Oh brother: Will, Jake and Eli Dellicker relish opportunity to wrestle together at Northwestern
Brothers Will (left), Jake (center) and Eli Dellicker are all wrestling for Northwestern this season. PATRICK MATSINKO/TIMES NEWS
A week from now, we’ll be talking about who is moving on to regionals.
District champions will be crowned, and the field will be thinned as the 2018-19 high school wrestling season moves one week closer to its conclusion at the state tournament in Hershey.
The prospect of seeing his season continue beyond districts is almost all Will Dellicker can think about.
But the Northwestern senior is more excited about doing it with brothers Jake and Eli.
For the first – and final – time, all three Dellickers have been in the Tigers lineup this year, with Eli, a freshman, joining junior Jake and Will.
“I think it’s been an awesome experience, because wrestling, to us, especially at Northwestern, is such a family-type of thing,” said Will. “We’ve all been wrestling together since we were little kids. We’ve known parents and families, and we all wrestled on the youth varsity team together. It’s pretty awesome to see three Dellickers on the roster, all together.”
“We have thought about it,” added Jake. “I know there were a few times where, they used to have the names hung up in the gym, and my dad (Kevin) would say, ‘Eventually there will be a team where there will be three Dellickers up there. And it’s just kind of cool to finally see that.”
Wrestling is very much a family affair for the Dellickers.
“My dad (Kevin) was the head youth coach growing up, and he kind of instilled that work ethic in us,” said Will. “Work ethic is the biggest thing. Wrestling, more than any other sport, teaches you to just grind. Every day you just have to get up and go to work, and do the best that you can.
“You want to have success, but more the life lessons in general that wrestling has taught me, and prepared me for life after high school and everything.”
“Our dad coached us as a youth, so he kind of influenced us to do this whole thing,” added Eli. “Without him, I don’t know if we would have all wrestled.”
Those experiences have helped in both good times and bad.
“He’s (Kevin) very good at it,” said Jake. “He wrestled in high school, and he knows the kind of stuff we go through, when you’re struggling with it, and you’re kind of down in the dumps. His junior year, he said he was thinking about quitting, and his coach asked him to do another tournament, and he ended up taking second at it and that was what kept him going.
“He reminds us that just because you’re in a slump doesn’t mean you’re not good, or you’re not going to get better.”
A shoulder (or two)
to lean on
The oldest of the group, Will is happy to help guide his siblings as much as he can.
“I think it’s awesome,” he said. “Even the hard parts, like when you’re at home watching your weight and stuff; it’s way better when all three of us are there in the same boat. You have the experiences. I’ve been on the varsity team three years, Jake has been there two. So you can help kind of coach him (Eli) through the moments, you know what to expect, and it makes it a lot easier going through it as a group.
“And it’s pretty amazing when you get to come home (together) every day. I’ve got this little truck, and we’re always driving home with all our gear piled on top of each other, and it’s so awesome. It’s a pretty cool family experience.”
Being able to lean on both of his older siblings is something Eli doesn’t take for granted.
“It’s kind of nice, because we can relate to each other,” said Eli. “It’s just something that not everyone can do ... it’s a very unique experience.
“Varsity wrestling is a lot different than everything else, so it’s really nice to have two brothers that can help me through it, especially with stuff like weight loss; they know how to deal with that better than me. So that helps a lot.”
Eli’s progression has been noticeable both on and off the mat.
“I’ve seen him (Eli) grow a ton this year,” said Will. “He came into this season as a freshman being kind of shy, and maybe a little bit intimidated. Now, it’s completely different. He’s gained a lot of confidence. It’s awesome to see him be able to grow like that.
“I just think, especially with it being my senior year, it’s been so awesome just to be able to share those experiences with them, and be able to see how they’ve grown, and how they’ve helped me grow as well. It’s pretty awesome.”
Northwestern head coach Jim Moll knows the value in having siblings on the team. Moll has watched another trio of brothers, Quentin (2016 graduate), Jackson (2018) and Harrison (junior, 17-12) Bernhard all come through the ranks. Both Quentin and Jackson were state qualifiers.
The Tigers have also had a quartet of brothers - Ben, Scott, Bobby and Caleb Clymer - experience great success with the program. All four were district champions, with Scott, Ben and Caleb winning state titles.
