By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– Tyler Thomas is sitting down, putting on his wrestling shoes in the North Salem High School Mat Room for open mat workouts when brother, Troy Thomas, walked into the room.
They shook hands, introduced me and Tyler looked to Troy who sat down next to us.
“No McKay kids today?” Tyler said jokingly to Troy as the first wave of Royal Scots Wrestlers came walking in.
McKay Head Coach Troy Thomas is five years older than younger brother and Scots Wrestling Coach Tyler, both are entering their second season as part of the McKay High School wrestling coaching staff.
These two former Royal Scots student-athletes, Troy graduated in 2003 and Tyler in 2008, got the chance of a lifetime to coach at their alma mater thanks to former coach Rick Herrin. Herrin coached both Thomas’ while during their time at McKay High School.
“It was the connections that we had,” said Troy. (Herrin) knew that he wasn’t going to be coaching anymore and he knew that we were available so he kind of put in a good word for us and I think that’s how our road back to McKay happened.”
As for the brother’s coaching together, Tyler looks at it as an awesome experience, but rough at the same time; however he thinks it translates to better coaching.
“I think it translates into more passion, coaching passion, because you have the family aspect adding into coaching too,” he said. “It keeps us at each other’s throats but at the same time it keeps us close and we’re able to express our concerns to each other without beating around the bush.”
Troy thinks it’s a distinct advantage coaching with his brother, but also likes how they both keep it professional around the kids despite an occasional slip up by being siblings.
“There are situations like that, I can’t think of any specific examples,” said Troy. “But wrestling is such an emotional sport, there’s so much intensity that goes into it that you go a little further.
“In terms of that, I’m still learning the ropes of that too so we’re really good at coming back with each other and saying, ‘well, this didn’t work or that didn’t work. We need to find something different.’ So when tempers settle, we get back to working.”
The Brothers Thomas however, would take the sibling rivalry to a friend turn though. There will be times that the two would wrestle at the end of practice.
Both mentioned that two years ago, at the District Tournament that the brothers found themselves wrestling each other after the team warmed up.
“We laced up our shoes and warmed up with the kids and everyone got done warming up and me and Tyler stayed down and beat on each other,” described Troy on the situation as Tyler sat with a smile on his face. “There were quite a few people who are coming down and watching us.”
At the end of the day, throughout all the wrestling, warming up and conditioning with the team, the brothers are hoping their sibling rivalry is instilling mutual respect and fun within their student-athletes.
“I like to think of mine and Troy’s brotherhood as a Gladiator-style (relationship),” said Tyler. “When we go out there to wrestle, we go out to battle with mutual respect, we battle. When it’s all said and done, pat each other’s backs, ‘that was awesome’.”
“When (the) kids see that, they can see that you can go out there and wrestle for a really intense match and get very heated, then at the end of the match, when it’s all said and you can do that with good sportsmanship at the same time.”
Jeremy McDonald is a professional sports journalist in the Salem/Portland area and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalist in Oregon with B.S. degrees from Southern Oregon University in Journalism (2011) and Health/PE (2013). Got a story idea? Email him at email@example.com or on Twitter at @J_McDonald81!