When Andover freshmen Paul Stuart and Jack Maki are outside the wrestling room, their topics of conversation are usually girls, girls and, well, girls.
In the wrestling room, though, the battles on the mat between the practice partners are intense and, sometimes, volatile.
“There will be days where we work so hard, push each other so hard, that it ended up in a fist fight,” Stuart said. “The second we step out of the room we’re best friends. Once it comes time to work hard, we might butt heads from wrestling each other so many times over the year.”
The competitiveness has only helped Stuart and Maki, who both won on Friday in the Class 5A wrestling tournament semifinals to advance to championship matches at Hartman Arena.
The finals will start at 2 p.m. and will run at the same time as third and fifth-place matches in an attempt to beat a winter storm.
“I couldn’t tell you the last time Andover had two finalists, probably over two decades ago,” Andover coach Brett Fiene said.
Stuart (33-1) won his match 3-2 at 113 pounds and will wrestle Arkansas City’s Logan Terrill, while Maki (33-4) got a pin at 120 pounds and will face Kapaun senior Parker Howell. Terrill won at 106 in 2013, while Howell won at 113.
“He’s shorter and stockier,” Stuart said of Maki. “I’m a little bit more tall and thin. Those are the the two styles that normally clash. To be able to see a short and stocky kid in practice I wrestled a short and stocky kid in the semis and came out on top. I credit that all to wrestling him every day.”
Maki and Stuart attend the same wrestling camp, drill the same moves each day, wrestle each other at least twice every practice.
But when it comes down to it, what drives them is their hyper-competitive nature.
“We are looking to beat each other each day,” Maki said. “We’ve been wrestling since fourth grade. It’s just a dogfight whenever we’re wrestling.”
Fiene relishes their intensity because he knows that when it comes to a big stage like a state championship match, they’ll be fine with it.
“They don’t want to lose matches out here,” Fiene said. “But I think they even have more pride in our wrestling room. The wrestling room is sacred to us. Them giving up points in the wrestling room is sometimes worse than giving up points out here.
“A lot of it is pride. They get better because they want to beat each other.”
Andover freshman Paul Stuart, 113 pounds
Andover freshman Jack Maki, 120 pounds
Andover wrestling coach Brett Fiene