Cook twins end journey together as champs
WEIRTON — Dennis Cook has been watching his twin boys, Alec and Garrett, wrestle opponents — and one another — since they were 7 years old.
On Feb. 24, he watched as a coach from their corners as both of his sons ended the high school portions of their careers as state champions, becoming the first siblings in school history to win state titles in the same season.
“It’s a great feeling to see what they accomplished this year,” Dennis Cook said. “It’s unbelievable. I wanted it and hoped they would get it, and they did.”
The balance of being a father and coach has been rewarding and stressful.
“It’s hard,” he said. “After the matches this year, I was happy that it was the last time I would coach them in matches. I’ve loved it. I’ve been doing it since they were 7, but this year was so stressful because I wanted them to win it together that I was glad that it was over.
“Now, when they wrestle in college, I can watch from the stands as a dad”
The twins were not always on top of the podium, though. In fact, the beginning was quite the learning curve.
“I thought about having them do something else, that’s the truth,” Dennis said. “The first three years they were terrible. They started wrestling in the summer time, and in just that one summer I saw huge improvements because they started wrestling with older kids. They were wrestling people that were better than them every day, and that makes you better. You have to wrestle people that are going to push you, and they did.
“That’s it. If you work hard, you can accomplish anything. Alec is a crazy worker. Garrett works like crazy.”
Alec Cook edged top-seeded Liam Lusher of Independence to win the 145-pound title, 6-5, to be a two-time state champ, while Garrett captured the 220-pound title with a 4-3 win in extra time over Antonio Service of Wahama, concluding remarkable seasons — and careers — by both.
“It was awesome,” Alec said. “We both knew what we wanted to get this year and worked so hard for it.”
Alec set a school record for career wins with a total record of 187-22, finishing his season 49-2. Garrett wrapped up a perfect 49-0 senior season to finish his career at 136-17. He was named the tournament’s most outstanding wrestler, a title Alec had the year before.
“It was nerve-wracking going into the finals knowing it was the last match and I had a zero,” Garrett said. “It was nice to go out like that, especially since I was third last year and second at OVACs. It was special to win both this year and finally get over that hump.”
Of course, their wrestling careers will not end with their time as Blue Dons, as both have already signed to continue their grappling careers collegiately. Alec will wrestle at the Division I level for Clarion, while Garrett will stay in-state and continue his career at West Liberty.
“It’s incredible to have two that work as hard as they do in the wrestling room pushing everyone to be better,” Madonna wrestling coach Jamie Lesho said. “It’s a big boost for our program to have two kids going on to wrestle in college. It was an awesome experience to watch two kids excel the way they have in everything.
“They are two top-notch kids. National Honor Society kids that are highly regarded by their teachers. You’d like to have a whole school of these kind of guys.”
Both credit the sibling rivalry, and the competitiveness that they learned from it, as motivation to have the stellar careers they compiled.
“We’re both trying to push each other and make each other better,” Alec said. “It’s a competition that makes us better as wrestlers and as people. We were always wrestling around the house, wrestling room, kitchen and everywhere.”
“We push each other all the time,” Garrett said. “Sometimes we talk trash. It’s all love. We help each other all the way through. If I didn’t have my brother, I probably wouldn’t have as many trophies as I do. Seeing him win last year pushed me even more.”
They also gave a lot of credit to their dad.
“I would not have wanted anyone else in my corner the whole way,” Alec said. “He has helped us so much.”
“My dad has helped tremendously,” Garrett said.
The impact on the athletic department spreads beyond just the wrestling room, according to Athletic Director Mike Arlia.
“We are elevated by them,” Arlia said.
“We are on the map as a wrestling program again. It takes us back to the days with Max Nogay when Mike Nogay was coaching. Not only that, they contribute in the classroom. They are two of the most respectful kids you will find. That is what we are about here at Madonna.
“It elevates everyone else in all of the programs to say we have a state champ at Madonna. It shows that it’s not just something you read about at other places, it happens right here with the people your are around in the classroom. It brings everyone to a higher level.”
The reception from the Madonna community has been something the brothers will not soon forget.
“I got like 50 text messages after my match,” Garrett said. “We got a sign. Everyone has congratulated us. Its all been love here.”
“Being a small school, we always support each other. Lesho said. “They have a big sign out in the hallway. They got a standing ovation during morning announcements.”
(Grimm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)