By AARON MANAGHAN
It’s not often a brother and sister get to compete together athletically.
Even in high school, if a set of siblings share a sport, they’re often relegated to either the boys or girls version, never truly competing with one another.
But as Olympic’s Branden and Camie Yeik and Bremerton’s Billy and Lauren Richardson have found out first hand, wrestling bridges that gap.
“It’s family love,” Brent Yeik, Branden and Camie’s dad, said. “That’s to me one of the most beautiful things in my eyes, when I see the kids hugging and loving each other after each match.”
With the sport of wrestling fostering a familial relationship, thanks to the grueling workout regiment and training the sport requires, as well as the emotional toll of mat combat, the families have found that the sport they love has also helped strengthen the blood ties that bind them.
“It is pretty cool,” Branden, who just won his first state title as a sophomore at 130 pounds, said. “Just having fun with her. It brings our relationship as brother-sister closer.”
As the older sister, Camie began her high school career before her younger brother reached high school. Since she began, Camie has placed twice in the boys state tournament, tying the state-best mark of sixth place by a girl wrestler this year. The siblings became the first brother-sister duo to place at a state tournament.
“First and last,” Brent Yeik said, as Camie will graduate the last female wrestler in a boys
Branden was excited for the opportunity to share the podium at the state’s premier tourney with his older sister.
“We opened up a can of Yeik,” he said.
But while she hit the high school mats first, it was Branden and their younger brother Cody who actually set the family rolling toward becoming more-than-capable grapplers.
With Branden beginning wrestling at age 5, and Cody starting similarly, the family was constantly working out or traveling to tournaments. That gave Camie some incentive to jump on board, which she did as a seventh grader.
“She got drug along so much,” Brent said. “She was being used as mat bait.”
“I honestly don’t know what made me get into it,” Camie said. “But our lifestyle wasn’t gonna work if I didn’t. And I got tired of being the wrestling dummy all the time.”
Soon after, the trio began helping each other on the mats. With Branden joining Camie, a senior, at the high school level this year, both have enjoyed the added camaraderie.
“She tells me exactly what I need to hear to get me pumped up for my next match,” Branden said. “And I can tell her what she needs to hear and she gets pumped up. It’s pretty cool.”
Camie agreed, saying they are each other’s top fans.
“My brother is my biggest fan and I’m definitely his biggest fan,” she said. “There’s been some long runs cutting weight with my brother. Some good conversations. He knows how to push me too.”
That latter point is what dad Brent enjoys watching even more than the celebratory moments.
“It pulls the family together,” he said. “It’s nice to see siblings helping each other, working with each other, even getting frustrated with each other and angry with each other. They all help each other and they’re all hard on each other.”
While the tale differs, the benefits have been similar for the Richardson family. Billy, a senior, teamed up with sister Lauren, a freshman for the first time in their high school careers this year as well.
“It’s the same brother-sister sort of thing,” dad Bill Richardson said.
“It’s kind of cool,” Billy said. “She can get ready for when I leave. She’s only a freshman. She’s still learning.”
But Billy has relished the opportunity to help his younger sister adjust to the world of high school wrestling.
“She’s improved a lot. It’s nice to know she’s improving herself,” he said. “( I’m) just showing her that you have got to do everything you can to improve what you’re doing. You have to give that effort.”
Like the Yeik family, Lauren has a great example to learn from in Billy, a two-time state placer who finished sixth this season at 112.
“She really respects Billy,” Bill said. “That’s why she wrestles.”
Lauren also advanced to state this year, finishing 1-2 in her debut. But Billy knows she’ll make a larger mark in the years to come.
“She goes out there real quick, like a buzzsaw,” he said. “She’s really aggressive. I like it.”
What makes the relationship between the Yeik siblings and the Richardson siblings even more dynamic is the fact they all wrestle for Northwest Washington Wrestling Club together, often practicing together at home during the season.
In fact, last year Billy and Camie were high school rivals at 103 before Billy moved up to 112.
“It’s fun this year because we can support each other,” Bill Richardson said. “We don’t have that rivalry like we had between Billy and Camie. And it’s a typical love-hate relationship between Billy and Lauren.”
Both Branden and Billy said it’s given them support systems in dealing with each other’s siblings as well.
“We can talk about things other people can’t talk about,” Branden said. “If (Billy or Lauren) say something, we know what they mean but no one else gets it.”
“It’s kind of fun having that rivalry as well as having the sister-brother relationship,” Billy said of his friendship with the Yeiks. “We can talk to each other, get each other through tough situations.”
With all four being in high school, as well as brothers and sisters, Billy said when he has trouble talking to Lauren about something, he can usually persuade Camie to more effectively make his point.
“With Camie, I can be like, ‘Will you talk to her?’” he said.
Even though Billy is the big brother, he said he doesn’t have to worry about being overly protective of his little sis.
“She can fend for herself,” he said. “It’s pretty cool. She’s a tough little girl.”
Not only has it strengthened the ties between them, but Bill Richardson said it’s also teaching them about life.
“They’re great kids,” he said of both his own and the Yeiks. “They’re good in the classroom. I truly believe they’re getting a lot of life lessons out of wrestling. It helps mold who they are.”