Shank brothers leading Olathe at Warrior Classic

Shank brothers leading Olathe at Warrior Classic

Grand Junction 138-pounder Dylon Thompson pins Palisade’s Trevor Garcia on Friday during the second round of the 35th annual Warrior Classic at Central High School. Thompson defeated Pueblo South’s Geno Long in the quarterfinals.

Olathe’s Zach Shank, left, and his brother, Austin Shank, show their form during a break in action Friday at the Warrior Classic. Zach, a senior, and Austin, a freshman, are enjoying their time wrestling as teammates.

Austin Shank is squeezing his opponent’s face until it forms an unexplainable expression. Shank rolls into his man, pressing harder. The face looks creased and confused. Shanks’ eyes dart to his brother on the side of the mat.

Zach Shank returns a nod of approval.

“Squeeze the air out of him,” the Olathe senior yells. “Make it hurt since you’re not going to pin him.”

The point of the pain is to be remembered.

The brothers, on the other hand, are no longer rivals. They’re teammates. Finally. Austin, a freshman, and Zach, a senior, have given Olathe promise during the 35th annual Warrior Classic Wrestling Tournament at Central High School. Austin scored a 9-0 decision in the second round over Durango’s Austin Lavengood, the man whom Austin left nearly without a face.

Paonia leads the team standings with 102.5 points, followed by Roosevelt (95), which has won five consecutive Warrior Classic championships, and Central (92).

“We may be in first, but there’s a lot of wrestling left,” Paonia coach Andy Pipher said. “We had a lot of pins and that’s what is going to keep us in the top 10.”

Palisade is in fourth (89) and Grand Junction (77.5) seventh.

The tournament resumes today at 9 a.m., with semifinals estimated to begin at 11 a.m. and finals at 7 p.m.

Paonia advanced four to the semifinals — Tony Darling (285 pounds), Kyler Bear (160), Adrian Lopez (138) and Jesse Reed (113).

Palisade has five in the semifinals — Dalton Hannigan (112), Justin Ray (126), Daniel Salazar (132), Eddie Vial (170) and Zach Judas (182).

“Our guys came in seeded pretty well,” Palisade coach Brian Rush said. “And we still have a lot of guys coming through the back door (consolations).”

Central meanwhile, has four alive in the championship bracket: Jacob Rubalcaba (126), Anthony Feller (145), Willy Holdren (152) and Thomas Holman (222).

“We lost a couple of matches we should have won,” Central coach Laurence Gurule said. “But we have a lot of guys in consolations and the tough wins come through the back door.”

Zack Shank is striding through the front door.

Wrestling prowess begins at 5:30 a.m. for the Shanks. Zack gives Austin his wake-up call. Sometimes he yells. Sometimes he tosses a splash of cold water on his brother’s face.

“Water always works,” Zach said.

They break away from warm sheets and lift weights or run. Zach won state championship as a freshman (112 pounds) and junior (125) and took second as a sophomore (119). The championship podium brings clarity.

“It doesn’t matter what hell I go through, that’s where your victory shines through,” Zach said. “That’s when it all makes sense.”

Austin, 11-1, who lost in the quarterfinals Friday, is ready to make a run.

For Zach, 13-0 after a pair of pins, including a 34-second stick in the quarterfinals, the mat truly is a canvas. He slicks his way into prime position and makes abstract art out of a nasty sport.

Austin is the bull.

“Austin is hard-nosed,” said the Shanks’ step dad, Travis Piatt, who wrestled at Wyoming and Western State. “And they were raised exactly the same. It’s crazy.”

As typically is the case when genes are duplicated a few years apart, skirmishes break out. That’s brothers. Love is so close and passionate it is sometimes channeled into a contest, otherwise known as semi-serious fighting.

The bull challenges his older brother.

Older brother keeps his cool.

“He’s always been that way,” Zach said. “Throwing rocks, grabbing sticks, whatever he can do to take me out.”

Austin feels the love, even when he’s doused with water.

“He’s always pushing me to do better,” Zach said. “To be better than I am. To give me character.”

Pain makes you remember something. Or somebody. That was the point of Zach telling his brother to “make it hurt.”

“He told me to give him some pain, so he doesn’t want to wrestle me as much as he did before,” Austin said, his words merciless, yet in a soft tone of humbleness, as though he were explaining how he had been pinned.

So where does the on-the-mat fury come from?

“My family,” Austin said. “It’s in my blood.”


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