Brotherly bonds power Highlands wrestling team

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Monday, January 17, 2022 | 9:46 AM


Grant Walters has seen a lot during his 32 years in wrestling, but his Highlands team has shown the coach something unique.

The Golden Rams have four sets of brothers.

It’s a unique twist that has helped the team’s depth and improved its results.

The Rams are 8-0 in dual meets, including a 3-0 record in Class 3A Section-1A. The Rams also won a title Dec. 29 at the Steve DeAugustino Holiday Classic at West Mifflin.

“Typically, brothers come in waves, but this is the year where they are all on the team at the same time,” Walters said. “It’s definitely different. There have been siblings in the past, but it would be in spurts. There’d be a pair of brothers here and there, but not more than one. It’s a cool thing to have.”

The four sets of brothers are Jrake and Aiden Burford, Bryan and Aaron Randolph, Brock and Brayden White and Logan and Noah Leslie. Jrake, Bryan and Brock are seniors. Aiden, Aaron and Brayden are freshmen, and the Leslie twins are juniors. The Burfords are Walters’ stepsons.

Having four sets of brothers and an influx of other sophomores and freshmen helped build depth. For the first time in his 12 years at Highlands, Walters can submit a full lineup, which naturally has helped the results in dual meets.

“We’ve always been missing a weight class or two,” Walters said. “This year, we have backups, as well. So if something happens, we have someone to take that spot. We’re also very young. A lot of my starters are freshmen and sophomores. We have only two juniors and a few seniors that are starting. We had a big group come in this year and last year. I knew they were coming. I just had to wait on them. It’s nice to have two guys in the same weight class.”

Walters typically keeps practice partners within their classification, but every once in a while he will “get the blood boiling” by pitting brother against brother, and it makes for some entertaining moments.

“It gets exciting. There isn’t a dull moment when that happens,” Walters said. “The younger guys get the most out of it, because they are the ones that are being pushed. We’re preparing for the long run, and doing that is beneficial because nobody wants to lose to their brother.”

Highlands went 5-0 at the Steve DeAugustino Holiday Classic, winning the championship over Jefferson-Morgan, 57-15. The Golden Rams also earned wins over Central Valley, West Mifflin, Shaler and Carrick. Several wrestlers, including Aidan Burford, Brayden White and Julius Simpson, went undefeated.

“The results looked good on paper, but when you see it in person you know that we still have to fix some things,” Walters said. “We did a great job and I’m proud of them, but we still need to continue to get better. You can’t be complacent.”

Highlands picked up a 54-12 win over Hampton last Wednesday, which has set up a fun final two weeks of section matches. The Golden Rams travel to Armstrong on Wednesday and host Kiski Area the following week. Sandwiched between them is the Allegheny County Championships at Fox Chapel on Jan. 14-15.

It’s an important stretch, and the Golden Rams are focused on making the most of it.

“We have our goals set higher than we ever have,” Walters said. “We have a good core from freshmen to seniors, and we can determine our own fate.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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