It couldn’t have been scripted any better.
St. Clair twins Ryan and Aaron Herman completed their senior wrestling season as state champions.
“It feels wonderful,” Aaron Herman said. “It’s the best feeling in the world.”
Talking before his brother’s title bout, Ryan Herman was hoping for the best.
“It feels pretty good,” Ryan said about his title. “I’m still looking forward to my brother’s match, so hopefully it will be complete this year.”
And complete it finished.
Combined, the brothers won three state championships, a third-place medal and a fifth-place medal. Both qualified for the state meet in all four years of their high school careers while going a combined 327-55 for St. Clair.
St. Clair Head Coach Mel Hughes wasn’t surprised by this year’s outcome.
“After watching his brother Ryan win the 182-pound championship, our coaching staff and likely our fans all believed that there was nothing going to stop Aaron from winning his,” Hughes said. “Aaron and his twin brother Ryan had a dream to both win titles together their senior year and did just that.”
Ryan (182) won his second state title Saturday, Feb. 16, at Mizzou Arena in Columbia by winning an 8-0 major decision over Eldon’s Dawson Brandt. It was his third state medal after a state title in 2016 at 145 and a third-place medal last year at 152.
Aaron (285) upset two-time 220-pound state champion Tyler Curd of Oak Grove by a pin in 5:13 to earn his first state title and second state medal after last year’s fifth-place finish at 195.
The twins went 91-1 combined this season. Ryan was undefeated at 47-0 while Aaron was 44-1, losing only to the fourth-place finisher in Class 3.
While the twins had tremendous success over the years, the only ending that satisfied both was this year with the double state titles.
As freshmen, Ryan made the bubble round at 145 pounds while Aaron was knocked out in the second-round wrestlebacks at 170.
Ryan broke through to win the 145-pound state title in 2016-17 while Aaron was ousted in the bubble round at 170 that year.
Even after he won the state title, Ryan Herman wished his brother also could have made it to the medal stand.
“It almost completed it,” Ryan Herman said. “If he would have placed, it would have completed it.”
The next year, both brothers reached the medal rounds, but neither made the title bouts. Ryan placed third at 152 pounds and Aaron was fifth at 195.
“Last season kind of felt incomplete because he wasn’t on the podium, too,” Ryan Herman said after his junior year. “That makes me feel a lot better because he deserved it every bit as much as I did.”
Ryan said failing to repeat last season was a major incentive to return to the title bout this year.
“I just felt like last year was a bummer,” Ryan Herman said. “I had to work really, really hard going out and wrestling. I worked really hard over the summer and it paid off.”
After the 2018 state tournament, it was Aaron Herman’s turn to feel empathy for his brother.
“I just wish he would have made it to the finals again this year and won it all,” Aaron Herman said last February. “That would have made me happier. It is pretty cool that we medaled together.”
This year, the only emotion was happiness.
Prior to their senior year, Ryan Herman made a big decision. He changed from dropping weight to wrestle in the 145- and 152-pound area to 182.
“It wasn’t too much growth, really,” Ryan Herman said. “The first three years of my high school career, I was cutting 30 pounds before the season and this year decided not to. I wrestled my weight and had fun in my senior year.”
Aaron Herman moved up to 285 and also dominated in his new weight class.
“Aaron has outstanding wrestling technique and I believe his experience competing in years past at lighter weight classes was a big part of his success,” Hughes said. “Aaron demonstrated more speed, power and a higher level of technical expertise than any opponent he faced. He maintained great composure when he was scored on during his final match and never lost his focus.”
Both advanced to the state meet after winning district titles at the Class 2 District 1 meet in Ste. Genevieve.
Both started with convincing wins. Ryan pinned Marland Trimble of Southeast Kansas City in 0:40. Aaron pinned Kirksville’s Keith Davis in 3:12.
Coming back Friday, Ryan booked his spot in the medal round with an 18-2 technical fall over Buffalo’s Parker Herrera. Aaron advanced by pinning Monett’s Raymond Villata in 2:32.
At that time, both knew they would be on the medal stand together. They just didn’t know where on the medal stand they would finish.
In Friday night’s semifinals, Ryan won another technical fall, 16-0 in 2:30 over Louis Rolwes of Priory to reach his second title match in three seasons.
Aaron pinned Nevada’s Caleb Longobardi in 2:23 to also reach the main event Saturday night.
As the title matches went on, Ryan’s turn came first and he shut out Eldon’s Brandt for the title with an 8-0 major decision.