“We get to know the kids at a little bit younger age,” said Moll. “Harrison for example, when I came on board, I was a junior high coach, and Harrison was in third grade or something. It seems kind of crazy saying that now, but I got to work with him in our youth camp at a very young age, and then going through junior high, he’s always at all the offseason stuff, so having brothers in the program kind of gets them involved a little bit earlier, I think.”
While Moll has coached siblings before, having three brothers on the team at the same time is one of the more unique opportunities he’s had during his tenure.
“It’s a pretty neat experience having all three on the team at the same time,” said Moll. “They’re all very different kids, very different styles wrestling wise. But it’s good that they already have that bond, and they’re all friends with a lot of the same guys on the team. It makes for a pretty close group.
“It’s probably more comfortable and has some more familiarity — from both the wrestler and the parent perspective – knowing the program, knowing what the expectations are. So that’s always a benefit to have that going in.”
The same, but different
As with any siblings, there are some similarities – and also a few noticeable differences.
“Jake is a competitor,” said Moll. “He likes to compete. He likes to wrestle good competition. Not that the other guys don’t, but he steps up, and really embraces it and likes to go after guys, and it shows. You can see it in his face, when he’s getting really competitive, you can see it.
“Will is the run-through-a-wall guy. You tell him to run through a brick wall, he’ll run through a brick wall. You tell him to carry 100 pounds on his back for three miles, he’ll do it, no questions asked; he just does it.”
As for Eli?
“Eli is more the jokester of the brothers, I think,” Moll said with a laugh. “He works hard at practice, and he’s had a pretty good freshman year. I think he’s gotten some experience that will suit him well going forward.”
Hard work breeds success
All three have been key cogs in the lineup throughout the season. Jake is currently 18-15, while Will is 8-5 and Eli has a record of 8-14.
“The goal is to go as far as we can, see how we do,” said Jake. “I think we have succeeded in that goal; we did fairly well as a team (a fourth-place finish at districts), and it was nice to be a part of that.
“It’s just been cool to see. There’s always been families in our district with wrestlers, and it’s just cool to be a part of that Northwestern culture, where once you wrestle, if your family wrestles, and it just makes up part of who you are. It’s just nice to be part of the team, and having your brothers on the team with you.”
But they’re not done yet.
“They’re guys that have wrestled their whole lives,” said Moll. “They’ve come up through the youth program. They’ve put time in there. They’ve put time in through junior high. And now hopefully, we see those dues pay off coming up in the postseason.”
THAT’S A WRAP ... The regular season came to a close for several area teams on Thursday night. Jim Thorpe posted a victory over Lehighton, while Tamaqua fell to Blue Mountain and Panther Valley suffered a setback against Mahanoy Area. Now the fun begins, as teams turn their attention to the individual portion of the campaign, with districts set to begin next Friday. Look for a preview in next week’s column.
D11 DOMINANCE ... Bethlehem Catholic downed Northampton 31-19 in an all-District 11 Class 3A final in the PIAA Championships last Saturday. The victory gave the Golden Hawks their second consecutive state title, and seventh in the last nine years. In the Class 2A final, Reynolds defeated Southern Columbia 31-23. District 11 Class 2A champ Saucon Valley saw its tournament end with a 33-32 loss to Brookville in the consolation semis. Brookville also eliminated Class 2A runner-up Notre Dame, 36-32, in the consolation round.
THE FINAL COUNTDOWN ... We’re less than a week away from the start of the District 11 individual wrestling championships. The Class 2A event will be held at Freedom on Friday, while the 3A competition will take place at Liberty. All finals and consolation finals in both classes will take place Saturday at Liberty. The top-five wrestlers will advance to the Northeast Regional tournament in Class 3A, which will have 14 wrestlers per weight class, while the top-four will move on to the Southeast Regional event in 2A (12 wrestlers per weight class). The top-six wrestlers in 3A will medal at districts; the top-five wrestlers in 2A will medal.
BUT FIRST ... The Ray Nunamaker District 11 JV Wrestling Tournament is scheduled for this Friday and Saturday at East Stroudsburg South High School. Look for a recap of how area wrestlers fared in next week’s column.
INJURY TIME ... The rankings will return next week, hopefully setting the stage for what should be several interesting matchups throughout the area at districts.