Riverview’s wrestling Murphy brothers thrive on competition
Joe Murphy can see it coming sometimes at Riverview’s wrestling practices: His 120- and 126-pound wrestlers, who just happen to be his teenage sons, tend to get testy while grappling during workouts. So like a father warning his children as they fight in the backseat of the car, Joe and one of his assistants frequently need to intervene.
Sometimes that means the classic parenting trick: a timeout.
“They’re very competitive, and it doesn’t really help that we don’t have any other lighter guys,” Joe Murphy said of his sons, senior 120-pounder Lucas and junior 126-pounder Ike. “So they’re kind of stuck with each other. (The other) day I just had to break them up right away and threw my assistant in with one, and I took the other one. Usually that’s what we have to do, is separate them for a while.”
Sibling relationships can become competitive almost by rule, but the added elements to the Murphy brothers’ relationship — their closeness in age and the sport of wrestling — can throw gasoline on the fire.
“It’s challenging in its own ways,” Lucas Murphy said. “It’s less demanding physically but more like we get under each others’ skins more. The biggest challenge is trying not to get each other too mad, especially whenever it’s a physical sport and you’re actually clashing heads.”
Lucas said he and Ike are becoming better at that now — certainly compared to their first season together on varsity, 2016-17, when Joe said the brothers actually came to blows on the mat. Both said they know how to get each other’s skin, and Lucas said losing to Ike in practice can be “infuriating.”
But while brotherly love sometimes more resembles a brotherly shove, that love-hate relationship ultimately provides benefits for each, which they hope pay off during the individual wrestling postseason that begins this weekend.
“I think it makes us both better because we’re both pushing each other,” Ike Murphy said. “Obviously, you don’t want to lose to your younger brother, and I just don’t want to lose to my brother at all. I think we’re both pushing our hardest, and even if we’re tired, if we go up against each other, we’re like, ‘OK, we’re not going to lose to each other.’ ”
Like most siblings, the Murphys — the middle two of four brothers — can fight over anything on or off the mat.
Video games? “Nowadays they’ve got the headsets, so they’re in different rooms and I can hear them yelling at each other,” Joe Murphy said.
Cards? “We’ll get pretty aggressive and be like, ‘Oh, you’re cheating,’ ” Ike said.
It took some time, though, for wrestling to become a permanent part of the deal for both brothers.
Lucas took to the sport immediately after starting it in third grade, but he stopped wrestling after a successful seventh-grade season. After two years away, Lucas joined Riverview’s varsity as a sophomore, and his father — the Raiders’ coach for about 20 years across two stints — made him sign what amounted to a letter of intent.
Ike began wrestling in second grade, but despite having some early strong performances, he didn’t want to pursue it. Then, when Ike was in seventh grade, Joe made the hard sell, telling Ike he needed a winter sport to compete in.
“It’s really fun (wrestling for my dad) because I feel like I have someone to talk to, and I’m not afraid to ask questions,” Ike Murphy said. “He’s been coaching for so long, I feel like he knows everything.”
While the WPIAL team season poses a difficulty for a school the size of Riverview, which has just a handful of wrestlers, the individual postseason provides an opportunity.
“I feel like we can put our names out, hopefully get Riverview out on the board and make sure people know what Riverview is, and they don’t take us as a joke,” Ike Murphy said.
Lucas Murphy (16-11) is seeded fifth at 120 pounds for the Section 3-AA tournament Friday at Canon-McMillan, and Isaac (11-11) is fifth at 126. The top four finishers in each weight class at the section tournament advance to the WPIAL championships, which begin at 9:30 p.m. Friday at Canon-McMillan and run through Saturday night.
Lucas wrestled at the WPIAL championships last season, where he placed eighth — one spot shy of a bid to the PIAA Southwest Regionals, the penultimate step in the individual postseason. But after watching former teammate Christian Tamburro place second in the WPIAL last season, he has hope he can take the next step.
“It’s super inspiring, and it just shows how it can go if you’re focused,” Lucas Murphy said. “Each match is different. … (I need to) stay focused, stay what I’ve been doing all year and just stay clear-minded, too, don’t get too nervous.”
If nothing else, the individual postseason gives the Murphys a chance to go against someone other than each other.
“I like the postseason, even when it’s just me and my brother just warming up in the mornings,” Lucas Murphy said.
Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Doug at [email protected] or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.