Wheeling Park Wrestler Brothers Jr. Earns All-American Honors
WHEELING — For as long as anyone can remember, Wheeling Park has been sending wrestlers to Fargo, N.D., for the nationals, but none have earned their way to the podium and all-american status.
Erick Brothers Jr., a junior-to-be for the Patriots in the fall, changed all that recently when he placed third at 220 pounds in the United States Marine Corps 16U Greco-Roman portion of the event, which was held inside the FargoDome. He just missed doubling up during the Freestyle portion.
And he did so with very little training, but a dedicated work ethic and some help from his high school head coach had him ready.
“It’s great to see that all the work that Erick puts in is coming to fruition,” Wheeling Park head coach Brian Leggett, who also made the 1,123-mile trip, said. “In freestyle, he was right there. He lost in the blood round (a win reaches the podium) to a really good kid from California.
“It was really cool because they met up again in Greco-Roman, also in the blood round, and Erick beat the kid. It kind of fueled him to see that kid in his bracket,” Leggett noted. “Not only did he beat him, but he pinned him which made it even sweeter.”
Brothers Jr. is a two-time West Virginia Class AAA state champion at 189 and 220 pounds, as a freshman and sophomore, respectively. He also placed fifth at 220 during the Virginia Beach High School Nationals. However, those accomplishments came during Folkstyle competition.
He said his experiences this summer have been very rewarding.
“I came out fifth as a sophomore. I thought I did pretty well for my first time being there and the fact that we left straight from Huntington,” he explained. “Fargo was a really different experience. Coach Leggett and I got in about two months of practice in preparation.”
“I saw much improvement in Erick because he had never been exposed to Greco-Roman nor Freestyle,” Leggett explained. “He had never wrestled either of those styles before and was wrestling against kids from other states that have been wrestling those styles for years. In each match he was learning and just getting better.”
Brothers Jr. said losing like he did in Freestyle only motivated him even more to get on the podium in Greco-Roman.
“I lost in blood round. I was winning and got caught on my back and pinned,” he recalled. “I really wanted to place in both, so that (the loss) fueled me to compete harder during my Greco-Roman matches.”
The big difference between Greco-Roman and Freestyle is that you cannot touch the legs of your opponent during Greco-Roman, according to 16-year-old.
“That’s kind of to my advantage because I like to use my strength and throw my opponents,” he added.
It certainly was to his advantage as he was presented with a plaque for the most pins in the least amount of time.
“I wasn’t even aware that they had an award like that,” he said. “I was surprised but it makes me feel really good. All my hard work has paid off.”
“Greco-Roman and Freestyle are the types of wrestling you will see in the Olympics,” Leggett pointed out. “If you want to go on and wrestle on the next stage after college, it’s Greco-Roman and Freestyle.”
Not only is Brothers Jr. the first Wheeling Park grappler to earn A-A distinction at Fargo, as far as Leggett knows, he is the first from the Ohio Valley to do so.
“It’s really cool for us because he’s buying into the program and showing all the younger kids that if you work hard, not only during the season but in the offseason as well, great things can happen.”
He has some high, lofty goals, his coach noted.
“I’m excited to watch him chase those goals the next two years.”
Brothers Jr. said it has all been worthwhile.
“It’s been a good experience.”
With two years still to go in his scholastic career, Brothers Jr. has some lofty expectations, as Leggett alluded too.
“I want to go to a big (NCAA) D-I school and win a national championship,” he said.
He is also a top-notch football player for the Patriots.