MUNCIE — When Joe Wegener finished off his sectional semifinal win for Delta on Wednesday, there was one person waiting outside off the court to congratulate him.
His brother, Jason Wegener, immediately walked up and gave him a high-five.
Joe plays No. 2 singles for the Delta tennis team, Jason plays No. 3 singles. Both players won their sectional semifinal matches 6-0, 6-0 and face Winchester in the Marion Regional on Tuesday.
Tennis is all they’ve ever known, pushing them to the top of the Delta tennis community.
“I’ve always thought Jason was a little bit better of an athlete, he’s a little more verbal about his confidence,” said their father, Jim Wegener. “Joe has that quiet ‘You’re never going to beat me,’ mentality and I think they pushed each other.”
No stranger to tennis, Jim has played for 43 years and is a tennis pro for a Muncie YMCA, and know Joe and Jason better than anyone else. Joe stays silent for the most part during his matches, while Jason is more inclined to show emotion.
Jim has eight children and played games with them when they were young that inadvertently taught them tennis basics. When one of his children was around 18 months old, he’d push balls across the floor to them, and the child would push it back using a child-sized tennis racket or golf club.
Jim quickly realized that this game naturally taught the proper stroke for swinging a tennis racket. At just one and a half years old, his kids were learning the basics.
“I wasn’t even trying to teach them, I was just playing a game,” Jim said.
Both Joe and Jason started playing as soon as they were able to hold a racket. Jim said when Jason was five, he’d serve an entire shopping cart of tennis balls from behind the baseline, without being instructed to do so.
At such a young age, he was already showing the initiative it takes to rise high in an esteemed Delta tennis program, which will be going for its 20th regional title in 21 years after winning its 23rd straight sectional title last week.
Joe, a senior right-hander and Jason, a sophomore left-hander, grew up playing tennis with each other nearly every day. They’ve always taken lessons together, and when there’s familiarity, rivalry naturally ensures.
After all, no one likes losing to their sibling.
“It gets really competitive,” Joe said. “There’s a lot of anger when we lose to each other, we care about having the bragging rights.”
Four years ago, the pair played against each other in a YMCA tournament championship. Jason had a hole in his shoe, and a large blister on his foot. Joe had a blister on his hand of equal size.
But relax, even for a moment? No chance.
“We’re limping around on that court trying to beat each other, we could hardly hold our rackets or anything,” Jason said. “Neither of use was going to let up for a second, the last thing we wanted to do was lose to the other person.”
The rivalry can even extend to when the pair plays doubles. Despite being brothers, the pair is staunchly different.
Delta coach Tim Cleland called Joe scrappy, and a smart position player, while Jason is offensively minded and wants to attack all the time. Jim called Joe tenacious and a cerebral player, while Jason has impressive athleticism and the advantage of being a lefty, as players don’t like facing lefties.
And when they’re playing together, the differences come out. Joe said the pair has so much experience playing doubles with each other throughout their lives, they can tell what the other is going to do on the court. But when something goes wrong, instincts take over.
Blame your brother.
“We’ll mess up and blame each other for it,” Jason said. “Then we end up forgiving each other and blaming ourselves, and we still end up winning.
“It’s really fun, I love playing doubles with him.”
The connection comes out at home too. Jim said that they take care of each other, covering for each other when one is in trouble, standing up for each other.
By playing each other constantly as they grew older, their skill levels are nearly equal. Joe said they push and pull each other along, when one brother has gained an advantage, the other picks up his game so they’re evenly matched again.
At the end of every practice match between the two, despite having already played hundreds, they still care who the winner is.
“It’s been hard, because naturally brothers like to compete against each other,” Jason said. “But it’s done me a lot of good, playing against somebody who’s just as good as me.
“But not better.”
No sibling love lost there.
Contact prep sports reporter David Polaski at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @DavidPolaskiTSP.
Tuesday’s ECI Boys Tennis Regionals
Marion: Delta vs. Winchester, 4:30 p.m.
Richmond: New Castle vs. Connersville/Franklin County, 4:30 p.m.