“Both championships feel really good,” Ryan Herman said. “Both were redemptions, I feel like. My freshman year, I was hurt and I didn’t get that medal. I came back. This one feels just as good.”
Hughes said Ryan Herman is one of the program’s all-time greats.
“Ryan’s contributions to our wrestling program didn’t end with his victories on the mat,” Hughes said. “In over 30 years of coaching I have never seen a finer team leader. He has a special way of raising the performance level of every wrestler on our team. It often felt like Ryan was a member of our coaching staff. He helps every wrestler in our program to improve by his input and example in the practice room every day. He was capable of doing all that yet still remain singularly focused on winning not one but two state championships. The Herman brothers had a dream that came to reality when his twin brother Aaron won a state title just minutes after he won his.”
Then, it was down to Aaron Herman. He was facing Tyler Curd, the same wrestler who won two state titles at 220 pounds, beating St. Clair’s Josh Richards both years. Curd had moved up a weight class this year, but was as dominant as ever.
Over the summer, Curd was undefeated in the Malarcupen Tournament in Vasteras, Sweden, defeating Ilya Yudchytis of Belarusia in the finals. He also competed in the Klippan Cup in Sweden. He also was a national champion at the Fargo Cadet Greco Championships.
But this time, Curd’s past accomplishments couldn’t beat the Herman family momentum. Aaron fed off of his brother’s state title.
“It gave me so much confidence,” Aaron Herman said. “I knew we were going to be state champions together.”
The final match of the night on the Class 2 championship match was a defensive struggle for two periods. It was 0-0 after two minutes and Aaron Herman had a 1-0 advantage through two periods.
“I had to watch the underhooks and the throws,” Aaron said. “It was my toughest match.”
Then, it happened. Aaron Herman was able to defend and then slip out of Curd’s hold. While he wasn’t able to get the pin at that moment as they were at the edge of the mat, he did it again. This time, there was no escaping.
“He left his leg open and I posted up and caught him on my knee and flipped over him twice,” he said.
The second time ended in a pin at the 5:13 mark. Hughes grabbed Assistant Coach Matt Gordon’s leg during the final anxious seconds. Then both defied gravity while the referee raised Aaron Herman’s hand in victory.
“Aaron’s confidence was a big part of his success at state,” Hughes said. “He treated every opponent the same his entire run from the first match of the season to his final bout at state. He was respectful of his opponents’ abilities, yet completely confident in his own ability to defeat them.”
While the Herman twins have their sibling relationship, both stated the St. Clair wrestling family also had a major role in shaping them into championship wrestlers.
“Coach doesn’t believe in down years,” Ryan Herman said. “We seemed to be down a couple of guys and we had someone step up and earn some team points. My brother and I did really good going up there and Dalton (Thompson) did really good, too. It’s just perseverance. We were able to persevere and show toughness. Dalton getting hurt and still making the third-place match. Grant Bay, our 170, came out and pinned a returning third-place medalist. He made it all the way to the blood round and lost by a little bit.”
Aaron Herman said the team works hard and that paid off at the state level.
“Every day we go in there, roll on the mats and get to practicing right away,” Aaron said. “Even on the weekends, we go out there and practice some and have the utmost confidence in winning.”
Both also cited another St. Clair state champion who was a part of a famous sibling combination.
Ryan Beltz, the 2010-11 Class 2 171-pound champion and a two-time All-American at Maryville University, worked with the twins during past offseasons.
“Ryan trained us a couple of summers ago before I won my first title,” Ryan Herman said. “Then, he just wrestled around with us every once in a while after that. He’s a pretty cool guy, too.”
Aaron Herman agreed.
“Ryan Beltz helped train us over the summer and taught us how to wrestle better,” Aaron Herman said.
Beltz’s sister, Randi, was the only female to ever medal at the MSHSAA state meet before this year’s gender split, finishing fifth as a freshman and third as a senior.
The Herman brothers want to keep wrestling beyond high school. The next step is finding a college which will give them a chance. Preferably, they would like to go to the same program.
“The plan is for both of us to wrestle in college together,” Ryan Herman said. “We’ve been talking to Maryville about both of us wrestling there.”
Aaron Herman would like to take it an additional step.
“I’m hoping to go wrestle in college and hopefully get a scholarship, too,” he said.
Hughes knows that the brothers should have plenty of programs interested in adding them for the 2019-20 season.
“We are excited to see Ryan and Aaron go through the process of making a decision on what I expect to be many opportunities afforded to them,” Hughes said.