Iron sharpens iron.
That’s how Hunter Mullins explains his wrestling relationship with his cousin, Cy Hicks.
A senior at Orting High School — and the reigning Class 2A champion at 285 pounds — Mullins thirsts for victory. So does Hicks.
Hicks, a Tumwater sophomore, has a tendency to force opponents to the mat with ease. So does Mullins.
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And it’s been that way since childhood.
“When you’ve got a partner like Cy growing up, eventually one is going to come out on top,” Mullins said.
He motioned his hands continually upward in a stagger, demonstrating how the two have progressed against each other.
“If I’m here, and he’s my drill partner, he’ll come here, and I have to go here.”
Mullins does hold the upper hand so far. The older of the two cousins, he’s never lost a match to Hicks.
“He’s never beaten me, so I just want to keep that going all the way through high school,” Mullins said.
But second-best doesn’t placate Hicks, who took fifth in the heavyweight division at the 2A state meet last year as a freshman.
“I’m never really satisfied with what I get,” he said. “First place is what I’d be satisfied with. At Gut Check, I wanted to take first. It’s just in my nature, I guess.”
Hicks took second at the Gut Check Challenge wrestling tournament on Saturday in Silverdale.
First place? Mullins, by a pin.
“Older cousin wasn’t letting little cousin beat him,” Tumwater wrestling coach Tony Prentice said. “Cy’s normally not one to go backwards. He’s normally a dominating force, and his cousin was dictating everything.”
It was the first high school meeting between the two wrestlers — and a possible preview of this year’s title match.
Both wrestlers are ranked at 285 pounds in 2A by washingtonwrestlingreport.net: Mullins at No. 1, Hicks at No. 3.
“We’re going to have to dictate tempo,” Prentice said. “Cy’s going to have to be as physical, or more physical than his cousin. And they’re both big, solid young men.”
Always have been.
Before Gut Check, Mullins and Hicks’ most recent meeting was in 2011, when both wrestled for Orting in the Pierce County Junior Wrestling League.
Mullins, 12 years old at the time, and Hicks, 10, each made their way through an eight-wrestler bracket to meet in the 175-pound league championship match.
“We were drill partners all year,” Mullins said. “We knew, hey, this is pretty cool. We’re going to be wrestling each other in the league finals.”
Mullins won, 5-0.
“When I wrestle people better than me and lose, it just makes me go to practice and work harder,” Hicks said. “It motivates me because I want to get there.”
A photo of the two shaking hands under the spotlight hangs on a wall at Mullins’ house.
But paths have diverged some since Hicks’ family moved to Tumwater before he started high school.
Hicks, a quiet leader for the T-Birds, has started focusing on match-to-match improvement, rather than strength.
“(My style is) more defensive,” Hicks said. “I like to be defensive and capitalize. I would love to use my strength like Hunter does, but I try to use my agility.”
Mullins, who is outwardly vocal and paces practice for Orting, is more of a striker.
“I’m constantly coming at you; I’ve got an engine that goes,” he said. “I’m always wrestling like I’m down by one (point). I’m always trying to get that takedown, trying to get that escape, trying to get that turned leg.
“I have a mindset of, every go, I’m down points and there’s 15 seconds left on the clock and I have to score. Constantly. I don’t stop.”
Which will likely fuel the University of Wyoming signee through his final high school season.
“He’s just a really competitive kid,” Orting coach Jody Coleman said. “I don’t think the thought of not winning even crosses his mind.”
Hicks is the same way.
“He never thinks he’s going to lose,” Prentice said.
The winning mentality just runs in the family.