“My principal said something about wrestling and there were (fliers) in the office,” Brandon Egnor said. “So I went down there and grabbed a sheet and took it home. I thought it sounded interesting. … I just thought it would be fun.”
The inconsequential act nine years ago proved to be huge for the Elyria High program.
Eldest brother Phillip went on to place sixth in the 2009 Division I state tournament, and a year later Kodie became a state runner-up. Brandon earned his first trip to Columbus last season as a junior, and will need another big performance at this weekend’s district tournament at Cleveland State to earn a second straight berth.
The whole dynasty came about due to an innocent misconception.
“I kind of thought it’d be like WWE. … I was in third grade and we were all watching it back then,” Brandon said. “Once they started jogging and telling us to squash the bug, I was like, ‘What is this?’ We were learning to take a shot and they were like, ‘Squash the bug, hit your knee and come up.’ It was … I don’t know.
“Talking about it does make it seem like forever ago.”
Egnor was approached by Elyria coach Erik Burnett after a fifth-grade practice and told about the programs at All-American Wrestling in LaGrange. The brothers began training at The Barn with the likes of future state champions Nathan Tomasello, Jamie Clark and Logan and Hunter Stieber.
“The youth program wasn’t quite as intense as it is now, but the coaching was good and the kids worked hard,” Burnett said. “He ended up going and wrestling at Eastern Heights and did a nice job for them.”
Egnor qualified to the junior high state tournament in the seventh and eighth grades, going 3-2 each season.
“Then he got into ninth grade and got a little goofy,” Burnett said. “He liked to play around and stuff like that. He still worked pretty hard, but probably not as hard as he should. He ended up making it to the district tournament that year, which is pretty good.”
Pretty good was an understatement. The Pioneers wrestled in one of the toughest sectionals in the state — which included powerhouse St. Edward — and Egnor was still learning the ins and outs of high school wrestling.
“It’s no joke,” he said. “I thought I was going to do better than I did. You had seniors and juniors cutting down weight classes and they had grown-man strength, and I was just a freshman.”
It was a big step and the future looked bright for Egnor, but things quickly fell apart a year later as he couldn’t find a way to crack the varsity lineup.
“I was stuck in between Matt Canon and Eli (Garcia),” he said. “At first, since I was just a sophomore, I thought I still have two years after this, so it’s fine if I don’t wrestle. As long as I’m helping the team out when someone needs me to help them make weight or prepare for their next match.
“Then when it was time for the sectionals and districts, I was like, ‘Oh, dang.’ I really wanted to wrestle.”
The struggles to win a wrestle-off continued into his junior year, but at midseason Egnor found himself back in the lineup after Mike Repko was injured. He never looked back.
“He got real serious about it and he worked really hard,” Burnett said. “During the season, he was probably the hardest worker in the room. He never missed a practice, never got hurt. Guys will get dinged up in the room and need to sit out for 10 minutes or so … he never sat out.”
The hard work began paying off at the end of the season.
The unheralded Egnor upset a pair of top 10-ranked wrestlers to capture a Northeast Ohio Conference championship, then rode the momentum through sectionals and districts to the state tournament.
It was reminiscent of a run Kodie had after losing his opening match at the district tournament during his senior year.
“I was a freshman that year,” Brandon said. “He lost that match and he didn’t think he was going to make it to state. He came back the next day and won all the matches. He won eight straight to make it to the (state) final and then lost. But that was very motivating. It showed me anything can happen if you work hard.”
Egnor takes motivation wherever he can get it.
The 0-2 record at the state tournament last year helps drive him. The opening 6-5 loss to Gahanna Lincoln’s Drew McDougle, who went on to place fourth, is a particular source of inspiration.
“Some days when I’m in my computer class at school and I have free time I watch McDougle and I wrestle like two or three times,” Egnor said. “It frustrates me, but then I go to practice that day and I make sure I don’t look like what I did in that match. It motivates me so that I won’t go 0-2 this year and I’ll end up on the podium … high.”
Egnor expects it to happen. So does Burnett. The coach knows that the Egnors’ ability to go deep into the postseason isn’t so much about their genes as it is about those who provided them.
“That family … they just work,” Burnett said. “Their mom and dad are all about work, they never stop parenting. They’re a hard-working family and their kids have that work ethic.
“Once they get on a roll, they think, ‘Let’s keep working hard and let’s keep doing it. I should have success.’ I think that’s a tribute to their parents.”
Now Brandon is looking to give his family one more accomplishment to cheer.