For twin brothers Zach and Mitch Finesilver, an added pressure influences each wrestling practice: the fear of losing a bout to a family member.
But it doesn’t really arise when they face each other. No, it’s when they wrestle one of their younger twin brothers.
“I don’t wanna say I take it too far,” says Mitch, laughing. “But I’ll just…maybe throw an extra hard crossface or club, so they know who big brother is.”
This winter, with the two sets of fraternal twins covering four separate weight classes, the brothers Finesilver—redshirt juniors Zach and Mitch, first-years Matt and Josh— constitute a near plurality of the Blue Devils’ starting lineup. The multitude of brotherly talent is unprecedented in Duke varsity athletics. For the brothers, the setup has its perks. “It’s a huge support system,” says Josh. “You know, I got three guys who are not only blood-related, but we all have the same goals. We’re always pushing each other and working toward those goals.”
“There’s just this competitive edge—you don’t want to stray from the pack,” adds Matt. “If you see the three other guys progressing in something, you don’t want to be left behind.” The competition extends beyond sports: For example, as they were growing up in Greenwood Village, Colorado, with their three older sisters, the battles for who would ride shotgun in the family’s fifteen-passenger van were so unrelenting that their parents assigned each sibling a day of the week in the prized spot.
The brothers began wrestling at the same time—the elders at age nine, the younger twins at seven. They soon honed their focus on the mat, trading football for cross country in the fall season to boost their conditioning during matches. Today, even though each has his individual technical nuance, a Finesilver trademark is endurance, having “the gas tank to push for seven minutes, eight minutes, nine minutes, however long the match is gonna be,” says Josh.
After each culminated his high-school career with a Colorado state championship, Mitch and Zach blazed the path to Durham. The Duke wrestling program, compared to that of other schools they visited, has room for them to leave a mark, Zach explains. “We were like, ‘Hey, let’s join this program where we can build something up and…’ ”
“…be Duke’s first national champion,” says Mitch.
The duo agreed to attend the same school, realizing that, as Mitch says, “most of our success has come from being together.” By the time the younger pair went on their round of college visits, there was little debate. “In the back of my mind, it was a clear-cut choice that Duke was the way to go,” says Matt.
Unsurprisingly, with four Division I athletes rampaging in close proximity for nearly two decades, there are stories of destruction. A swim workout that too prominently featured a PVC pipe and left Matt with a handful of staples in his head. Basement dodgeball that led to the quartet having to mend drywall in their suburban Denver home. On-campus volleyball matches that Matt estimates cause “50 percent of our fights,” featuring trash talk that occasionally crosses the line. “I guess verbally we all know how to push each others’ buttons...which can be a problem,” Mitch says.
But the brothers are a wellknit bunch. They grab lunch a few times a week, peppering their conversations with quotes from MacGruber and Step Brothers. The older twins try to make sure the other two are prepared while also not seeming overbearing. “One thing that’s made it difficult is we kind of see where we were as freshmen, and we say, ‘Hey, this is what you need to do,’ ” says Zach. “And we need to kind of take a step back and understand that they’re different people and they’re gonna have a different college experience.”
At the same time, “you only have like a four- to five-year window to do something in the sports world in wrestling,” says Mitch, who has twice qualified for NCAA tournaments already in his career. (Zach, too, qualified his red-shirt freshman year.) The older brothers encourage Josh and Matt to not give their opponents excessive respect; even as freshmen, they’re capable of winning against almost anyone.
Excluding a couple of foes, of course.
“It’s weird how we’ve kinda teamed up a bit,” Zach says, describing how, in training, he and Mitch informally share notes on how to best their younger siblings. “But they’re competing with us, and that’s what’s exciting—it’s definitely caused us to up our game.” “
They’re my brothers; I love ’em to death,” says Josh. But out on the practice mat? “I’m trying to rip their heads off.”