The Most Respectful Wrestling Siblings I’ve Ever Encountered At A Wrestling Event; The Braunagel Brothers; Jarrid, Danny, Zac and Joe of Althoff Catholic HS (IL)
If you are a wrestler from my area (Southeast Iowa), there is a very high likelihood that your wrestling journey during the regular season wasn’t limited to only competing exclusively against other Iowans. The chances are likely that you’d collide with a guy from the border state to the South (Missouri) as well as guys from the border state that is located to the East (Illinois) at multiple points during the season. Kind of like how Council Bluffs region guys battle Nebraska and Mizzou, NW guys battle Nebraska and South Dakota, Dubuque guys wrestle Wisconsin and Illinois, etc. In our case, my brothers and I grew up literally just a mile or so from the Illinois border and only 45 minutes or so North of the Missouri border. So we ran into a TON of Missouri and Illinois guys from youth all the way through HS. Heck, my first ever wrestling match as a 6 year old in 1989 was against a kid from Quincy, IL…my 2nd match ever was that same day and was against a kid from Hannibal, MO. And this was at a tourney that was located in Iowa. I never even faced an Iowan until my 3rd match ever… I had full-fledged rivals from Illinois and Missouri growing up. So did pretty much everyone else on my team… and it was the same way 12-14 years later when my way younger brothers, Shea and Brennan took the mats. From the time I can remember, it has been common for SE Iowan wrestlers to encounter foes from anywhere North of St. Louis, MO, all the way to the QC Area of Illinois. Hannibal, Macomb, Triad, Mt. Zion, Quincy, Dixon, West Hancock, etc… we factored wrestlers from every one of those clubs into pretty much every tournament we attended besides districts and state.
Just East of St. Louis, MO on the Illinois side of the border is a high school called Althoff Catholic in Belleville, IL. This school has been home to several great wrestlers over the past couple decades. If memory serves me correctly, they had their own feeder program called Crusaders Elite or something along those lines and in Shea and Brennan’s age group, those guys along with West Hancock were the two toughest Illinois squads that we encountered at youth tourneys. They were a team that our Mediapolis squad encountered usually once or twice a year from youth tourneys all the way through HS in which they were Mepo’s toughest competition in the team race every year at one of the biggest tournaments we competed at for over 20 years… The Quincy Invitational. Quincy is located in Western Illinois and served as a perfect location for an Iowa-Illinois-Mizzou annual tri-state throw-down. There was something like 25-30 teams at this tournament. Winning it was a big deal. Heck, I placed higher at state my Senior year than I did at Quincy that same year and that was not a rare occurrence. And I don’t know what it was, whether it was the unfamiliarity that everyone had with each other or the border-state competition factor, but it brought out a lot of our uncharacteristic “chippy” sides. The most “smack-talk,” fighting, bickering with officials, etc. that we ever encountered or engaged in every year would usually always take place at the Quincy Invite. Heck remember that video I posted that I found of myself flexing in my opponents face after a last-second win? I don’t remember that match AT ALL and it was uncharacteristic of me to behave cocky like that and the only thing I know for a fact in terms of where that match was or who it was against was that it took place in the Quincy HS gym at the Quincy Invite. Typical. Apparently that tournament brought out my cocky side as well as everyone else’s. Well… almost everyone. It sure as heck didn’t bring these sides out of the Althoff Catholic squad.
As mentioned, Althoff Catholic was one of the toughest squads we faced at Quincy in the 2010’s and a few of the toughest members of their squad that we encountered for years was a trio of brothers with the last name, “Braunagel.” There were 3 of them (at the time). Oldest brother Jarrid was in my brother Shea’s grade (‘16) and twins, Zac and Danny were in my youngest brother, Brennan’s grade (‘18). They also have a younger brother named Joe Braunagel who graduated HS in the 2020 range. They might as well be quadruplets, because they all look so much alike. You can see one of them for the first time and know that it’s a Braunagel brother just by looking at them.
Here is a rundown on how good these guys were based on their results to this point:
Jarrid Braunagel: 4X placer/1X Finalist who was in the top 3 all 4 years of HS, I believe. I want to say he went 3-3-3-2 at the Illinois HS State Tournament. He went on to wrestle collegiately at McKendree.
Dan Braunagel: 2X State Champion/3X State Finalist in Illinois. Super 32 All-American. 2X NHSCA All-American, 2X D1 National Qualifier for Illinois who is still currently competing. Was 5th at the U23 World Team Trials a couple weeks ago at 79 kg.
Joe Braunagel: 2X State Champion in IL. He currently competes at IL as well. He is the youngest.
Not a shabby wrestling tradition they’ve got going on in the Braunagel Family, eh?!
