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Twins, Cullan and Colby Schriever, started wrestling at a different pace but now both have their sights set on the state wrestling tournament and beyond. The Des Moines Register

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MASON CITY, Ia. — One of Jamie Schriever’s favorite photos sits prominently among her sons’ wrestling hardware at home. It’s a picture of them, Cullan and Colby, at 4 years old. The identical twins are dressed in black singlets with Iowa logos and posed in a wrestling position. Colby is on the bottom wearing a soft smile. Cullan is on top, straight-faced, all business. 

“Easiest escape of my life,” Colby says and smiles.

Cullan chuckles. “No way.”

They’re 18 now, seniors at Mason City High School and title contenders at next week’s Class 3A state tournament in Des Moines: Cullan at 126 pounds and Colby at 145. After, they will join the University of Iowa wrestling program — part of the Hawkeyes’ highly touted 2020 recruiting class.

It’s been more than 500 days since they committed and less than 100 since they signed, but Jamie sometimes looks at that picture in disbelief.

“Ever since they were little, they would say, ‘I’m going to wrestle for the Iowa Hawkeyes,’” she says. “You look at that picture and it’s like, 'is this for real?' I can’t even believe it.”

Jamie pulls out the picture for special occasions, both as a point of pride and to maybe try to embarrass her teenage boys. She brought it with her to the high school last November, when Cullan and Colby signed their national letters of intent, a day that was part celebration and part culmination, a reason to reflect, but also a reminder of the bigger goals that lie ahead.

Cullan and Colby are different from each other, in personality and in wrestling style, but they share the same burning desire to win. They both yearn to be at the top of the podium next Saturday night inside Wells Fargo Arena after injuries caused each to fall short a year ago. They’ve long dreamed of wrestling for Iowa, a program with a history of successful siblings.

After they signed with the Hawkeyes in November, Cullan and Colby posed for more photos — with Mason City coach Dusty Rhodes and his assistants; with T.J. Sebolt, their coach at Sebolt Wrestling Academy; with their parents, Jamie and father Ryan; and, of course, with that picture of them at 4 years old. 

The winner of that childhood match? Well …

“I escaped, took him down and pinned him,” Colby says, laughing.

Cullan shakes his head.

“No,” he says. “Not back then.”

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Scattered all over the Iowa wrestling program’s record book are the names of brothers with successful Hawkeye careers.

There’s the McCann brothers, Terry and Fran, who earned All-American honors back in the 1950s and '60s. Then Scott and Mark Trizzino, in the late 1970s and early '80s. The list goes on — the Kistler trio, Harlan, Marty and Lindley; the Heffernans, Jim and John; Joe and T.J. Williams; Bill and Mike Zadick; Luke and Ty Eustice; and Luke and Ethen Lofthouse. 

Then there are the twins.

Ed and Lou Banach were the first. Ed won three NCAA titles while Lou won two as they led the Hawkeyes to four-straight national championships. They both went on to win gold at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. There was also Troy and Terry Steiner, who combined to win two national titles before venturing into successful coaching careers.

And, of course, there’s Tom and Terry Brands, perhaps the most famous American twin siblings wrestling has ever known.

Tom was a four-time All-American and three-time champ while Terry won two titles in three finals appearances in the late 1980s and early 1990s. They led Iowa to back-to-back NCAA team titles in 1991-92, and combined to win 295 out of 311 career matches. They’re both among the top 10 in career wins, overall career record and career pins at Iowa.

“There was competitiveness and support all at the same time with Terry and I,” said Tom Brands, Iowa wrestling’s head coach for the last 14 seasons, including the last 12 with Terry as his top assistant.

“We gave each other everything when we were competing — two people who are basically the same but don’t give an inch with each other. Pretty good idea that they’re not going to give an inch to their opponents, maybe.”

Their success reached the international level, too. Both won freestyle world titles in 1993. Terry won another in 1995. Tom won gold at the 1996 Olympics, then Terry won bronze in 2000.

About 15 months — 445 days, to be exact — after Terry’s last match in Sydney, Jamie Schriever gave birth to twin boys.

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Cullan and Colby started wrestling at 3 years old, but there’s a case to be made that their first match actually took place in the nine months before they were born. Colby came first, and the debate rages between whether he won that match or if Cullan pushed him out.

“I definitely kicked him out,” Cullan says.

“No, I won the wrestling match,” Colby fires back.

