Whether it’s card games, video games or wrestling, the Allatoona wrestlers find ways to get under one another’s skin.
“We’re both competitors, no matter what,” Will said. “Madden, PlayStation, Uno, wrestling — it doesn’t matter. We always try to beat each other.”
It’s that competitive nature that has helped elevate the brothers to the Class AAAAA state championship, which begins Friday at Loganville High School.
Both are solid wrestlers, and they each have an opportunity to place at the state meet. Will, a junior, will wrestle at 160 pounds, while Harrison, a freshman, will battle at 106.
“I’ve had cousins and brothers before on teams, but never two guys like this going to state at the same time, and both have a chance to medal,” Allatoona coach Joe Lanier said. “I’m sure it will be a unique experience for them.”
The Kemps both started wrestling at a young age.
Will, about three years older than his younger brother, started when he was 5. Harrison said he was about 6 or 7 when he got into the sport. Their grandfather wrestled as did their father, Billy, who competed in high school and college.
Billy Kemp’s interest in the sport helped fuel the brothers into becoming wrestlers.
“I definitely got into it from my dad,” Will said. “I was in a wrestling environment when I was young, and when we moved to Georgia from Minnesota, I got into it.”
That early start has given Will — an Area 5AAAAA and sectional champion this season — a big advantage in terms of experience. This weekend will mark another opportunity for him to finish among the top six in his weight class and earn a spot on the podium. He placed fifth as a sophomore last year at 152 pounds, after qualifying for the finals as a 130-pound freshman.
“Will’s been here before,” Lanier said, “so it won’t be nerve-racking to him. Harrison’s a freshman, so you wonder how he’s going to react on that stage, but it would be neat to see them both get on the podium.”
Lanier is justified in his concerns.
“I’ll probably be a little nervous when it all starts,” Harrison said. “I’ll be nervous, but excited. I definitely want to place, and it would be awesome to be in the final.”
Because of the weight difference between the brothers, Lanier tries to keep the brothers apart in practice.
“They’re close, but they each have their circles in school and in the wrestling room,” Lanier said. “Every once in a while, they wrestle around and talk to each other, but they rarely acknowledge each other in the room. You can tell they’re close, but they’re also focused. They keep their distance from each other.”
That approach has helped the brothers rack up impressive records this season. Will is 42-3, while Harrison is 41-15.
Although Will has been wrestling longer, the siblings try to help each other when they can.
“We critique each other,” Will said. “We’ve always had a relationship and a connection with wrestling where we want to be as good as we can be, so we help each other.”
Will is the more extroverted of the two, and Harrison is slowing coming out of his shell. But Harrison is usually the brother to instigate something.
“(Harrison) is usually quiet, but he has a mouth on him, especially when he’s talking trash to me,” Will said.
Harrison agreed, playing into the comment in his usual fashion.
“We have PlayStation 4 and I win all the time,” Harrison said. “He’s alright. He’s not at my level yet. I beat him in games, and he gets me in wrestling — for right now anyway.”
Before Harrison can take down his brother, he’ll need to take down his other opponents on the biggest stage of the season.
“Will is definitely easier to relax and make laugh before matches,” Lanier said. “Neither guy gets really emotional during competition. Both of them take instruction well.”
All of that instruction and training has led up this point, with the brothers eyeing state championship medals.
“It would be really cool if we can both medal,” Harrison said. “It would be awesome if it could come true.”