Lorain County is looking to double its pleasure this weekend at the state wrestling tournament. Actually, the county might be looking to quadruple its pleasure.
After sending a set of twins to the state meet the last three seasons — Keystone’s Brian and William Spangler — the county outdid itself by sending two sets of twins this year.
Clearview seniors Michael and Matthew Hollingsworth and Elyria Catholic juniors Austin and Adam Kuchta will make their first trips to the Division III tournament in Columbus tonight.
“It’s awesome,” Clippers coach Jason Steadman said. “You had the Spangler twins last year, and that was cool. But the fact that (Clearview and EC) are so close, we’re in the same division, same sectional, same district … it’s kind of neat.”
And not too surprising.
Wrestling has a long history of brothers matching talent, especially on an elite level. Most Ohio fans know the Jordans from St. Paris Graham, the Palmers from St. Edward and even the Burnetts — who totaled seven state championships — from Lorain County.
The work ethics seem to be more similar when it’s twins.
“Twins are huge in wrestling,” Steadman said. “Any time you’re dealing with twins, they’re usually tough. You know there’s something special there. Every time twins walk through the Clearview doors, I try to get them to wrestle.”
Steadman and Elyria Catholic coach Tony Filiaggi share similar tales of their twins’ exploits. The brothers have been on the same wavelength since birth, have each other as sparring partners and continue to vibe once they leave practice and head home together.
But the sibling rivalry gets intense.
The brothers try to beat each other at video games, outscore one another on the ACT and turn a simple workout run while cutting weight into a full-blown race.
Nothing compares to the battles on the practice mats.
“It’s something cool to experience with your brother,” Michael Hollingsworth said. “Anything we do, we try to go at it hard and do it the best we can. On top of it, being brothers just makes it worse. We know that if we get rough with each other, after practice everything will be fine. If we did that with other people, they might take it the wrong way.”
Both coaches talk about having to pull their twins apart when a sparring session gets heated. The competitiveness in elite wrestlers is already at an extreme level, but when you mirror your opponent and you’re trying to prove you are the top-performing twin, it shoots off the charts.
“Sometimes I felt like I was a referee, because one doesn’t want to let the other one hit a move,” Filiaggi said. “I try to tell them there’s no record in the practice room, but these guys are just like bears. They just want to keep going and going and going. So I’ve had to grab them a few times and separate them and remind them that we have to save a little bit for the match.”
The fierce rivalry turns to fervent support during dual meets and tournaments.
“Mike got in through the (district) semis, but he refused to take his headgear off until Matthew earned his way to state,” Steadman said. “Mike was walking around with his headgear on literally for two hours. He wasn’t excited about the fact that he made it, he couldn’t enjoy it until his brother joined him.”
Michael Hollingsworth had already missed a good portion of time with his brother. Matthew lost large chunks of the first three years of his high school career due to injuries, including all three postseasons. Michael has 154 career wins, while Matthew earned No. 100 when he took third at Garfield Heights on Saturday.
“It kind of hurt that he was doing it without me,” Matthew said of the previous postseasons. “I always want to be there for him.”
Oddly enough, the same situation occurred with the Kuchtas last season. Adam finished as a district placer, while Austin had to sit out the season due to OHSAA transfer rules.
When Austin joined the Panthers lineup this season, the brothers had to decide who’d wrestle where and it was Austin who decided to cut weight and take the 195-pound spot.
“He lost rarely (at 220 the year before),” Austin said of Adam. “Plus I really wanted to be in better shape. He was already wrestling in that spot and I didn’t want to take it away from him.”
Filiaggi said they started researching diet plans on the Internet and Austin began cutting weight early in the season. It wasn’t always easy.
“Adam gets to eat whatever he wants and however he wants … it kind of rubs Austin the wrong way a little bit,” Filiaggi said. “Adam’s eating Chipotle and Austin’s eating vegetables. I think that was a little tough for those two, especially going home and sitting at the same table with each other.”
Nobody is arguing with the result.
“It’s probably the best thing that’s ever happened,” Adam said. “I get to go to state with my brother/my partner/my teammate … it’s going to be insane. If I hadn’t gone to state this year, I’d still be excited for my brother.”
The Kuchtas will have a chance to keep the streak alive as seniors next season. Regardless, their trips to state this year will reap benefits for the Panthers.
“I really think with the work ethic they portray in the room and with them now actually getting to the state tournament, it’s going to do wonders for our program,” Filiaggi said. “Kids are seeing that work ethic — getting to practice early and staying late — and now they see the results of that, and that’s getting down to the state tournament.
“Now our goal isn’t just to get there, but to win it. I’m kind of stressing that we’re going to go down and focus on one match at a time … and make a difference.”