“He has a flat side on his head because I beat him up,” Cullan laughs. “I bullied him in there.”

Colby cracks a wry smile.

“Still made it out first,” he says. “By two minutes!”

It seems fitting, then, that they were born into a wrestling family. Their father wrestled, and so did many uncles. One cousin, Nathan McRoberts, won state for Rockford in 2008. Cullan and Colby have been to the high school state tournament every year since they were 2.

“We were like brainwashed,” Cullan says. “Our dad always said, ‘You can shoot hoops, but you can never play basketball.’ Wrestling is all we’ve ever known.”

Off the mat, there are stark differences between them.

Cullan is a quiet, unassuming thinker while Colby is a free-wheeling social butterfly. Cullan keeps his room clean; Colby’s is usually a mess. Cullan stays clean-shaven. Colby likes to grow out his mustache. They’ve wrestled different weights since shortly after turning 4.

Their approaches to wrestling were also different.

Cullan followed the action closely each year at state, then tried some of the same moves at practice the next week. Wrestling was the ultimate challenge for an analytical mind that sought perfection. He racked up youth state titles. In third grade, he lost in the finals by a point, so he hung his second-place podium picture in his bathroom until he won a title the next year.

Colby didn’t take it nearly as seriously at first, but he was fearless. He’d walk onto the mat at tournaments and tackle his opponents like he was playing football. While Cullan watched the action at state, Colby colored or played with friends. One year, at AAU Winter Nationals — a respected youth tournament — Colby got pinned, then immediately ran off the mat to Jamie.

“Can I go to the swimming pool now?” he asked. 

Their differing approaches had a direct impact on their wrestling styles.

Cullan is more technical, a fierce combination of speed and positional awareness. Colby is more wide open, always willing to hit the big move but will sometimes surrender a takedown in the process. Cullan is a lion stalking his prey, calm but ruthlessly efficient. Colby keeps you on the edge of your seat from start to finish, and has probably scored more style points.

And they’ve always loved the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Every televised dual was on in the Schriever home each winter. The boys were 4 when Tom Brands was hired as coach. Shortly after they turned 6, the Hawkeyes won the 2008 NCAA Championships. Cullan was drawn to Brent Metcalf, and later attended a camp where Metcalf autographed the wrestling bag he still uses today. Colby gravitated toward Ryan Morningstar.

“He had this little lisp, and he’d say, ‘I love Ryan Morningstar,’” Jamie recalls. “Now he’s one of the coaches that recruited them. It’s amazing.”

The first time they attended a dual at Carver-Hawkeye Arena was in 2012, when Iowa hosted Oklahoma State. The second-largest wrestling crowd ever inside Carver watched Tony Ramos beat defending national champion Jordan Oliver, 4-3 — then saw the Cowboys win the dual, 17-16 on criteria, to hand the Hawkeyes their first loss in four years.

Four years later, in 2016, Cullan won a Cadet freestyle national title as an eighth-grader competing against high school-aged kids. Two years later, he added a Junior freestyle title, becoming one of just seven Iowa high-schoolers to win both, joining Jeff McGinness, David Kjeldgaard, Trey Clark, Mack Reiter, Gannon Gremmel and Fort Dodge junior Drake Ayala.

A switch flipped for Colby as an eighth-grader, too. He reached the finals of the youth state tournament, and the success combined with Cullan’s rapid rise pushed him to work harder. Wrestling became more about opportunity than having fun.

“I saw Cullan win everything, so I wanted to win, too,” Colby says. “I got to high school, and I decided to take it a little more serious and worked a lot harder. I was a lot more intentional.”

Adds Cullan: “Personality wise, we’re opposites, but wrestling, that’s what we share and where we’re closest. We’re both looking for the same things."

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In third grade, Cullan and Colby joined the Sebolt Wrestling Academy, run by T.J. Sebolt, a four-time state champion from Centerville who became the first Iowa high-schooler to record 200 career victories. Cullan saw those accomplishments as something to chase, and set his sights on winning four, something only 27 others in state history have done.

“My mentality was four-timer or bust,” says Cullan, who won state as a freshman and sophomore. “After my freshman and sophomore year, I thought I could really do it.”

Cullan spent much of last season on the bench after breaking his ankle in December. The doctor told him he’d have to sit for six weeks. He came back in five for districts and muscled his way to the second day of the state tournament.

