Nearly anyone who grew up with an older brother knows one thing to be true: Getting beat up is just part of the deal.
Whether it’s the classic “Why are you hitting yourself?” trick, an especially hard elbow to the gut when taking the lead in a 1-on-1 backyard basketball game, or just an old-fashioned whoopin’ for no apparent reason at all, big brother beating up on his kid brother is a tradition as old as time.
Such is life for Peninsula sophomore wrestler Brock Allen, who spars with senior Gavin Allen, his brother, in practice.
It was tough enough trying to learn the ins and outs of wrestling as a freshman while trying to accommodate to high-school life. But Brock had the added challenge of trying to beat his brother in practice. It hasn’t happened yet.
“It’s always a brawl when we’re wrestling,” Brock said. “He’s really good. He’s definitely better than me.”
It’s probably because for Gavin, there aren’t any surprises when it comes to his brother. Sometimes, at home, the two will start wrestling. Anything Brock wants to do, Gavin already sees coming.
“He’s got certain things that he likes to do and I know how to counter them,” Gavin said. “I feel like he’ll eventually be a better wrestler than me. But I feel like for now, he has things that he needs to work on. He’s still young so he still has time to improve.”
There’s pride on the line, too. After all, who would want to lose to their younger brother?
“There’s also that thing where you condition someone to lose to you,” said Peninsula coach Mark Nickels. “Once you’ve beaten someone so many times, they’re going to find a way to not win. Gavin will always find a way to come out on top when they’re going head to head.”
But the sibling competition is generally friendly. They both know sparring on the practice mat makes them better. For Brock, he figured that out about midway through his freshman year.
Brock didn’t enjoy wrestling at first. Far from it, in fact.
“It was frustrating,” he said. “I was always losing, I was always getting beat. I was just trying to find a way to have fun.”
Nickels can relate to his sophomore wrestler.
“He might have been wrestling because his brothers did it,” Nickels said. “I think that was something for me, too (in high school). I just did it because my brothers did it and I don’t know that I even had a choice. I think when he started wrestling for himself, and not just because he was told he was going to do it, I think it made a difference for him.”
Around the midseason point, something started to click for Brock. He turned things around, started winning, and eventually went on to place eighth in the 106-pound weight class in the Class 3A state Mat Classic tournament.
“It was exciting and rewarding,” Brock said. “It felt like all the work I had put in was coming around. … I finally started to show my progress, just because I was putting the work into it.”
Funny enough, Brock became a state-placer at Mat Classic before Gavin did, despite the elder brother beating him continually in practice. Perhaps he should thank his brother for the lesson.
“He showed me the ropes and helped me not be quite as clumsy as a freshman,” Brock said of his older brother. “He helped teach me to be a leader. He knows how to help me. He works really hard. He’s just got better setups on his takedowns. He’s stronger than me. He’s faster. He’s just got the technique down. … It’s always a learning experience.”
Now, Gavin is hoping all that experience culminates in his first state placing in his senior year.
“It’s a big goal — it’s everything to me right now,” Gavin said. “Every night, I think about it, what I need to do to get there. I need to focus my drilling and just work harder, be more intentional with my drilling and my partners.”
Besides, how could Gavin let his little brother have Mat Classic bragging rights?
“I think this is Gavin’s year,” Nickels said. “He’s always been so undersized for the weight class. He’s always had the attitude for it, just a grumpy little (106) pounder. He’s competitive, but he’s been undersized. I think he’s going to be every bit of 106 now and I think he has an opportunity to assert himself.”