From youth through HS, the one Braunagel brother that both of my brothers met up with the most was the oldest brother, Jarrid. Jarrid beat Shea a few times in youth and once at the Quincy Invite. Jarrid wrestled Brennan once in youth at a USA sanctioned event when they were really young (like 7 and 9 years old I bet) and Brennan pulled a headlock out of his butt to win that one, but Jarrid beat Brennan in a close match the one time they met up in HS at the Quincy Invite. I want to say that Brennan wrestled one of the twins as a really young kid (Danny, I think) as well, but the twins ended up out-growing him from the time they were 10 years old or so until Danny and Brennan were eventually at the same weight again as Seniors in HS, which was ironically the first year that Mepo got out of the Quincy Invite, so they never met up in HS. That would have been a good one. All 3 of the Braunagel brothers were just insanely good wrestlers that we had an immense amount of respect for. Athletic, good motors, great technique, unshakable, aggressive… they were great wrestlers as well as FUN to watch. About as technically sound as they come.
So the respectful encounter in which this article pertains to took place at the Quincy Invite in 2016 when Jarrid and Shea were Seniors and Zac, Danny and Brennan were Sophomores in HS. The conversation took place precisely right before the round in which Jarrid and Brennan met up at Quincy, which was for 3rd and 4th place at 138 lbs. They had a bit of a weird bracket that year… There were 3 returning Quincy champs who ended up in the same bracket at 138 that year… Brennan won Quincy as a Freshman at 120 the year before. Jarrid won it as a Junior at 132 the year before, I believe and Brennan’s DC Elite club practice partner, Will Lucie won it at 126 the year before by defeating Shea in the finals. Jarrid was seeded 1st, I think and was expected to waltz his way through the top half of the bracket where he would likely meet the winner between practice partners, Will Lucie of West Hancock and Brennan. Will ended up beating Brennan in OT, I think. Either OT, or a 1 point match that came down to the wire. The bracket buster of that weight class however was when a kid from Quincy named Peters who wasn’t projected to place higher than 4th ended up upsetting Jarrid in the semis. That Quincy kid ended up putting a cherry on top when he defeated Will Lucie in the finals to take home the Quincy Invite championship. I don’t know if that kid even qualified for state later that year, but coincidentally enough, Will Lucie ended up defeating Jarrid in the 1A State Finals later that year. Anyways, Jarrid and Brennan met up for 3rd and 4th place at Quincy that year and prior to that match taking place, I overheard a conversation between the 3 Braunagel brothers that impressed me so much that I have followed their careers and rooted for them ever since despite not even knowing them personally. Here is what happened:
So prior to the final rounds at the Quincy Invitational, I was loitering in the hallway, trying to find a reliable stream for the NFL AFC Championship game between my favorite team, the KC Chiefs and the detestable NE Patriots. If any of you don’t know, I am arguably as much of a Chiefs fan as I am a fan of wrestling. Anyways, I found this bench in the corner of the hallway that received a good signal, so I sat there watching Alex Smith dink and dunk his way to another Chiefs playoff loss while the Quincy Inv. continued to unfold. I was at a place that was more or less isolated and away from everyone, therefore I could whine and yell as much as I wanted while the Chiefs inevitably laid an egg against the Patriots…that is until I heard a few people take a seat on one of the benches behind me. It was the 3 Braunagel brothers; Jarrid, Danny and Zac. I don’t think they realized that I was sitting near them, for there was a bench that was stacked between our two benches that we were sitting on. They came back there for a “pre-finals” siblings meeting. As mentioned, Jarrid was set to face Brennan for 3rd place at 138. Danny was set to face 4X Mediapolis placer, Mason Buster (placed 3-4-3-3 at state in HS) at 145. Zac was set to face a guy from Triad named Cole Witzig in the finals at 170. When I noticed that these guys were there specifically to have a private discussion about the competition they were set to face, my usual response would have been to get up and leave out of respect for their privacy since they didn’t seem to notice me sitting there, but since my brother was facing Jarrid soon, I decided to purposely continue to go unnoticed by them while they had their discussion, for I wanted to hear what they had to say about our guys. I was officially Curious Josh in that moment, itching to hear all the nasty things they had to say about our Mepo guys. Kind of lame of me… So sue me. 🤷♂️ And what I heard from them was nothing like what I expected coming from 3 of the toughest pound-for-pound guys at the most “chippy” tournament that we competed at.
