Wiesbaden’s band of brothers eager to start season
Twenty-five teams will begin chasing four European wrestling championships on Saturday, but none of them will be closer-knit than the Wiesbaden Warriors.
Wiesbaden, which finished second to Ramstein in Division I last season, opens the season as a D-II favorite behind two sets of brothers: Ronald and younger brother Tahji Peebles — silver medalists last season at 145 pounds and 112, respectively — and Chris and Michael Spencer. Chris, a senior, is the reigning 119-pound European champion; Michael is a freshman who’s been hanging out in Wiesbaden’s wrestling room since he was a seventh-grader and now is ready to add official points to the Warriors’ totals.
All four have a motivation to succeed that can only come from having siblings on the team.
“My objective is not to be beaten by my brother,” Ronald Peebles, 17, said with a smile on Wednesday as the other members of the Warriors’ Band of Brothers nodded in agreement, then took turns disputing who had beaten whom and how often and under what circumstances.
Those points of contention required resolution, according to the elder Spencer, for one compelling reason.
“It’s not cool to be beaten by your brother,” said Chris Spencer, whose younger brother has the potential to do so, even though, as Michael said, “I look up to him.”
Coach Steve Jewell and most of the Warriors do the same to Michael.
“I call him ‘The Natural,’ ” Jewell said of the younger Spencer. “Of course, why wouldn’t he be? He gets to wrestle his brother all year round. He already beaten a lot of guys in this wrestling room.”
Tajhi Peebles put it another way. “Don’t mess with Michael,” he said. “He’s a beast.”
If Michael Spencer’s mainly about strength and power, his older brother is, in Jewell’s words, “a great technician.”
“His nickname is Dan Gable,” Jewell said, comparing the older Spencer to Gable, the Iowa University NCAA and Olympic champion of the 1970s, whose work habits are still the stuff of legend. Gable also enjoyed coaching success, and Chris Spencer’s in that mix, too.
“I like to help people, to show them things about wrestling,” he said.
On the eve of the new season, all four wrestlers are looking toward season’s end.
Ronald Peebles, also an All-Europe running back, and Tahji Peebles, a varsity tennis player, are looking to improve on last year’s runner-up finish, and Michael Spencer’s looking to finally wrestle for a medal or two.
“We don’t want to settle for second this year,” Tahji Peebles said.
The Warriors have one other goal.
“We want to score more points than Ramstein,” Ronald Peebles said. “Even though we’re Division II now and they’re Division I, we want to outscore them.”
The Warriors will get their chance Feb. 15-16 at the Wiesbaden Army Airfield gym in the 2008 European championships. That’s when all the best wrestlers in DODDS-Europe, regardless of division, will be in one place.
It’s a meet that can’t come too soon for Chris Spencer.
“Europeans are the only reason I wrestle,” he said. “I don’t like conditioning. I don’t even like the regular meets. They’re so long. You sit around all day waiting to wrestle.”
DODDS wrestling 2007-08Returning European champions
103—Jerry Archuleta, Bitburg112—Edgar Acosta, Baumholder119—Chris Spencer, Wiesbaden130—Kris Higgins, AFNORTH152—Dameon Odum, Hohenfels171—Brock Blankenship, AFNORTHLast season’s team champions
Division I—RamsteinDivision II—AFNORTHDivision III—HohenfelsDivision IV—BrusselsSaturday’s matches
At AFNORTH: Ramstein, Baumholder Bitburg, St. John’s and AFNORTH.At Alconbury: Menwith Hill, Lakenheath, Brussels, SHAPE and Alconbury.At American Overseas School of Rome: Aviano, Vicenza, Sigonella and AOSR.At Heidelberg: Ansbach, Vilseck, Patch, Hohenfels and Heidelberg.At Kaiserslautern: Mannheim, Wiesbaden, Würzburg, Hanau and Kaiserslautern.Significant dates