In the semifinals, against Fort Dodge’s Carson Taylor, Cullan led 2-1 after a takedown. He shot in again, but Taylor stuffed it and spun around for a 3-2 lead. Cullan’s left shoulder dislocated during the sequence. The ref stopped the match with 35 seconds left in the first period.

Colby watched from the tunnel while warming up for his own state semifinal match. He watched Cullan writhe in pain as he walked off the mat and underneath Wells Fargo Arena, then he went and scored three takedowns in a 7-4 win over Waverly-Shell Rock’s Ian Heise.

The first person Colby saw when he walked off the mat was Cullan, still in his singlet, at the front of the tunnel. They shared a high-five and a hug.

In the span of about 20 minutes, one dream was crushed and another was realized.

“That was a struggle for all of us,” Jamie says. “Even now, I have a hard time talking about that moment. It was hard, but it really showed how close they were.

“Cullan didn’t care about himself at that point. He was more worried about Colby, and it showed a lot that Colby pushed through after seeing what Cullan went through. That was one of my prouder moments.”

Cullan was back on the floor the next night to watch Colby in the state finals, too. Colby scored a reversal and a takedown to lead Pleasant Valley’s Eli Loyd 4-3 after the first period. He was in on another shot in the second when Loyd rolled his way into a headlock for a second-period fall. Colby injured his left arm in the process, another dream crushed as a result  

The two were off the mat for nine months after that weekend — surgeries and rehab followed — the time away forced them to think bigger. They came back hungrier for their senior seasons.

“When I was out for all that time, I realized how much I actually love wrestling,” Colby says now. “I felt like I had to wrestle. I never want to take it for granted, because everything you’ve ever worked for can be taken away like that.

“I remember during my freshman year, I was just happy I made it to state, which is kind of ridiculous, but I didn’t have high expectations for myself. Now, this year, it’s the last chance, and I need that state title.”

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About a month before the season, doctors cleared Cullan to start drills again. He walked up to the Mason City wrestling room and noticed the back wall, which showcases the school’s past state place-winners, had been updated with new nameplates from 2019.

He spotted his first — Cullan Schriever, 6th Place - 120 — and covered it up with athletic tape.

“I didn’t feel like looking at it all season,” Cullan says now. “I didn’t want to see a six by my name.”

That’s a small window into Cullan’s mind. He knows what’s underneath the tape. Knows the nameplate will be there forever, too. It is not unlike hanging his second-place picture in his bathroom in third grade. It bothers him, of course, but it also drives him  

Dusty Rhodes, Mason City’s head coach, laughs at the antics — Colby will sometimes write various names on the tape to poke at Cullan — but he also hopes some of his other wrestlers will take note.

“When people think of Mason City wrestling the last few years, they think of the Schrievers,” Rhodes says. “Can you replace those guys? No. But I think you can try to maintain the model and the example they gave every day.”

There may be no better example than Rhodes’ son, Jace. He was a state finalist last year as a freshman, and during a recent practice, he and Cullan looked more like twins than Cullan and Colby. They wore the same gold headgear, the same Nike wrestling shoes. Both wore sweats and stood in the same stance and used the same setups and finishes on their shots.

“Some of that is on purpose,” Dusty Rhodes says. “He’s wanted to be like Cullan for years.”

Jamie jokes that Rhodes should leave the tape up as a way to tell Cullan’s story to future Mason City wrestlers. All told, the tape sticks out more than a normal nameplate would. Perhaps that’s by design, a constant reminder of what he’s experienced.

“I went to a dark place afterward,” Cullan says. “(Winning four state titles) was something I always wanted to do. I still wish I could do it. When I got hurt, I was already thinking that my senior year would be kind of dumb.

“But I saw how important this year is for me and for us. Everyone that’s been there — family, coaches, teammates — they all want to see us come back and win. We want to go out on top.”

The last set of twins to win state together was Josh and Justin Portillo, from Clarion-Goldfield-Dows, in 2016. The Schrievers could be the next — Cullan is currently ranked No. 1 at 126 pounds while Colby is ranked No. 2 at 145 in IAWrestle’s latest Class 3A rankings.

At practice, both begin by drilling takedowns on the same mat, but with different partners. Cullan hits a sweep single, picks up the leg and methodically finishes. Moments later, Colby hits the exact same move, a live-action replay just a few feet away.

When practice ends, they walk down the stairs to the locker room, then out the doors to all that’s next. Along the way, they smile. Bigger aspirations await them both, and they will face them all together. 

Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.

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