior.

“It was definitely difficult,” Montet said. “I came back from an injury my freshman year. It was my hip.

“My freshman year, I saw Luke Cabalerro and Hank Hebert win a state championship the year before my sophomore year, so I wanted to become a state champion. So my sophomore year, I worked really hard and put in the hours, and that is how I won.”

In his final year at St. Louis, Montet was unbeatable. He went 24-0 and won the Division II 190-pound state championship, his second in three seasons, in February.

“It is a mental game,” Montet said of wrestling. “There is a lot of adrenaline.

“It gets you on your toes. It is a lot of hard work, and I like the hard work. I like the people that I am around when I am wrestling.”

On the football field, he punished opponents as a running back and linebacker and was named the Louisiana Sports Writers Association Class 3A defensive MVP and American Press All-Southwest Big Schools Defensive MVP.

He ran for 670 yards and 12 touchdowns on 99 carries and threw a pair of touchdown passes. He made 105 total tackles with 7.5 tackles for a loss, two fumble recoveries, three forced fumbles, two blocked punts and knocked down for passes. He also returned a fumble for a touchdown in a 45- 20 win over Kinder in a Week 3. He led the Saints to the Select Division III regional round. He finished his football career with a school-record 391 tackles.

“With my teammates and coaches, we were all together,” Montet said. “You can’t experience another bond like that with football — going out and working together, doing everything together.

“It was a routine. It is the friendships I made and the lifelong brothers I have now.”