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Crebs brothers making their debut at states

There wasn’t a hint of remorse in Gable Crebs after sending his brother through a door prior to wrestling practice last week. There was no malice in his intentions. It’s not as if he and Cael don’t get along.

It was all in the name of winning the ultimate frisbee-like game he and his Montoursville teammates were playing prior to practice last week. But it’s incidents like this one which is part of the reason the two brothers aren’t allowed to wrestle each other.

First, any wrestling between the two usually ends in someone throwing a punch.

Second, with Gable being more than 30 pounds heavier than Cael, there isn’t much either one can get out of the match.

“When we wrestle, it’s more like a brawl because I’ve got a lot of weight on him and he’s just trying to choke me out,” Gable said with a shrug of the shoulders.

“He doesn’t use real moves against me, he just throws me into a wall,” Cael said. “Then I throw a punch and he throws a punch and we go at it. It’s fun.”

The two brothers share a perverse smile as they talk about who gets thrown into what, because deep down they seem to enjoy the tussles. But don’t be fooled, the two couldn’t hold each other in any higher respect than they already do.

Cael was effusive in his praise last weekend when Gable qualified for the state wrestling tournament for the first time. Gable was equally as excited when Cael beat a pair of state-ranked wrestlers to win a sectional championship three weeks ago.

The Crebs family may very well be the First Family of wrestling in Lycoming County. It’s patriarch, Roger, has been Lycoming College’s wrestling coach since 1993, producing more than 400 dual-meet victories, 28 All-Americans, and four NCAA Division III nationals champions.

His oldest son, Gable, will represent Montoursville at the PIAA wrestling championships beginning this morning as one of only 17 Warriors all-time with 100 career wins.

The youngest son, Cael, is making his first trip to states as a sophomore this weekend and has already accumulated 55 wins in just a season-and-a-half on the varsity team.

And then there’s Tara, the mom, the wife and the balance in a wrestling-crazed household. With a husband often on the road for competitions or on recruiting trips, she handled the challenge of raising two sons with a penchant for throwing the occasional punch with aplomb.

As if the names of their sons wasn’t a dead giveaway, Roger and Tara have formed a wrestling family if there ever was one. And this weekend will be as important a wrestling weekend has ever had.

Not only are Cael and Gable both making their debut at the state tournament, but Roger is coaching four Lycoming wrestlers at the NCAA Division III championships in Virginia. Roger would love to be in Hershey this weekend to watch the only time his boys will compete together at the state tournament, but he’ll be following as closely as he can until the NCAA tournament begins Friday morning.

And that’s a two-way street. Both Gable and Cael, who have become friends with many of the Lycoming wrestlers, will be equally as interested in how the Warriors are performing in Roanoke.

“The boys understand,” Roger said. “This is my livelihood and it’s my life and I have a responsibility to my team.”

Because he’s missed out on various competitions as they’ve grown up, it made being able to be in the Magic Dome last week to watch Gable qualify for states all the more important for Roger. And it made it memorable to watch Cael rattle off three consecutive wins Saturday to qualify for states after being upset in Friday night’s quarterfinal round.

Both the boys understand how invaluable a resource their father is. There are times when Gable comes to his father at home and asks him to help work through a situation he’s having trouble with in practice. There’s times Cael just needs to sit and ask his father questions about what he’s doing.

At times, Roger says, it’s difficult to separate the coach and the father in him. During the course of the wrestling season, his coach side tends to come out more often, especially when Gable and Cael are competing. But Cael pointed to his ability to play both roles last Friday after taking a loss at the Northeast Regional tournament as a big reason why he was able to rebound so well and beat two state-ranked wrestlers to earn his first trip to Hershey.

In the moments following the loss, Roger went over the Xs and Os of why it happened and what needed to be fixed. Immediately after that, he went into pick-me-up mode to make sure Cael was in the right frame of mind to come back Saturday.

“I feel like he does a very good job of separating the two,” Cael said. “It’s absolutely priceless to have that.”

As his boys grew up, Roger always hoped wrestling would be part of their life. After all, he was a state third-place finisher at Lewisburg High School before going to Lycoming where he was a three-time MAC champion. But he also made sure to let Gable and Cael know there was no obligation to wrestle.

Both boys played football, baseball and soccer growing up before deciding eventually wrestling was the sport for them. Gable even took a year off from competing in junior high and traveled with his dad and worked as a team manager of sorts for Lycoming before eventually deciding to get back into the sport.

Gable has gone on to win 104 career matches for Jamie and Matt Yonkin at Montoursville, both of whom wrestled for Roger at Lycoming in the 1990s. After missing the first half of his freshman season with a knee injury last year, Cael has won 86 percent of his 64 career bouts. Gable will wrestle for his dad at Lycoming next season, something he’s looking forward to.

“I played all the usual sports, but I ended up liking wrestling the best,” Gable said. “From a young age, I knew if I wanted to be good at this I was going to have to go to out-of-season tournaments. I think that’s really paid off for me the past couple years in high school. He provided me with all the resources I needed to get from last year not going to states, to this year going to states.”

“Wrestling has always been a big part of our lives and I love it,” Cael said. “It’s year-round and I wrestle every chance I get. Any tournament dad can get the paperwork for, I’m all for. It’s fun.”

Those fights between the Gable and Cael have become fewer in recent years since they were banned from wrestling each other. With Gable growing much bigger than his younger brother, they just weren’t getting anything out of the matches against one another because Gable could just out-muscle Cael, and Cael couldn’t work any technique because he just wasn’t big enough.

But it hasn’t stopped the occasional collision during some pre-practice games in the mat room, like the one last week which sent Cael through a door.

“I just lit him up,” Gable said proudly, having asserted his big brother dominance. “He was laying on the ground and I didn’t feel bad about it.”

It’s just a matter of brothers being brothers and it’s all part of being a wrestling family.

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