Derby athletics offered baptism by fire for Tate and Treyton Rusher.
The history was not foreign for either of them as their father, Aaron, was a two-time Derby state medalist in wrestling and also played football. Both kids began their athletic careers in Douglass before arriving in Derby as third (Tate) and fifth (Treyton) graders.
“We weren’t very good wrestlers compared to everyone at Derby and we had a lot of growing to do,” Treyton said. “Throughout time, we’ve adapted to its style of wrestling and it has made us better.”
They’re also the seventh set of brothers to hit the mats at Derby over the last 10 years. That includes the fifth (Cason/Cade Lindsey, Triston/Taidon Wills, Tyler/Troy Allen and Jeffrey/Jared Morrow) that has been on the team together for at least one season. Ben and Brandon Becker and Bryce and Gage Wells also wrestled at Derby at different times within that same window.
Both Rusher brothers have taken different paths to the varsity wrestling mat.
Treyton wrestled JV for two years, watching from afar as Derby claimed its state championship in February 2019. Tate qualified for state last year as a freshman, but came one match shy of placing.
Their experience has instilled a mutual respect for one another on and off the mat.
“Treyton being in the room with me pushes me to be better,” Tate said. “If I slack off, he’ll come over and tell me to pick it up. Even when we get home, he’ll tell me if I didn’t have a very good practice. If I lose a match, he’s right there and telling me I can get it next time. He’s always right there.”
The eldest Rusher brother went home with a sixth-place finish at state as a junior. He now sits inside the top 10 (currently eighth) of the 160-pound, all-class rankings done by the Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association.
Treyton often thinks back to his days of watching mat side at varsity mats and serving as practice partners to graduates of the past. Those are the moments that the senior said has pushed him to a 17-5 start in 2020-21.
He also said he had to make some changes in preparation, helping him see he belonged on the varsity mat.
“I’ll be honest, I didn’t think much of myself as a wrestler,” he said. “I was JV the two years before and I wasn’t very good … One of the things we worked with my dad on is to build my confidence, understanding I’m here as much as they are and building that underdog mentality. I had to tell myself I could win.”
Now, he wants to instill what he has discovered in his brother and the classes coming behind him.
“It built me up being under great teammates and mentors above me,” Treyton said. “I was that freshman and sophomore that was on JV and under a good varsity guy. For us being seniors, a lot of our roles is not just to be state placers and champions, but to be mentors to the guys below us so we can instill that tradition in them.”
Tate is ranked at 126 pounds after finishing sixth at the Newton Tournament of Champions on Friday, Jan. 15.
Tate, too, was no stranger to the state meet. From the stands as an eighth grader, he remembers telling his dad that he was going to be there the next year.
“I knew it was a lofty goal because I wasn’t as determined and I didn’t work as hard in the practice room,” Tate said. “… As much as I hated not placing last year, I think it has made me that much hungrier to go out there and place since I’ve never done it. I’ve experienced state now, so it won’t be as [big] this time.”