Ryker (left, front row) and Rydge Vail (right, front row) with their coaches Travis Banks (right to left), Joey Vail and Cole Shacket. | Courtesy Sabrina Vail
IDAHO FALLS — Being asked to represent Idaho in a wrestling tournament is an accomplishment in and of itself, but having the chance to do so with your brother makes it all the better.
Ryker Vail, an eighth-grader at Rocky Mountain Middle School, and Rydge Vail, a sixth-grader at Fairview Elementary, are brothers who’ve been wrestling since they were about five years old. They currently wrestle for the middle school and recently accomplished something that neither of them will forget.
Ryker and Rydge both won in their weight category in the Upper Snake River Valley Conference in December and went on to win at the Idaho Middle School State competition. By doing so, they qualified to wrestle for Team Idaho — a team compiled of the best wrestlers in Idaho — at the Christmas Clash Duals in Utah on New Years Day. They represented the Gem State as they competed against wrestlers from different states in the tournament.
“It was a really good memory,” Ryker said about the tournament. “It was really fun being on the team with (Rydge).”
Rydge also said it was a fun experience to be part of, and he enjoyed watching his older brother do well in his matches.
“He does outstanding against everyone else,” Rydge said. “Ryker’s taught me a lot of things.”
As the older brother, Ryker believes he a responsibility to teach his younger brother and help him become the best wrestler he can be.
“I push him hard in practice and help him make good choices,” Ryker explained.
Rydge Vail (in the blue and red) during a wrestling match. | Courtesy Sabrina Vail
The boy’s mom, Sabrina Vail, has watched Ryker and Rydge’s relationship grow stronger as they share the same passion for the sport. She said they are always cheering each other on and helping coach one another, making her even prouder that the two of them were both asked to compete for Team Idaho.
“I see behind the scenes, all the hard work that they put in,” she said. “It’s exciting to see all their hard work paying off.”
Travis Banks, the wrestling head coach at Rocky Mountain, has coached the Vail boys for three years but has known them for about six years. He’s seen first-hand how committed they are to the sport.
That dedication was key in Ryker only tallying one loss this season and Rydge going undefeated.
“They’re very teachable (and) very coachable. They listen. They’re respectful,” Banks said. “They’re that kind of kid that you wish every athlete could be.”
Banks was previously a Team Idaho coach for four years, and he knows what a big deal it is to compete for the team. To have the Vail brothers positively influencing the Rocky Mountain wrestling program that’s has been conference champions the past two years and to have qualified to wrestle for Team Idaho puts a smile on Banks’s face.
He said the experience and the lessons in life that athletes gain from being part of Team Idaho is “top-notch.”
“For these kids that I’m coaching and I’ve been around, to be able to have that opportunity is unbelievable,” he mentioned. “When it comes to wrestling, … being asked to be on one of Idaho’s dual teams sets you apart as one of the best kids in the state in your weight.”
Team Idaho finished third overall at the Christmas Clash Duals.
Ryker Vail (in the white shoes) during a wrestling match. | Courtesy Sabrina Vail