The scholastic wrestling career of North Hills twins Tyler and Drew Walker began with the suggestion of a youth football coach.
"Tyler and Drew were playing youth football and their coach, Rick Smith, kept telling me they would be good at wrestling," said Ken Walker, father of the twins. "He told me they would dominate on the mat since they were so aggressive on the football field."
The boys were not interested at first.
"They thought it was WWF wrestling with the ring and the ropes," Ken Walker said. "They wanted nothing to do with it, until they saw a TV broadcast of a North Hills wrestling match. They were in sixth grade at the time."
The twins liked what they saw and began wrestling the following year.
"Once the kids started wrestling they fell in love with the sport," Ken Walker said. "And they didn't limit their wrestling to the practice room. They've broken a coffee table or two and a few chairs. We have a mismatched set of chairs due to their wrestling at home."
And both have a distinctive scar "shaped like a cross" on their head after hitting their head on furniture.
"We have a ceramic elephant that both have hit," Ken Walker said. "They may be a little rambunctious, but they are good boys who love to wrestle."
The Walker twins progressed quickly enough that North Hills varsity coach Jose Martinez promoted both to the varsity team as freshmen. And the two did not disappoint.
Drew Walker posted a 29-11 record as a 103-pound freshman, while brother Tyler went 26-17 at 112 pounds. And both qualified for the WPIAL Class AAA tournament by finishing second in Section 3-AAA.
"Both did a great job their freshman year," Martinez said. "And both have had continued success ever since. If they stay healthy, both will break the school record for career victories."
Both moved up two weight classes for their sophomore year and qualified for the WPIAL tournament again. Tyler Walker won a section title at 119, while Drew placed third at 125. The two had the exact same place-finish in the section last season as juniors, this time at 120 and 126 [as the National Federation of High Schools changed its weight class alignment].
But one thing was different -- Tyler Walker earned a PIAA berth by placing third in the WPIAL.
"I was so nervous," Tyler Walker said. "I had never been to Hershey before so I didn't know what to expect. I was so nervous that I didn't wrestle the way I normally do until after losing in the first round."
Tyler Walker did win a match at Hershey before bowing out, but the impression it made on him and his brother was lasting.
"It was tough sitting in the stands watching Tyler wrestle at states," Drew Walker said. "It gave me even more of an incentive to qualify my senior year."
Both are off to a great start in their senior year. Tyler Walker is 14-0 after capturing the 126-pound title at the Steve DeAugustino Holiday Classic, which was held over the weekend at West Mifflin High School. Drew Walker is 12-2 after placing second at 132 pounds at the tournament.
"Tyler pinned his opponent in the finals [Mt. Lebanon's Sean Perri]," Ken Walker said. "Drew gave Keystone Oaks' Nick Zanetta all he could handle in their final match [but came up short in a 4-3 loss]."
Both have since eclipsed the 100-win plateau and are now closing in on the school record of 131 wins, set by Martinez' son Alexander in 2008. Tyler Walker has a 111-28 career mark, while Drew has a 103-37 record. The Walker twins were two of six North Hills wrestlers who advanced to the finals at the DeAugustine Classic, which allowed the Indians to claim the team title by a narrow margin of two points [203-201 over Belle Vernon]."
"It's been a while since a North Hills team has won a tournament," Tyler Walker said. "It was a total team effort."
Gage Curry, Jonathan Avon and Alen Turcinhodzic also won titles for North Hills. Curry posted a 9-1 victory in the 106-pound final against Shaler's Mike Heinl. Avon posted an 8-6 win in the 160-pound final against South Fayette's J.J. Walker. Turcinhodzic posted an 11-3 win against Yough's Chris Williams in the 195-pound final.
Eli Swain was West Mifflin's other finalist. He was pinned in the 285-pound final by Thomas Jefferson's Thor Henze.
The Walker twins would like to continue their wrestling career in college, but haven't decided where yet.
"It would be nice if we could go as a package deal to one school," Drew Walker said. "But that may not be possible. We may have to split up and go to different colleges. We'll just have to wait and see."