Their brothers’ keepers

Four sets of brothers fuel Placer’s run to first wrestling title in 21 seasons
By: Ray Hacke Journal Sports Writer
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Wrestling was already a part of home life for Placer High's Cox and Looney brothers. Competitors at home, they became teammates at school ” and helped the Hillmen win their first league championship in 21 years. The Coxes, Chris and Steven, and the Looneys, James and Mark, comprise two of the four sets of brothers who wrestled for Placer this season. Sophomore twins Aaron and Mitchell Maddox also competed for the Hillmen, as did junior Jackson Trout and his younger brother Jordan, a freshman. Placer assistant coach Phil Cox, Chris and Steven's father, said having so many brothers in the program should help make the Hillmen strong for a long time to come. What I think it does is it helps set a legacy for our program, Phil Cox said. ¦ It brings a bond of unity because they're family. You're wrestling with your brother, he's on the same team and your brother's helping you accomplish your goal. It's brought a cohesiveness to our team that we haven't had in the past. Having four sets of brothers has helped set the stage for us to excel in the future. Four members of those brother tandems will compete this Friday and Saturday at the Sac-Joaquin Section Division Tournament at Sacramento's Foothill High School. Chris Cox (33-3) and James Looney (34-9), the lone seniors in the bunch and the Pioneer Valley League champions at 135 and 130 pounds, respectively, will compete at the Division meet. Mark Looney, a freshman, is headed to Divisions at 125 pounds, and Aaron Maddox will compete in the 145-pound weight class. Steven Cox, a freshman, just missed a Division Tournament berth, placing sixth at the PVL tournament at 152 pounds. The Looneys grew up wrestling in family tournaments against their older brothers, Peter and Matt. According to James, the brothers would move furniture around in the living room and go at it. There was always some sort of competitiveness between all of the brothers, James said. Now that Mark's his teammate, James' focus has gone from beating Mark at home to helping him win for Placer. When I work with him, I focus on the basics a little bit more, James said. Telling him the basics helps me with my basics. Mark doesn't wrestle against his older brother much in practice. Still, Mark said James has helped instill the confidence Mark needed to compete and win as a freshman at the varsity level. He's basically taught me that if I go out and wrestle aggressively, I would normally win, Mark said. Mark has had some prior competitive wrestling experience, having competed for E.V. Cain Middle School. Steven Cox, on the other hand, wrestled competitively for the first time this year ” and is grateful his brother Chris was there to show him the ropes. His strength is that he's got so much experience it's ridiculous, Steven said. He's wrestled so much, it's second nature to him. He shoots so fast, he can execute any move like second nature whenever he wants it. Steven served as Chris' workout partner for three years prior to his arrival at Placer. We've got our own little 10-by-10-foot mat that we roll around on at least once a weekend, Chris said. Since we're brothers, we go at it for a little while. Asked if Steven has ever beaten him, Chris says slowly ” with a just a hint of playful pride ” No, he has not. Still, Chris sees a lot of potential in Steven. By the time he's a senior, he could take it all the way to the state tournament, Chris said. Steven, who split time between Placer's varsity and junior varsity squads this season, said he's learned a lot from his older brother. He's had to wrestle guys a lot better than me (at practice) to compete at his level, Steven said. But whenever he could he would teach me so I could compete at the varsity level. He's helped me tremendously. Like Chris, James has the upper hand over his younger brother in the Looneys' home match-ups. He's pretty dominant when we wrestle, Mark said of James. Still, James can see Mark changing that someday. He's really strong, and he's got a good shot on him, James said. His style's different than mine ” his style kind of counteracts my style. I'm more defensive and when he goes on offense he wrestles his best. Though the Hillmen will soon lose Chris Cox and James Looney to graduation, Phil Cox remains excited about what having so many pairs of brothers in the program this season will do for Placer down the line. Having so many brothers on the team and making it a family affair is great from a coaching standpoint, Phil Cox said. You know they're going to push each other, and they're going to have shared experiences that they can talk about for the rest of their lives. The fact that Chris and Steve beat Colfax to arguably cement our first PVL championship is something they're going to be able to talk about with their sons and daughters and nieces and nephews ” it's priceless. Being brothers on a wrestling team creates a bond like no other sport can.