Wes Boehm is a tough guy.
He wears cowboy boots more often than he doesn’t. His bark from the corner is unmistakable.
On Saturday, he was near tears. The mixed-emotion kind.
Boehm, the coach of Omaha Burke, was understandably happy after his star freshman James Burks finished off a state title victory — but blue because Burks won by defeating his own brother, Omaha North senior Otis Rollins, in the 132-pound finale.
“It’s little brother beating big brother and then watching him cry his eyes out because he couldn’t get one?” Boehm said when asked about the subdued celebration. “Yeah, that’s tough.”
It was the third meeting on the mat this season for Burks and Rollins, who have the same mother. Burks swept the season series, winning in the finals at the Metro Conference tournament, the championship round of the district tournament and Saturday’s state title match.
Immediately after Saturday’s match — Rollins’ third loss in a state final — Burks put a hug on his older brother and raised his hand.
“Even when we’re out on the mat, he’s still my brother,” Burks said. “Seeing his face after a fake shot, it scares me knowing he is scared.”
The two went at it one time in club wrestling growing up, a match Burks said he won by two points.
“He always beat me at home, though,” Burks said.
His coach said it was noticeably hard on Burks the first time the two wrestled this season.
“At Metros, I think it bothered him,” Boehm said. “We talked about it afterwards and told him: ‘You’re at the same weight. You’ve got to wrestle your brother. It’s going to be tough, but you’re going to go at him.’”
Boehm said his young star’s wrestling intelligence is his biggest strength.
That showed up again Saturday. Leading 5-2 in the closing stages of the match, Burks avoided getting close to Rollins, even drawing a pair of stalling calls that gave his brother a point.
Burks was one of three freshmen to win state titles Saturday.
“He’s a very, very smart mat wrestler,” Boehm said.
Both takedowns — one in the closing stages of the first period and another with about 45 seconds left in the third — were the difference.
“James is a great wrestler,” North coach Anders Christensen said. “So is Otis. They competed hard against each other all year long. Those matches could have gone either way.”
Christensen, whose brother is an assistant for the Vikings, said he never had a match with a sibling.
“Except in the living room,” he cracked.
Burks said he and Rollins spoke earlier Saturday to wish each other luck and make sure they knew they had each other’s support.
“This doesn’t change our opinions of each other,” he said.
Asked if he likes wrestling his brother, he had an answer as quick as his shot.
“No,” Burks said. “Never.”
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