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Over the years, wrestling has helped define Princetons Bird family

Posted Thursday, January 06, 2011 by Steve Amy

Over the years, wrestling has helped define Princetons Bird family

Thursday, January 06, 2011

By Jared Bell

Over the years, wrestling has helped define Princeton’s Bird family
The Bird family poses for a photo in front of the Princeton wrestling programs record board. Ryne (far left) was a two-time state medalist, Reiter (second from left) is a senior with an 11-4 record this season,?Reece (second from right) is a sophomore who will make his season debut Friday at the Lyle King Invitational and Jason (far right) has been a Tiger assistant for 2 1/2 decades.
NewsTribune photo/Kemp Smith
PRINCETON — Wrestling is more than a sport to the Bird family.

It’s become a way life.

From father Jason to sons Ryne, Reiter and Reece, the sport has become the family’s own rite of passage.

All three sons have wrestled at Princeton High School — Ryne was a two-time state medalist, while Reiter is a senior on this year’s team and Reece is a sophomore — and their dad has served as an assistant coach for 2 1/2 decades.

Wrestling has become a way of family bonding.

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“My brothers are both quite a bit younger than me — Reiter is seven years younger than me and Reece is nine — so growing up I didn’t really have much of a relationship with them,” said Ryne, a 2003 PHS graduate. “We were just at different points in our lives and had different interests. We didn’t really have as much of a friendship. It was more, ‘Oh, well, he’s just my little brother,’ and that’s it.

“But as I got older, we started having a better friendship with one another, and not just that brother friendship but actually becoming really good friends — and I think wrestling has had a lot to do with it.”

It’s provided a topic of mutual interest.

“Wrestling is a big part of our family,” said Jason, who is also the PHS boys soccer coach. “Obviously, Reiter and Reece grew up idolizing Ryne wrestling, and a lot of our summers when Ryne was younger were spent going to tournaments all over the United States and they had to float with us.

“So when they both decided they wanted to wrestle — and Reiter much later than Reece — they both relied on a lot of advice from Ryne, who has been a super-supportive big brother and has given them honest advice.”

But that’ll all end next season when Reiter graduates, Reece opts for winter soccer instead of wrestling and Jason steps down as an assistant coach.

The closures will make this weekend’s 48th Annual Lyle King Princeton Invitational Tournament one of the last moments the wrestling family will share together on the mat.

Reiter, who is currently 11-4 this season, enters the tournament — widely regarded as the state’s best small-school tournament — at a loaded 135-pound weight class. The weight has four state-rated 135-pound wrestlers and two other grapplers who could shift up or down a weight, including a returning state champion.

“That’s turning out to be a pretty tough weight class for Reiter,” Jason said. “But those are the kids we expect to see and the kids we hope to see to at the state tournament, if he’s fortunate enough to get there. So there’s no harm at this point of the season in facing those guys and being as competitive as you can be. It’s is going to be tough, but if he wrestles well, he can be in the top four.”

Given he can shake a recent bout with the flu, Reece is expected to make his season debut at the PIT at 103 pounds, a class that features two state qualifiers.

“I am placing in it,” Reece said. “I want to place in the top four, and I think it’s doable because people are going to underestimate me since it’s my first time this year. I just have to be determined to win it.”

Just like Ryne was in his high school days.

After deciding to consume wrestling, Ryne became an elite wrestler his junior season, which was also the same year Princeton dropped from Class AA to Class A.

That year, Ryne — who went 38-6 his sophomore season but lost his only match at state — placed third in Class A at 125 pounds and finished with a 43-2 record, which is tied for the fourth most single-season wins in school history.

He followed in his senior season by placing second at 125 and ended with a 44-2 mark, which is the third most single-season wins in PHS history.

Ryne’s 160 career wins is second all-time in school history, and his 687 career takedowns are a school record and 208 more than the second-place person.

“When it wasn’t soccer season, wrestling was life,” said Ryne, who was the NewsTribune’s co-Boys Soccer Player of the Year in 2002. “Wrestling was everything.”

During his run to his two state medals, Reiter and Reece took different approaches. Reece, still in elementary school, was with his brother every step of the way and followed his every move, while Reiter had a hands-off approach and never showed an interest in wrestling until the eighth grade.

At that time, he figured he’d give it a try and liked it so much he stuck with it.

“Wrestling, around my sophomore year, turned out to be my favorite sport,” said Reiter, who also was the 2010 NewsTribune Boys Soccer Player of the Year. “I wrestle in the offseason to get better and work on stuff with (PHS) coach (Steve Amy), and it helps me get into shape for my other sports.”

Reiter has progressed as he’s gained experienced — as his 11 wins so far show — but he’s always had to compete with the idea of what his big brother did.

“I do feel that pressure,” he said. “But at the same time, I just wanted to come in and just become my own wrestler and do my own stuff.”
Reece is doing just that.

After soaking up anything and everything as a youngster and compiling wrestling knowledge that few can rival, Reece intended on spending the winter season playing indoor soccer, a sport he’s grown to love. However, he had a change of heart.

“I told (my dad) at the end of last year that I wasn’t going out, but I ended up coming out mostly because of him and Reiter,” he said. “(My dad) called me up one day and told me to not give up on it, and I ended up going out the next day.”

Reece says this is his last year wrestling, making this weekend’s PIT even more emotional since it’ll be the last time he’ll wrestle at an event he’s been around since the second grade.

The event will also be surreal for Jason, who has coached wrestling since he returned from college. He will remain the soccer coach.

“If you are a wrestler and love the sport and been around it, you are going to miss it,” Jason said. “But it’s going to be nice in the winter because if I want to take a vacation where it’s warm I’ll be able to take a vacation where it’s warm, and there might actually be daylight outside when I get off work.”

It’ll also give him time to visit the newest member of the Bird family. Already a father, Ryne will welcome into the world his second daughter any moment.

It’ll give the Bird family something new to love.

Jared Bell can be reached at 223-3200, ext. 138, or at sports@newstrib.com.

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