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Family Affairs: Family bonds driving county wrestlers to state

Feb. 14—A lot of successful sports teams talk about their teams in terms of a family, demonstrating the close-knit bonds that it takes to be successful.

For the four local wrestlers getting ready to compete in the IHSAA State Finals on Friday they are taking that to the extreme, as close family connections on and off the mat have help them get to this point.

On the Western Boone side of things, it's a strong father-son bond between Mason Adams and his father Eric that has helped him reach this point.

The elder Adams has been assistant for the WeBo wrestling team since 2015 and has put in a lot of work with the youth and varsity programs.

Mason said this week that when he won his ticket round match last weekend, it was even more special having his dad in his corner.

"It felt great," Mason said. "As much as it was a win for me, it was just as much a win for him and coach (Wes) Mikesell. I knew my dad was feeling great about it."

Mikesell knows what it is like to watch a son compete, coaching his son Kameron, who was a regional qualifier this year.

He said the Adams have put in a lot of hours together and it was fitting that Mason was the first state qualifier in eight years for the Stars.

"It is a special thing," Mikesell said. "Eric and I both know the amount of hard work he put in to get to this point. And it was huge for the both of them."

At Zionsville, it is a sibling relationships that are at the forefront.

The Frazier brothers — senior Tommy and junior Sully — have been pushing each other on the mats for the past several years.

Now they are both getting a chance to compete at the State Finals.

"When you have a sibling that can push you — you can talk about your goals together, you can get workouts in together and it's important to have a strong support system in a sport like wrestling," Zionsville head coach Doug Welch said. "The Frazier boys have reaped the benefits of that."

Welch has experience in that area, as he and his twin brother Chad were both elite wrestlers just one weight class apart — just like the Fraziers.

He also had a younger brother Luke who went on to become a Division I wrestler.

"That bond is unique," Welch said. "There is competitiveness too. You want what's best for your sibling, but you also don't want your brother to out do you. I think Sully and Tommy push each other in a positive way. And want what's best for each other, but they also want one up each other a little bit.

Both Frazier brothers said they have enjoy making these runs to the State Finals together.

For Tommy, this is his second-straight trip, but experiencing it with his brother makes this one even more special.

He also admitted it can be a little nerve wracking at times having a brother on the mat right before him.

"It is an awesome experience, I am really excited to compete with him at the state tournament," Tommy said. "I don't watch any of his matches, because I don't want that to affect me if he wins or loses. We're pretty close. If he doesn't win, then it hurts me a little bit, so I'm looking at my feet when I'm warming up."

Sully said having his brother push him in practice has made him a better wrestler.

"It makes it a lot more special," Sully said. "It's a family thing now. It's fun, even when we fight sometimes in practice. We can go home and talk about it and get back at it."

Being in similar weight classes and often times being practice partners can have an effect on things.

Sully said there has been times after tough practices where he has had to call his mom to pick him up, rather than ride home with Tommy.

But at the end of the day, that competitive fire has helped both Fraziers get to this point.

"It definitely helps," Sully said. "He pushes me hard every day."

For Luke Penola, also a two-time state qualifier, he doesn't have a brother currently on the Zionsville team.

But he has been pushed by his older brothers athletically his entire life.

In particular his older brother Thomas, who placed third in the state as a senior and qualified for the NCAA Tournament at Purdue, has been a good sounding board of information during this run.

"It really helps me to relax," Penola said. "Last night I was talking to my brother a little bit about strategy, but a lot about mindset and confidence. He's been there and done that, so it helps calm me down and helps me focus on what I need to."

And while his brother may not be in the Zionsville wrestling room with him this week, he does have his Zionsville wrestling family to help push him to success.

He said he has known the Frazier brothers for several years, so getting to compete with them in the final week of his wrestling career is special.

"I've known them for a long time," Penola said. "It's cool to see them go through this together. It's super special to make it yourself, but it's even better when you have other guys in the room with you who have fought all year."

Will Willems is the Sports Editor of the Lebanon Reporter. Follow him on Twitter @Will_Willems.