CANFIELD - Fights used to be pretty viscous between cousins David-Brian Whisler and Jordan Radich back in the day.
The two, now juniors on the Howland wrestling team, are the same age and grew up together. They hung out on a regular basis, and every now and then, tempers flared.
"We would get in death-match fights," Radich joked. "Our moms would have to pull us off each other. And I would always bite him. That was my thing. I don't know why. He would come up crying from wherever we were with bite marks all over his back. My grandma, my mom and his mom would be crying, 'Why are you doing this to him? What are you doing? What's wrong with you two?' I guess I was pretty ruthless back then."
Not much has changed.
Radich and Whisler rolled to titles at the Eastern Ohio Wrestling Tournament on Saturday at Canfield High School. It was the second consecutive EOWL championship for Radich and the third straight for Whisler. The tandem helped guide Howland to a sixth-place team finish and continued impressive individual seasons that again seem to be headed toward the state tournament.
Both reached that point last year, with Whisler taking fourth and Radich coming up a match short of placing. They're gearing up for even better finishes this year, and they're doing it by beating the crap out of each other at practice.
"It's our job to push each other," said Whisler, who earned his 100th career victory in the semifinals. "It works well for both of us because I have trouble on bottom sometimes, and he's real tough on top. And being on my feet is my best position, and that's something he's working on."
They both looked pretty well-rounded on Saturday. Whisler cruised past Kade Byland of Salem, 12-3, in the finals - Whisler's closest match of the tournament. Radich pinned his final's opponent, Anthony Audi of Poland, in the second period.
Howland coach Bill Beasom was pleased to see their progress, but he's been more impressed with their leadership skills on a team that's young and inexperienced.
"They're our captains this year, and we've never really had junior captains," said Beasom, who is used to seniors taking that role but only has one on the team. "They take their jobs serious. They're extra coaches. The kids respect them and listen to them, and they're just great role models for the other kids."
Beasom smiled and gave what appeared to be a look of doubt when asked whether they're as brutal with one another during practice as they were as kids.
"There are some days, yes, very much so," said Beasom before pausing and laughing a bit. "They're very competitive. But they've been wrestling each other since they were 5 or 6 years old, so it's kind of hard for them some days because they know what each other are going to do. But the good thing about them is when they're wrestling the other kids, they're not brutalizing them. They try to help the kids out."
Luckily for everyone everyone on the team, biting is illegal in high school wrestling.