There are no glamour positions in wrestling.
In football, a quarterback stands out while a left guard goes unnoticed. In baseball, a pitcher gets all the credit for a great game while most people forget that it was the catcher signaling what pitch to throw.
But in wrestling, everybody is in the trenches at all times.
There is nowhere to hide on the mat. Ultimate focus is what every wrestler strives for, because you can’t get help from anyone but yourself. There are no teammates to bail you out on a mistake.
Erin and Kiffer Slate are brothers who are striving for wrestling success in different capacities this season.
Kiffer Slate is a 145-pound senior for Rock Bridge who is hoping to qualify for the state tournament. Erin Slate is his older brother. He is in his first year as an assistant coach for the Bruins and is focused on making them a better team.
“This is our sport,” Kiffer Slate said. “It is the only thing we do.”
There is a reason you don’t see wrestlers endorsing products in TV commercials. Your face is unprotected in wrestling. It is a prime target for elbows, knees and burns from the mat.
You can tell that the Slate brothers are wrestlers by looking at their faces.
The younger Slate was elbowed near his eye during practice a few weeks ago. The cut required stitches and he will be wrestling his first few competitions with a padded mask to protect the injury.
He said that the mask is not something he is looking forward to wearing, but wrestling is more important than an injury. If he can walk, he wants to wrestle.
Erin Slate’s face looks more like a boxer’s than the face of a high school assistant coach. He has some swelling on his nose and a bruise near his eye. Those marks are from practice matches with members of the Rock Bridge squad.
Chris Masters, a 171-pound senior, often pairs with Erin Slate in wrestling drills at practice.
“I love wrestling him,” Masters said. “When he comes in and we wrestle live together, it is some of the best matches I’ve had.”
Rock Bridge head coach Brook Harlan agrees that Erin Slate is a talented wrestler. Harlan recalls going against him in some matches when Erin Slate was a member of the Rock Bridge wrestling team during his high school years.
“He was always a great wrestler, I remember wrestling with him a lot,” Harlan said. “He was always a great partner to wrestle with, even with the coaches.”
Normally family members only see how an athlete performs in competition. This is not true for Kiffer Slate, with his older brother present at every practice. But special treatment from his big brother is not in order for the younger Slate.
“He hasn’t been all buddy-buddy with me,” he said. “He’s driven me hard.”
Erin Slate doesn’t work with his younger brother often in practice, but conditioning drills is where the two interact the most.
During practice the wrestlers split into two groups and Erin Slate is usually coaching the group that his younger brother is not in. Erin Slate said that he usually works around the wrestling room at practice, and doesn’t focus solely on what his brother is doing. This is something the senior understands an assistant coach is supposed to do.
“There are other kids (on the team), (it’s) not just me,” Kiffer Slate said.
But, he does admit that he gets some advice from his older brother.
“He always pushes me,” Kiffer Slate said. “He knows how I wrestle. He knows what I need to work on.”
Erin Slate said he is aware of what his brother is doing at practice or in a meet, and that he just wants the best for him.
“I’m just there to make sure he can push himself to his full extent,” Erin Slate said. “Because I know what he can do and I know what he will do. I’m just there to make sure he gets there.”
For the assistant coach, working with his brother is nice, but he really enjoys wrestling in general. He has always been drawn to the sport.
“I just really enjoy doing it (coaching), and I enjoy hands-on stuff,” Erin Slate said. “So I joined wrestling and just took it from there.”
Harlan said that having brothers as part of a team is a good thing. He believes it helps with intensity, something that can be contagious in a wrestling room.
“I’ve had a lot of brothers that have wrestled at the same time,” Harlan said. “Sometimes that brings up the intensity. So having your brother as a coach might bring up the intensity as well.”
Masters said that his teammate has a little bit more of a joking side to him while his assistant coach is more serious in what he does.
“He’s always been one that is easy to hang out with, easy to talk to,” Masters said of Kiffer Slate. “He cracks jokes like there is none other.”
Masters paints Erin Slate as more of a quiet individual. But, just because he isn’t yelling and screaming doesn’t mean he isn’t working hard with the Rock Bridge wrestlers.
“He’ll work his tail off for about anything,” Masters said. “He’s strong-willed but he’s soft spoken.”
While their personalities differ, the two brothers have a common goal for this wrestling season: success for the Rock Bridge wrestling team.