In wrestling, the strength of siblings rises when one’s dream ends

Updated: December 5, 2017

Photo: Oklahoma State’s Chandler Rogers (left), a two-time national qualifier and 2017 All-American, moved from Spokane, Wash., to Stillwater, Okla., after his older brother Jordan (right) signed with the Cowboys in 2012.

(The following column appeared in the November 15, 2017 issue of Wrestling Insider Newsmagazine. Click here to subscribe to WIN magazine.)

By Mike Finn, WIN editor

No sport features more brother combinations than wrestling, beginning usually in their living rooms where they learn to fight and love each other as siblings.

And sometimes, their later mat success in high school earns both a college scholarship offer. And many times brothers can share similar All-American success at the NCAAs.

But that is not the case for all wrestling brothers. I first witnessed that sad moment the night of March 16, 1991, when Tom Brands won his second NCAA title a few moments after his brother Terry lost in the finals.

But at least each both left Iowa as national championship and All-American wrestlers.

Sometimes, that does not happen. Sometimes one of the brothers earns All-American honors, while his sibling failed to even qualify for Nationals.

That has been the case of Jordan and Chandler Rogers of Oklahoma State. Natives of the state of Washington, the entire Rogers family moved to Stillwater, Okla., in 2012 after Jordan, the Junior Dan Hodge Trophy winner from Mead High School in Spokane, earned a scholarship from OSU.

And after Chandler won four state championships for Stillwater High School, he also inked a scholarship offer from the Cowboys and hoped to create a one-two punch in Division I wrestling.

It never happened.

Jordan did earn some starting assignments at either 174 or 184 pounds between 2013-17, but never got a chance to wrestle for Oklahoma State in the postseason, including his senior season last March when Nolan Boyd eventually earned a second All-American honor.

Meanwhile, Chandler appeared to be facing a similar fate in backing up an All-American. But, that fate changed in 2016 when Kyle Crutchmer, who finished fifth in 2015, broke his foot. That sent Chandler to the 2016 NCAAs where he reached the quarters at 174 but failed to place.

One year later, Chandler stepped on the All-American podium last March when he claimed fifth place at 165 pounds. But he was left with mixed emotions as Jordan could only watch his brother reach a level he first dreamed of for himself.

“It was hard to see (Jordan) struggle because I know he had bigger goals,” said Chandler.

That’s because Chandler remembers their days back in Washington, a state that does not feature any Division I programs, when they had to travel outside their home state’s borders to earn national attention.

“There were a select few that wanted to go do something big in college and we really had to travel a lot to get us competition that would get us ready for that next level. I was super blessed. The reason I was able to figure it out was that I was humbled every single day of every single practice because I wrestled Jordan. He kicked my butt all year long. The first takedown I ever got against him was my sophomore year in high school. That’s how bad he would beat the crud out of me, but in turn made me so good.”

Chandler faced a similar situation in 2015 when he faced daily struggles against the likes of OSU All-Americans Alex Dieringer, Chris Perry and Tyler Caldwell as a true freshman.

“That’s what I grew up with when I was getting my butt kicked by my brother,” said Chandler, who said Jordan put his personal disappointment aside to help Chandler. “Jordan reminded me that I needed to go get an extra workout in.”

And Jordan’s support for Chandler was never truer than after Feb. 20, 2016, when their father, Bill, who took his sons around the country as kids, suffered from depression and committed suicide… and shortly after Chandler became the starter as a redshirt freshman when Crutchmer suffered a season-ending injury.

“Two days after my dad passed away, I could not even get in a stance because I was so emotionally exhausted,” Chandler recalled. “Jordan was literally picking me up and getting me in my stance. That was hard, but it was something that got me through a lot of hard things.”

The Rogers’ faith also helped them put personal pain in perspective.

“It’s all part of God’s plan. You can’t foresee something that is not there,” said Chandler, who admitted he will wrestle in honor of his brother, mother Heather, sister Sidney, and other loved ones this season as he shoots for a first national championship at 165 pounds.

(Oddly, the 165-pound weight class features a similar sad sibling story in Michigan sophomore Logan Massa, who finished third in 2017 after he came to Ann Arbor to join brother Taylor, who was a two-time national qualifier but saw his college career end prematurely with injuries.)

“I want to make them proud because they’ve always believed in me,” Chandler said. “I want them to believe in something that is great.”

Whether Chandler wins or not in March, he’s already a champ as a brother.

(Mike Finn, the editor of WIN Magazine since 2003, has covered amateur wrestling since 1988.)