Brothers back in action together for TMP wrestling
By KLINT SPILLER
Thomas More Prep-Marian senior wrestlers Lucas and Jon Walker are identical twins, so naturally, they share many of the same traits and experiences.
They both sport long dark hair combed to the side, somewhat resembling the Beatles-style haircuts of the 1960s, and they both have wrestled since they were children.
Also, they both have experienced injuries that cut successful seasons short.
Now as healthy as possible, they have an opportunity to share another experience together: a trip to the Class 3-2-1A state wrestling meet.
"We want to both make state," Jon said. "We want the banner to say, 'It's not just winning; it's twinning.' "
Jon could be considered as the Monarchs' top returnee.
After all, he is the lone returnee to have qualified for the state meet. He did it as a freshman at 103 pounds, going 22-10 that season.
The problem is, he hasn't wrestled competitively since he was a sophomore.
Late in his sophomore season, Jon suffered a head injury during a wrestling match. It resulted in a concussion and a fracture in a bone behind his ear that eventually led to his ear drum rupturing and developing Mastoiditis, an infection of the mastoid bone in the skull.
It wasn't life threatening, but it took some time to overcome, Jon said.
Juggling his recovery, sports, job and school work became too much, so he decided to not wrestle his junior season.
"I was pretty frustrated," Jon said. "... With my concussion, it was harder for me to get all the school work made up."
Lucas said the wrestling room wasn't the same without Jon last season.
"Yeah, I missed him, definitely," he said. "... It's just not the same atmosphere not having your twin brother who you are used to going against the whole time out of the room."
Now, Jon's a year behind everyone else in wrestling, but he said he is quickly getting back up to speed.
"I'm getting back to where I was, but there's room for improvement," Jon said.
Meanwhile, Lucas has been stuck on the brink of qualifying the past two years.
He lost by a point in the quarterfinals of his regional as a sophomore, and as a junior, he tore his meniscus prior to the regional tournament and finished his season 11-12.
"I want to place at state," Lucas said. "I think I can. I was so close my sophomore year. My junior year, I didn't get a shot."
First-year head coach Josh Peterson, who took over the program after Mike Howell resigned to join the private sector last spring, said both have looked good in practice so far.
"It's going to be awesome to have the brothers on the team as senior leaders," Peterson said.
One of the most significant problems for the twins is their weight classes. When Jon last wrestled, he was at 112 pounds. Now, he's wrestling at 145, with Lucas wrestling 138.
Eventually, they plan to drop a weight class, though.
"I'm not going to stay at 145," Jon said. "No way. It's a little too much for me."
Jon and Lucas are among several TMP wrestlers who could be borderline state qualifiers this year.
Austin Werth, a 160-pound senior, finished 11-16 last season and is the only returnee to have won a match at the Class 3-2-1A Regional at Lakin last season.
Junior Jared Gabel also returns and is wrestling at 152 pounds.
He finished 3-18 last season.
As far as newcomers, Peterson expects big things from freshman Ricky Hockett at 120 pounds. Hockett, a transfer from Plainville, has participated in youth wrestling.
"He's got some experience and really good technique," Peterson said.
The Monarchs do have a looming void to fill, though. Dylan Schumacher, a four-time state champion, graduated and now is wrestling at the University of Wyoming.
Lucas Walker hopes he and Jon will be able to help fill Schumacher's leadership role.
"Dylan was a once-in-a-lifetime wrestler," Lucas said. "It's going to be different in the room not having that leader, but hopefully, we can step up and take his place. It's definitely a huge loss."
There are a lot of changes in the wrestling room with the absence of Schumacher and Howell, but under the leadership of Peterson, who wrestled at Abilene High School and Fort Hays State University, Jon Walker said he thinks the program is going in the right direction.
"(Peterson's) just as good of a coach as Mike was. He loves this sport," Jon said. "... He's a good role model for everyone out here."
The Monarchs open their season Thursday in a dual at Ellsworth at 6:30 p.m.