This story appeared in the NE Ohio edition of the December ESPN RISE Magazine.
On the surface, brothers Logan and Hunter Stieber seem nearly indistinguishable.
Logan, a senior, and Hunter, a junior, are both nationally ranked wrestling superstars for Monroeville (Monroeville, Ohio). They've both won state championships each year of their high school careers and enter this season with just one loss apiece. The Ohio State commits are even teammates on the Eagles' football team in the fall.
Logan, who has a career record of 129-1, entered his final high school season rated the nation's No. 1 wrestler in the 125-pound weight class by W.I.N. Magazine. He was the lone high school wrestler to compete at the 2009 World Team Trials, a World Championships qualifier contested by U.S. Olympic-caliber wrestlers, where he placed fourth.
Hunter, who boasts a career mark of 98-1, opened the season at No. 2 in the W.I.N. Magazine 119-pound ratings. He is a two-time national champion.
Even their daily routines are identical. The brothers rise each morning at 6 before running together for 30 minutes. At school they avoid soda and junk food, instead eating small salads for lunch. After school, the pair typically take part in a high school wrestling practice and then decide between another 30-minute run or a second practice, this time at the All-American Wrestling Club in Grafton.
Both realize that one extra pound gained or one practice missed could be the difference between being the nation's best and being "just another wrestler."
"I don't ever want to lose," Logan says. "I use that to motivate me when I wake up and run or don't eat all day. I don't want to be just another wrestler. I want to be the best. I'm training to go to the Olympics."
It's a statement like that, though, that begins to make clear the difference between Logan and Hunter. Logan is driven to win everything -- from wrestling matches to games of solitaire.
He eats, sleeps and breathes wrestling. His strength is unmatched at the high school level. He is the aggressor in nearly every match he enters and generally overpowers his opponents.
"Logan can stand face to face with his opponent and blow through somebody on his feet," says Erik Burnett, head coach with the All-American Wrestling Club. "He's so powerful for a young kid. The power and strength he possesses for an 18-year-old kid is amazing."
Although Hunter's wrestling résumé mirrors Logan's at the same point in his development, the younger Stieber brother is decidedly different in both style and personality. While Logan's low-to-the-ground approach dictates the pace of his matches, Hunter waits for his opponent to come to him. He capitalizes on the leverage he creates rather than his own strength.
Burnett calls Hunter a "gamer" because he generally performs better in matches than practices. The brothers' father, Jeff Stieber, who has assisted coaching both boys throughout their careers, says his youngest son is at his best when the situation looks bleakest.
"He's come from behind to win a lot of matches," Jeff says. "He has a lot of heart and drive. He never quits. A friend of mine says you can hit him in the head with a two-by-four, and he'll keep coming at you."
Unlike Logan, who doesn't hesitate before stating his dream of wrestling in the 2012 Olympics, Hunter is more reserved when it comes to sharing long-term goals. Yes, he's excited to wrestle at Ohio State. Yes, he might want to continue with the sport after college. But he wants to be known as more than a wrestler.
"When I'm done at Monroeville, I would like to be remembered as a helpful kid who was really fun to hang out with," Hunter says.
Helpful would also be an apt way to describe the connection between Logan and Hunter. Despite the one-on-one nature of wrestling, their relationship has never become contentious. They don't have confrontations on the mat, despite Hunter's admission that Logan "always wins because he's the older brother."
Instead of resenting his younger brother's success or gloating about his individual triumphs over him, Logan has established a mentorship with Hunter. If he sees a weakness in Hunter's style, he'll gladly offer advice to help correct the mistake. Hunter credits Logan, more than anyone else, for helping him to work through some bad habits last winter.
In addition to helping each other, the brothers are quick to assist their high school teammates. And that tutelage has led to some positive results. After finishing third as a team at the Division III state tournament in 2008, the Eagles took second last season.
Monroeville coach Scott Bauer says the Stiebers already know more about the sport than he's learned in 10 seasons as a coach.
"It'd be so easy for Logan and Hunter to dominate everybody in the room," Bauer says. "They understand that doesn't help anybody. If somebody does something wrong, they correct them. Everyone gets better because of them."
That's not to say the boys don't use the brotherly competition as motivation. Since Hunter is lighter than Logan, he always wrestles first in meets. Burnett believes Logan gets even more fired up to win his own match -- if that's possible -- after watching his brother get a victory. If Hunter has a title, Logan has to have one, too.
After a final campaign together as high school teammates this season, the Stiebers will split up when Logan heads to Columbus next year. But the duo will fall back into lockstep in 2011 when Hunter arrives on campus. At that point, their traditions will continue, as the brothers plan to share a room, meals, training runs and mat time at Ohio State.
That might lead to a little confusion about who's who for the folks in Columbus, but the Buckeyes can expect them both to do one thing equally well -- win.