Jarrid initiated the conversation by asking Zac and Danny who they had coming up in their finals matches. Danny replied, “Mediapolis guy.” Zac replied, “Witzig.” Jarrid asked Danny if the Mediapolis guy he had (Buster) was any good and Danny said something along the lines of, “yeah he’s good. A good scrambler.” Jarrid then said something along the lines of, “yeah, Mediapolis. All of those guys are good. They are a great squad.” One of them asked Jarrid who he had and he responded, “I also have a Mediapolis guy. Won it last year. Has a great carry series and cradle. I’ll have to wrestle tough because he’s a tough kid. We all 3 will have to wrestle tough.” They discussed their opponents in the most respectful way that I’ve ever heard. Most guys, especially in a private situation like that will use the opportunity to run their mouths and talk as much smack as they can about their opponents when no one else is listening, for even if they don’t believe the smack they talk, they can at least try to convince themselves they do in an attempt to make themselves feel confident…or at the very least, they can come off as cool and confident to their friends. So many wrestlers, myself included are raised/coached to approach matches in a matter in which you have absolutely no respect for your opponents prior to facing them, for respecting them is supposedly the mindset of a wrestler who is mentally weak and already defeated. This is a questionable train of thought, but very common. The Braunagel brothers however debunked that line of thinking completely in their approaches in which they discussed and prepared for their opponents in a manner where the mission to win was clear as day, but the respect they genuinely possessed for the opposition was also clear. Openly discussing positive things about their opponents did not seem to sway them from feeling confident about their own ability to win their matchups. They all 3 indicated having belief in their ability to win their upcoming matches and they all had a mutual confidence in each other to win their matches as well. I couldn’t have been more impressed.. I felt like a dork for not leaving once I heard the Braunagel bros conversing, but I was glad I didn’t, for there I was, a 33 year old at the time, silently and literally learning life-lessons from 3 respectful, mentally mature and elite HS wrestler-siblings who were obviously wise beyond their years.
They ended up wrapping things up with a prayer, which opened with the same prayer I heard at church every weekend growing up, the “Hail Mary” and concluded with them asking God to give them the ability to perform to their capabilities and to protect themselves AND their opponents from injury in their matches. I couldn’t believe my ears. They didn’t ask God to give them the strength to “win,” but to just perform to their capabilities. They didn’t ask God to ensure only THEIR safety, but their OPPONENT’S safety as well. There I was, 33 years old and watching my KC Chiefs on my phone while avidly fighting off thoughts of wishing Tom Brady would get sacked so hard by Tamba Hali that his ears and arms would switch places and here were 3 of the best pound-for-pound HS wrestlers in the entire tournament praying for the safety of not only themselves, but their opponents. Lesson…learned. You are probably 10X more likely to have a fight started with you by an opposing wrestler in that hallway at the Quincy Invite than you are to over-hear them praying for your safety. Heck, I almost got into it with a guy from Matoon (IL) when I was in HS in that very hallway.
You have some wrestlers who go out on the mat and try to execute any cheap little tactic they can in attempt(s) to physically hurt their opponents, increasing their own likelihood of winning. They want to hurt people and have no problem doing so. And then you have people like the Braunagel siblings in which winning is just as important to them as it is to anybody, but not at the cost of someone else’s physical health and safety. It was one of the most mature and impressive conversations I’ve ever heard between wrestlers at an event and likely always will be.
Jarrid would beat my brother Brennan in a close match for 3rd place. Zac ended up losing via decision to Witzig. Danny Braunagel ended up with one of the biggest wins of the tournament in his finals match. He pinned Mason Buster (Senior of Mepo) in the first period and was up big when he did it. I’m not sure if Danny realized how good Mason was, but I obviously knew Mason well since he started as a 1st grader and he is one of the best guys our team ever produced… I mean, heck…placing 3-4-3-3 at state is an indicator of someone who consistently shows up in big matches and also knows how to bounce back from heartbreaking losses. In 3 of those seasons, he was in the running to win the bracket until the semifinal round. In 10+ years of watching Mason wrestle, I never, EVER saw him take a loss like the one Danny gave him. Generally the matches he lost in his career (which didn’t happen much) were decided by a point or so. Never saw him dominated by someone, let alone pinned like he was in the finals at Quincy against Dan Braunagel. It was probably the most impressive performance of the entire tournament. If the 138 lb champion wasn’t a hometown Quincy guy, the OW award probably would have been given to Danny Braunagel that year.
As mentioned earlier; Zac, Danny and Joe Braunagel still currently compete at a high level, for they are D1 standouts on the University Of Illinois wrestling team. I’ve watched them all compete since their HS days at Althoff Catholic and unless they are competing against my brother Brennan or one of his teammates at Iowa, I will for sure be rooting for them. I mean, how can you not root for someone that you heard praying for your own family member’s safety before competing against them? Kind of crazy how one “accidentally overheard” conversation can have such a lasting impression on someone and it is a nice knowing and having it confirmed to you, the maturity that is genuinely possessed by the individuals that the sport of wrestling regularly produces.
Much respect and best of luck to you, Braunagel fam! If this story I wrote is an accurate depiction as to what you guys are like at all times (as I’m sure it is), then you guys are an absolutely great look for our sport. Your parents obviously did a great job raising you guys!
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