Connellsville wrestling tradition a family affair
Ever since the Connellsville wrestling program started more than 40 years ago, strong family ties have been a staple for the team.
From the earliest brother duo of Jake and Harry Hillen in the 1960s to the Benzios (Ed and Ben) in the 1970s, the Davises (Lenny, Lonnie, Eddie and Doug) in the 1980s, the Bigams (David, Jimmy and Matt) in the 1990s, the Schleihaufs (Rich and Andy) in the 2000s and many others through the years, brother combinations have played key roles in the success and tradition that surrounds the team.
“This sport takes a certain type of mentality and toughness,” Connellsville coach Tommy Dolde said. “It takes a certain type of dedication, and these families raise their kids with that type of dedication and toughness. All of them start very young. A younger brother will see his older brother wrestle, and he wants to do the same.”
This year, four brother combinations dot Connellsville's roster.
The Kenneys (Ethan and Tyler), the Provances (Dale and Tommy), the Butlers (Matt and Bryce) and the DeWitts (Shawn and Colton) all have played a part in helping the Falcons post an overall record of 16-2.
According to Dolde, having sets of brothers on the same team is definitely a positive.
“The advantage is that they push each other so much,” Dolde said. “They also pick each other up when they are down, and the other kids in the room feed off of that, and it runs right through the team. That's a real advantage.”
Of the brothers on this year's team, senior Ethan Kenney (138 pounds) is the most accomplished. He is a three-time state qualifier and has earned a pair of seventh-place finishes at the PIAA Championships. His younger brother, Tyler (106), certainly is aware of big brother's accolades, and it serves as motivation for the sophomore.
“It's good because I look up to him, and I want to do even better than him,” Tyler Kenney said. “He's always there to push me.”
Like the Kenneys, there is a two-year gap between senior Shawn DeWitt (170) and sophomore Colton DeWitt (132).
“Sometimes it's kind of stressful worrying about him,” Shawn DeWitt said in regards to having a younger brother on the team. “I want to make sure he is doing everything right.”
But even with a little stress, the DeWitts certainly enjoy competing together, as do the Butlers, sophomore Matt (195) and freshman Bryce (132).
“It's good, and I try to take after him,” Bryce Butler said. “I like watching him win matches.”
The Provances are only a year apart and on most nights are wrestling in back-to-back weights. Dale (160) is a sophomore while Tommy (152) is a freshman.
“We fight a lot, yeah, but we wrestle hard against each other,” Dale Provance said. “Being at the same weight, we're partners, and we train as hard as we can against each other.”
For Dale Provance, being on the same team with his brother is a dream realized.
“When we were growing up, we were short, fat kids, but we always wanted to be on the same high school wrestling team,” Dale Provance said. “Now, here we are.”
Jason Black is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com.