- March 25, 2015
LAKEWOOD RANCH — Kyle and Blake Riley-Hawkins walked onto the wrestling mat together for the first time nearly seven years ago.
And as Kyle prepared to close the door on his high school career at the Class 2A state finals, it only seemed fitting that the two brothers be able to walk off the mat together one final time.
“It’s a bittersweet (feeling),” Blake said. “Once Kyle is gone, (hopefully) I’ll be able to take on a leadership role and take wrestlers under my wing and help them out. It’s been fun (learning) under him, and it’s a big thing to have him around both as a brother and a leader.”
“I would much rather go to the state tournament with him that win the state tournament,” Kyle said. “Don’t get me wrong — I want to win, and I’m going to do everything I can to win. But not many people can say they’ve been to the highest level of competition with a sibling.”
Kyle and Blake, along with teammate Evan Dipsiner (see below), represented Lakewood Ranch at the Class 2A state finals Feb. 18-19 in Lakeland.
“All three have an opportunity to place in the state,” coach Pat Ancil said before the tournament. “Going up there they are one of the top 16 in the state in their respective weight classes. So we’ll just have to go out on the mat and see how they do.”
Kyle finished third in the 189-pound weight class, capturing the bronze medal and ending his career with a school record of 133 wins and 10 losses. After losing his first match, Kyle wrestled six tough matches in wrestle backs to win third place. Kyle’s third-place finish is also the highest finish ever posted by a Lakewood wrestler.
Meanwhile, Blake finished 0-2 in the 119-pound weight class and was unable to make it to the wrestle back rounds. Blake finished the season with a 32-9 record and advanced to the state finals for the first time in just his sophomore season.
Having spent much of their childhood playing baseball, the two sought out a new sport after a family move forced them to redistrict. The two settled on wrestling, and their first day of practice was nothing short of memorable. Kyle was trounced by his first wrestling partner, and Blake, who had also been taking karate, kicked his partner square in the face.
“I’d been doing karate a little bit, and my initial reaction was to kick, so I did a roundhouse kick, and I kicked the kid in the face,” Blake said. “We were both young, and at first, I didn’t know what I was doing.”
But even though their first practice didn’t quite turn out the way they and their coaches had envisioned, the two immediately fell in love with the sport.
“I liked it a lot,” Kyle said. “It was just one of those things that clicked with me.”
Since then, the two brothers have excelled. Kyle also advanced to the state tournament as a sophomore, but he admits he’s had to work twice as hard to keep up with his brother.
“Blake is just a better all-around wrestler,” Kyle said. “I’ve had to work hard to get to my skill level, where he comes more naturally to the skill level. I’ve always wanted to copy how fluid his moves are. When he goes up against his competition he’s so mobile.”
But with a 43-2 record and a third-place finish at the state finals this season, Kyle has shown Blake what it takes to be successful on the mat.
“The thing I like about Kyle is that every single match for him is tough, but he goes out, and you pretty much know he’s going to win,” Blake said.
“If we could combine each other’s (strengths) into one, we would be the perfect wrestler,” Kyle said.
With his high school career now behind him, Kyle will focus his attention on preparing to compete at the collegiate level. Kyle already has committed to wrestle for Ohio State University under coach Tom Ryan, who has put on a summer wrestling camp at Lakewood each of the past two years. He is expected to officially sign with the Buckeyes sometime this spring.
“He’s going into an environment that’s only going to make him 10 times better, Ancil said. “He’s got unlimited potential.”
Meanwhile, Blake will spend the offseason training in hopes of building on this season’s success and once again advancing to the state finals.
And perhaps one day the two brothers will once again find themselves walking onto the mat together.
“I really hope he can follow me up to a college level,” Kyle said of Blake.
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].
Evan Dipsiner rounds out trio
It’s the thrill that comes with getting his hand raised after a win that pushes Lakewood Ranch High junior Evan Dipsiner every time he steps onto the mat.
And for Dipsiner, the biggest thrill of his wrestling career came two weeks ago when he finished second in the 103-pound weight class of the Class 2A regional wrestling tournament, advancing to the state finals for the first time.
“After I won the match that allowed me to move on to the state tournament, I was very happy,” Dipsiner said. “Watching all of the accomplishments come together, it’s a good feeling knowing all of my hard work has paid off.”
Dipsiner competed alongside teammates Kyle and Blake Riley-Hawkins in the Class 2A state finals Feb. 18-19 in Lakeland.
“It’s nice to get to be with one of my training partners and our leader,” Dipsiner said. “They’re both good role models, and they’ve been wrestling a long time. I’ve learned a lot from them and it’s nice to be going as a group and not just by myself. I like the feeling that someone’s cheering you on and being part of a team.”
Dipsiner finished 0-2 in his opening round matches and was unable to advance to the wrestle back round.
Dipsiner began wrestling three years ago after his father, Steve, who wrestled in high school and college, encouraged his son to try the sport.
Evan Dipsiner, who also has aspirations of wrestling in college, finished the season with a 43-6 record and won an individual district title.
“I enjoy being part of a team and meeting new people around the country and finding out they have similar goals to you,” Dipsiner said. “I also like having that feeling after a match when you get to have your hand raised.”