When you're one of the most successful high school wrestlers in the area, it can be hard to find competition. How can you improve when you beat everyone?
Two Central High wrestlers have avoided that problem. Any time one of them wants to take on the best of the best, he challenges the other. Yes, any time. Morning, noon, or night. School days, weekends . . .
The two are brothers James and Roy Reyes. James is a senior, Roy is a junior. Between them, they posted a 41-1-1 record this year and helped Central finish 15-3 overall, 8-0 in the Gulf Coast Conference _ the first conference title for Central in any sport.
Both just faced some of their toughest competition in a 44-18 defeat of Hernando on Monday. James, who wrestles in the 140-pound division, faced Brad Kuhl, 20-0 at 135 before Monday's match. James led Kuhl 7-4 before pinning him with four seconds remaining.
"That was the toughest match of my career," James said. "It took a while to pin him. He's a real competitor. He really fought."
Hernando's Chuck Deason blemished Roy's previously perfect record as the two wrestled to a 2-2 tie at 135. But that was still a victory of sorts for Roy; Deason entered the match 18-1 and on a 17-match win streak at 135.
Kuhl was the second previously undefeated wrestler James dropped recently. He decisioned Hudson's Tom Dougherty in a tri-meet on Feb. 1. Dougherty entered the match 16-0-1 and finished fourth in the Class 3A state meet last year.
What's the brothers' secret? Plain old dedication and discipline.
"We stay after practice every day," James said.
That's an understatement, said coach Barry Gardner.
"They are two of the hardest-working kids I've ever been around," Gardner said. "You have to run them out of the gym after practice. When you tell them it's time to go, you have to wait another hour, and then try to run them out again."
James' sole loss was to Lake Gibson's Robert Bruce in the semifinals of the Kiwanis tournament in Brooksville. Bruce is still undefeated, but James won't face him in the post-season; Lake Gibson is a 4A school.
The brothers' rapport has been a large factor in their success.
"I wouldn't be as good as I am without James," Roy said. "Whenever I'm down, James tells me: "Your next opponent is running right now. He's working harder than you right now.' He really gets me going."
"We push each other all the time," James said. "I see an advantage that we have because we're together all the time."
The siblings are both eager for the Class 3A, District 4 tournament this Saturday at Springstead High. Roy fell at districts last year; James attended the 3A state tournament but lost in the second round. He hopes to return and win a state championship, and there will be no jealousy if Roy comes along for the ride.
"He's a lot better now than I was in my junior year," James said. "I want him to go all the way with me. I would really like that. And if he can do better than me, that's great. (Next year) he's going to be awesome _ no one's going to stop him."
Roy doesn't know if that's true, but he does foresee a responsibility he'll have to the team.
"When I was a freshman, I always knew that if I lost we had someone to pick up the slack. Last year, I learned how to pick up slack myself. This year, I'm picking up the slack.
"Next year, I'm the one everybody's going to expect to win all the time. Of course, they don't know how tough it is."