Andrew DeGraff grapples with world champ Gordon Ryan

By Stephen Baldwin, RealWV

Imagine you’re an 18-year old rising basketball star, and you get to play one-on-one with Michael Jordan. Wouldn’t that be something? 

Local jiu jitsu phenom Andrew DeGraff had such an opportunity last month when he sparred with world champion Gordon Ryan. 

“He’s the best in the world,” Andrew says. “Probably the best ever.” 

While spending a month in Austin training on the same team (New Wave), Gordon chose to spar with Andrew one afternoon when the cameras were rolling. 

Andrew is a rising star in his own right. The 18-year old West Virginian is ranked 9th in the world in the 135-pound weight class.

But Gordon is the guy in jiu jitsu everyone else looks up to. They call him “The King.” He’s won seven world championships…and is only 28 years old. 

For over 11 minutes, Andrew went toe-to-toe with Gordon, who outweighs him by about 80 pounds. He not only held his own, but he impressed Gordon and the quarter-million people who have watched the video since. 

“Totally awesome,” Andrew says of the experience. “It definitely changes your views on almost every position. He has answers from different positions that you’ve never thought of.”

Andrew’s dad, Adam DeGraff who owns Nova Jiu Jitsu along with Andrew, Dan Kuprin, & Rusty Nelson, says the proximity to being next to the sport’s top guy has numerous benefits, beyond the new sponsorships and admiration Andrew earned. “I’m thrilled to be sending out our top competitor, who can bring back info directly from the best in the world and share that with our students,” Adam affirms. 

Andrew teaches several days a week at Nova, located at the top of Ronceverte Hill in Greenbrier County, while also competing at the highest levels of the sport. For more info, visit

Stay tuned next week for a feature detailing Andrew’s preparation for his biggest fight yet.


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