By Meredith Rieder, GoDuke the Magazine
Not one. Not two. Not three. But four. Four Finesilver brothers, that is.
Two sets of twin brothers born two years and 26 days apart, Zach and Mitch and Matt and Josh are turning heads as 40 percent of Duke wrestling’s 10-man starting lineup. Zach and Mitch, redshirt juniors, wrestle at 165 and 157 pounds, respectively, while Matt and Josh, true freshmen, compete in the respective 174 and 133-pound divisions.
All four started wrestling the same time with Mitch and Zach being eight and Matt and Josh six. They took to the sport easily all on their own even though their dad, Steve, had spent years as a wrestling coach.
“He never really pushed the sport on us,” said Mitch. “He always supported us in whatever we chose to do.”
Despite bumps they may have faced in the sport over the years, they always returned to the mat by their own choosing. It had become a part of who they were.
“There have been times when we were younger where one of us would take a month off because we just needed a break,” said Matt. “There was no judgement because it was their choice. I think we’ve all learned a lot from the sport of wrestling and it has taught us a lot about ourselves.”
The Finesilvers wrestled together in the same kid club programs and continued their careers at Cherry Creek High School where they left quite the legacy. Overall, they combined for 15 Colorado state tournament appearances and four state titles. All four qualified for the state tournament in 2014, marking a first in Colorado high school wrestling history.
While the records and successes on the mat were indelibly written in the annals of the Cherry Creek wrestling records book, the path to achieving those marks were left on the walls, doors and furniture at the Finesilver home, a few of which remain still today. Competitive and physical, two cornerstones to their success on the mat, didn’t stop on the mat at school, it only continued in the home.
“There are a lot of holes in dry wall,” said Matt. “We used to have medicine ball dodgeball in the basement. We’d wrestle each other and throw each other around all the time. It was wild. A lot of stitches, a lot of staples and a lot of hospital visits.”
Mitch and Zach started thinking about wrestling in college after successful freshman seasons at Cherry Creek, but it wasn’t predetermined they were going to stay together. After a few days apart and a little soul searching, they decided they wanted to go as a package deal.
“We thought about it for a day or two and then we both said, ‘I’d like to continue to wrestle with you. I think you’re a great partner and you push me in every aspect of life,’” Zach said.
Matt and Josh, freshmen at Cherry Creek, saw all of the opportunities granted to their older brothers as they made official visits and decided they wanted to follow suit.
“When I saw Zach and Mitch working their butts off and they were getting all of these opportunities at these incredible universities I said, ‘I want to do something like that,’” Matt said.
Mitch and Zach appeared on Duke’s radar through assistant coach Ben Wissel as he and head coach Glen Lanham were working hard on rebuilding Duke wrestling. And once they discovered there were four brothers overall, they knew the opportunity to have all four was there.
“I talked to the dad first and really connected with him just about what he was looking for (for his sons),” said Lanham. “After we started recruiting them really hard, they told us they had younger twin brothers so I thought if we could get the whole lot of them, which is pretty rare, it would be great. It was a no-brainer to connect with the whole family.”
And they connected well. Mitch and Zach were having great experiences and relaying those feelings to their younger brothers back in Colorado. Having always been tight-knit, it seemed the natural decision Matt and Josh would join them in Durham.
“It was natural I’d say,” Matt said. “I trust my brothers completely and what they said about the coaches, their teammates and obviously the academic opportunity, it sounded like a place we should be.”
Zach and Mitch, with Zach being two minutes older, arrived at Duke in August of 2014 and made immediate impacts in the room both with their wrestling abilities as well as their tireless work ethic.
“I noticed when we said practice was at 7:30, they were in there at 7,” Lanham said. “They were always the first ones down there and the last ones to leave.”
Mitch and Zach both found success early as Mitch qualified for the 2015 NCAA Championships as a true freshmen and Zach followed suit in 2016 as a redshirt freshman. Wrestling together at the NCAA Championships in Madison Square Garden was a dream come true.
“It was incredible,” Zach said. “Wrestling together in Madison Square Garden was unlike any experience I’ve ever had.”
“It was definitely one of the top moments of my life thus far,” Mitch said. “Being in New York, in Madison Square Garden and competing with my brother was indescribable.”
Just like their brothers, Matt and Josh, after heralded high school careers of their own, stepped into the wrestling room at Duke in the fall of 2017 and haven’t missed a beat. In their first collegiate tournament they found themselves on the podium.
Matt won the 174-pound bracket and Josh took second at 133 in the Freshman-Sophomore Division of the Hokie Open. They also both finished in the top five of the Keystone Classic and both currently have 17 wins apiece through January.
Overall, all four brothers have double-digit wins this season and Mitch and Matt both are ranked in the top 20 by InterMat. Each one has finished on the podium in at least one tournament this season and two have tournament victories. They recently returned to the Denver area to wrestle in front of all of their friends and family in a pair of duals. The Finesilvers finished at 7-1 on the weekend overall and Duke captured its first two dual match wins over Cal State Bakersfield and Northern Colorado.
While they said it’s “really cool” having their brothers around all the time, it also has its stressful moments in watching each other wrestle.
“Even though he’s my brother, I have to be able to get into the zone for my own match, especially coming right after Josh,” Mitch said. “Zach has to do that because he’s coming right after me and Matt because he’s right after Zach. If I get too emotionally invested in their matches I feel like I risk harming my performance and the team.”
This stress level sure doesn’t get any easier as the Blue Devils head into the meat of their dual season in February and then the ACC Championships in March as they vie for the coveted NCAA bids. Zach and Mitch were left speechless when describing wrestling together at NCAAs, how will they find the words if all four can find their way to Cleveland, Ohio in March?
They will worry about that when it comes time to go after those bids March 3 at the ACC Championships in Chapel Hill. Until then, it’s Duke wrestling business as usual for the brothers.