Danny Woiwor (foreground in red) and his brother Maolu (background in red) practiced Monday. Danny, wrestling above his normal weight, finished sixth at state at 182 pounds last year, while Maolu won the 106-pound crown. Photo by CARLOS GONZALEZ • cgonzal
Apple Valley's Maolu Woiwor won a state wrestling title last year as a freshman and has high aspirations for his sophomore season as well.
Hanging in his bedroom at home is a sign, a reminder of what motivates him the most. It reads: "Be better than Daniel Woiwor."
Danny Woiwor, a senior on Apple Valley's wrestling team, isn't having it.
"We're constantly at each other's throats, even when we play NHL 13 on the Xbox. It gets heated," Danny Woiwor said. "At the end of the day we love each other but when it comes down to it, we both want to win, especially when we're competing against each other."
The brothers push each other in a mostly good-natured sibling rivalry that extends from video games to the classroom to the girls they like to hang out with in their free time.
The competitiveness of the elite high school wrestlers is a big reason Apple Valley is in the state title hunt again this season.
Danny Woiwor is the top-ranked wrestler at 160 pounds, according to The Guillotine. Maolu Woiwor is ranked second in the state at 120 pounds, though he wrestles at 113 pounds.
The two brothers hope the Eagles can march through the section tournament as they take aim at an eighth consecutive state team title.
Danny said his team has embraced the underdog role, an unusual one for Apple Valley, which is ranked second behind St. Michael-Albertville.
"The big goal for me is to win that team state title because we won it the first three years I was here and now everybody's saying this is the year the empire falls. But I'm not going to let that happen on my watch," Danny Woiwor said.
Maolu's state title last year came at 106 pounds. He's grown since then and said he has had to work hard and "change my whole life" to not tip the scale past 113 this year.
Danny is familiar with weight shuffling as well. He won the state title at 130 pounds in his freshman year and took second at 145 as a sophomore. Last season as a junior, he took sixth at 182 pounds, but says he actually only weighed about 160 pounds.
Wrestling at a lower weight class likely would have improved his chances of winning another individual state title. But with a lineup stacked with quality middleweights, coaches decided to have him wrestle well above his weight to improve the team's title chances.
Danny made the sacrifice but fell short of an individual title, losing in the state semifinals. A shoulder injury forced him to back out of his consolation matches, and he ultimately finished sixth.
That ending was difficult for his younger brother to watch.
"We trained all year together. We live in the same house, had the same routine every day and we both wanted to be state champions," Maolu said. "When [Danny] took his loss in the semifinals, for me it was like seeing your favorite superhero die."
Danny will have one last crack at a second state individual title this season. He's on track to graduate this year and plans to wrestle for Iowa State next season.
First-year head coach Dalen Wasmund has cranked up the intensity at practices, which Danny Woiwor said will help prepare him for collegiate wrestling.
Maolu has more time to make his college decision. He said he's considering Iowa State as well as North Carolina and Oklahoma State.
They don't often wrestle each other because of the size difference, but they compare accomplishments and continually try to outdo the other.
"It's nice having my brother in the room," Danny Woiwor said. "It's really good because we can push each other. Even though we may get into heated arguments, we both know deep down inside it's only making us both better."
Derek Wetmore is a University of Minnesota student reporter working on assignment for the Star Tribune.