The way Oak Harbor cousins Rhett and Ben Petersen fight like wolverines, you might have thought Ben would take a measure of glee when Rhett incurred a concussion during a grappling session several weeks ago.
The battles are intense, but neither would ever want to succeed at the other’s expense. Instead, they make each other better because nothing makes one want to work harder than when the other successfully executes a move on them.
“He felt bad after that,” Rhett said of the concussion suffered when the two accidentally bumped heads. “It was his birthday. He’s probably the toughest guy in the room. We roll around and scrap pretty good.
“He’s stronger so wrestling him makes me get in deeper with my shots and use better technique. I might be a little quicker. He usually takes me but we make each other better.”
Ben is a junior and wrestles at 145 pounds and sometimes 152. Rhett is at 132.
“Ben is a year older and he has the upper hand but Rhett is closing in,” Rockets coach George Bergman said. “Ben might be done growing while Rhett has some time.
“You never know. They go at it like two cats in an alley and they they’re cousins again.”
Bergman appreciates the Petersen dynamic. He’s seen it many times with brothers or close friends, such as Cody Magrum and Keith Witt, who helped drive each other to state titles.
“We’re fortunate to have a tradition and the kids want to be good,” Bergman said. “At some schools, you might be the only district qualifier, but here you have the guy right next to you doing all the same things. They compete and they don’t want to back down.”
The Petersens are best friends. Rhett doesn’t have his driver’s license so Ben drove them to practice in Milan and Perrysburg last summer.
Rhett spends the bulk of his free time at Ben’s house when it’s not wrestling season. During the season, however, it’s sometimes nice they don’t live under the same roof as a cool-down period is often necessary after practice before the Petersens want to talk to one another.
“It’s my job to beat him as the older cousin with more experience who weighs more,” said Ben, who is far from immune to takedowns from Rhett. “I really don’t want to lose to my smaller cousin.
“There’s a lot of competition trying to do better than each other. We do everything we can to win.”
Ben admits that Rhett makes fewer unforced errors.
Ben qualified to districts last season while Rhett earned a letter but his weight class was occupied by Alec Bowlick. Ben would like to place in the top three at state this year while Rhett wants to qualify after winning a Sandusky Bay Conference crown.
“Rhett is an excellent athlete,” Bergman said. “He has good balance. He’s smart. He has good quickness and strength. Ben is an excellent competitor. He doesn’t back down with that will to win.
“He doesn’t stop. He’ll go from one move to the next without stopping. If they improve in a few areas, they’ll head to Columbus.”
Rhett might be the underdog while Ben has an image to uphold, but the Petersens admire one another.
“When I see him learning and doing something hard, it inspires me,” Ben said. “I don’t think I’d be nearly as good as I am without him.”
Rhett has lost two matches this season while Ben has dropped two. Each lost a tough match to miss placing at the Medina Tournament.
Rockets Lawrence has been to state
Oak Harbor junior TJ Lawrence was recognized outstanding wrestler at the Oak Harbor Invitational and didn’t place at Medina as the No. 1 seed at heavyweight. Lawrence, who has lost three matches this season, advanced to state last year.
“He’s at a crossroads,” Bergman said. “He has to figure out what he needs to do to do better than he did last year. If you work harder, you have a chance to reach your goals. He’s jacked it up a little and time will tell.
“What you did last year is exactly that.”
Lawrence’s strong suit is endurance.
“He’s in tip-top shape and can outlast some heavyweights,” Bergman said. “He’s used to close matches and he hustles. He wears you down.”