Barnett brothers seek state
By Erik Buchinger
Senior Jacob Barnett and sophomore Eric Barnett are the latest siblings to lead the Hortonville High School wrestling program.
The Polar Bears have gone through several sets of siblings throughout head coach Chris Gennrich’s 15 years with the program.
“Wrestling is that unique sport that is very family orientated,” Gennrich said. “If the dad wrestled, usually the sons wrestle, and that’s not always true, but it seems to be the case.”
Jacob is looking to be the first Hortonville wrestler to qualify for state in all four years of high school, and his brother Eric is the state’s No. 1 ranked sophomore wrestler.
“When we were younger, we got this flyer in school and thought we’d try it out,” Jacob said. “We stuck with it ever since then.”
While Jacob is in the 132-pound weight class and Eric wrestles at 113 pounds, they practice against each other at times to determine who the better wrestler among the Barnett boys is.
“Sometimes we’ll go at it just to wrestle with each other, and at the end of the day, we go home and talk about it with our parents and talk smack to each other,” Jacob said.
Eric said his older brother makes sure he works hard during practices.
“I can’t really slack around him or anything,” Eric said. “He’s really making sure I’m doing the work I need to do to reach my goals.”
Gennrich said Jacob and Eric are competitive with each other but cheer each other on more than any siblings that he has seen in his program.
“They are closer than any brothers I’ve ever coached,” Gennrich said. “They’re so excited for the other one’s success, and they’re each other’s biggest fan. It’s really great, but once they get a hold of each other and start going at it, you can see the competitiveness come out.”
Eric said the competitiveness with each other has helped them both reach their current status.
“We’re really competitive with each other,” Eric said. “A lot of times, practices will get chippy with us because I always want to beat him, and he always wants to beat me. In the end, that makes us better.”
Gennrich said having siblings wrestle each other could be dangerous because neither wants to back down.
“It starts out well-intended, but sometimes they get a little too competitive and don’t pull the plug when maybe they should stop,” Gennrich said. “I just worry when they start going at it, the likelihood of risking injury goes up a bit because it’s my brother and I’m not going to back down on this guy.”
Along with Jacob, Elliott Luker has a chance to become the school’s first four-time state qualifier in his senior season. Elliott had two older brothers Cam and Jared go through the Hortonville wrestling program.
“Usually the last in the line of brothers is usually the toughest one simply because he’s been beat up by all the older siblings as he’s grown up,” Gennrich said.
As a seventh and eighth grader, Elliott would practice at the high school with Cam, who is two years older, and the oldest, Jared, who is four years older.
“Having older brothers, they’re obviously going to push you a lot more,” Elliott said. “When I’d come by, they’d always be yelling at me when I was slacking and always pushing me as hard as they can.”
Elliott said he uses that experience to be a leader for the Polar Bears.
“Not having a brother on the team right now, I kind of take on the role of being the older brother to a lot of these younger guys and help motivate them throughout practices,” Elliott said.
Elliott said his family has a wrestling room at their house to compete with each other outside of practice time.
“We’d go up there to beat the crap out of each other,” Elliott said. “It started off as a wrestling match, but a lot of the times it ended worse than that.”
Gennrich said Elliott, Cam and Jared all tell him that they are the best wrestler of the three.
“If you talk to them separately, each one of them is better than both their brothers,” Gennrich said. “It’s funny to get them talking about their brothers and wrestling because whoever you talk to, they’re the best, which is a unique and fun conversation.”