Coaches often preach about a team coming together like a family; working through hard points in the season like a group of brothers.
But St. Paul’s wrestling coach Jay Braunstein doesn’t have to preach much, having two sets of brothers on his 2010-2011 squad in Matt and Mike Green, and Brad and Jack Mutchnik.
With the prior success found in state champion Brad Mutchnik, it was highly anticipated to see what little brother, Jack, was going to bring to the table; highly anticipated by almost everyone.
“At first it was a little awkward and I thought it was going to be a competition of who was going to do better, but we both help each other,” Brad explained when his brother first worked-out with the team. “We have grown more and help push each other knowing, at the end of the day, we want to be national champions.”
Jack certainly has taken to the team, which, in his freshman year, has seen a perfect run through the MIAA B Conference and solid tournament performances throughout the Pennsylvania wrestling scene.
But more than the wins, he is also enjoying the brotherhood aspect of the team, not just with big brother Brad.
“It is kid of amazing coming on to this team,” Jack said. “We have a strong bond that is almost a family. Just coming into all that support, care and love, we perform 10 times better than a team with a bunch of wresters just coming into it.”
Entering high school as a nationally challenged wrestler and with his eyes on the same success as his brother, Jack had been all over the country in pursuit of the toughest preparation for his high school career. But, according to Jack, that national practice was just a fraction of what was to come.
“I though it would help me prepare, but as soon as I hit the mat in high school I found out it is competently different,” Jack said. “It is very physical and you just have to push through it, but junior league was sort of a stepping stone to get there.
“My focus right now is MIAA, then states, then preps, but I have been focusing on perfecting my technique and getting down that little stuff that, if you don’t have it down, you can’t be that MIAA champ.”
Already a state champion, the private schools’ top ranked 152-pound Mutchnik has taken last year’s fire and built upon it in the 2010-2011 season, setting his sights on a second-straight MIS title.
But before he can get to the state tournament, Mutchnik has to perform at the MIAA Conference Championships, which he caught a slight snag in back in 2010.
Dropping a bout in the tournament semifinals, Mutchnik was forced to settle for a third place finish at last year’s MIAAs, but it was a loss that fueled him to an eventual state championship.
“I was a little upset about that and it motivated me the week going into states,” Brad said. “I went back and focused on what I did wrong in that match and it helped me win states last year, tremendously.”
Making a move to St. Paul’s after playing a part in a 2008 Owings Mills State Duals Championship team, Mutchnik said he has only grown with the added help of his coaches and wrestling partners.
“When I was at Owings Mills, I was an aggressive wrestler and really sloppy,” Mutchnik said. “Working with my coaches at St. Paul’s has helped me become a more methodical wrestler, and just studying wrestling and becoming a student of the sport has contributes for my success.”
That success has led him to be the No. 1 ranked 152-pounder in private schools across the state; an honor that comes with tremendous jealousy and heat from opponents.
“I definitely have a target on my back in the state of Maryland, but I have been preparing for that all year,” Mutchnik explained. “As far as National Preps go, I had a bad performance last year and I have to put that out of my head. I have been getting the competition I needed all year, and I just have to focus and go for a national preps title.”
The Greens have had a longtime relationship with Braunstein, dating back to the eldest of the six wrestling brothers, but now sees a 189-215 combination in wrestlers Matt and Mike.
Mike Green has been a part of the Crusader squad for almost three years, and has improved from his seventh-place state finish in his freshman year to a fourth-place showing in 2010. But He still sees room for improvement.
“We have been doing a lot of matches in Pennsylvania and been coming out of nowhere to beat these teams who have never seen us before,” Mike said. “We are a tough tournament team, but the competition in and out-of-state will more than prepare us for what we see in the conference.”
Younger brother, Matt, also had a slower than expected start to his high school career, placing seventh in the 2010 MIS Tournament, but this year has his eyes set on much more.
“I see myself as an MIAA champ and most certainly a state finalist,” Matt said. “I have to beat Tyler Tippet, who beat me by five-points last year, but I have been going harder this year and taking each match one at a time.”
Every match is a battle for Matt, and not just against his opponent opposite him on the mat. Over the 2010 summer he was diagnosed with epilepsy.
“In a way, I have to be more careful,” Matt said about maintaining his wrestling life with epilepsy. “Just a small hit to the head, over exhaustion, or dehydration can trigger a seizure, and in some ways it has forced me to work harder.
“The better shape I am in, the less likely I am to overwhelm myself.”
And while there is always that thought and fear in the back of Matt’s mind, it is shared with his brother, Mike, when watching a match.
“It is really scary. Even now I get goose bumps talking about it,” Mike said of the seizures. “I have had to call 911, get him on his side to keep him from biting his tongue or choking on his vomit, and it is pretty scary. I breakdown in tears and cant hold myself together in those times. It is nerve racking for our entire family.
“When he is wrestling I try not to think about it. I get very into his matches and it is hard to keep me quite when he is wrestling.”
It is hard to keep any of the Crusaders quiet when one of their own is doing battle on the mat; hard to silence the relationships that make this team a band of brothers.