Before Portage Senior Sean McMurray walked towards the mat for a possible third IHSAA title, his older brother T.J McMurray gave him advice just like any elder sibling would.
"He has always rooted for me, and he was never hard on me," said McMurray about his older brother. "He was real encouraging, and told me 'go kick some butt Sean, you have worked too hard to lose.' And every match he is in the back of my head, so I wrestled for him. I wrestled hard for him."
A state champion in the previous two years for the 135 and 152 weight classes, McMurray had been in this situation of wrestling underneath the Conseco Fieldhouse spotlights before. But the emotions for the future Michigan State Spartan had never ran this high.
"My brother has been in the army and he was at basic training for my first and Iraq for my second," said McMurray.
Two brothers. One dominating the ranks of IHSAA wrestling, working on his second straight perfect season. The other serving the red, white, and blue stripes and stars of the United States of America.
"We have always been close," said the older brother. "When I was overseas it killed him. And I always called him, kept in touch, e-mailed, but you can not pull us apart from each other now."
A member of the military since February 2007, T.J. McMurray had been deployed to Iraq for almost a full calendar year, returning this past December 22nd. And ever since, he has been his brother's biggest fan.
"My Dad is always saying it is glad to have you home and have you be here so we don't have to make the phone call to tell you that he won," said McMurray. "And my Mom, she is always bursting into tears, I just love her to death, it is just something else."
So one could imagine that McMurray (42-0) may have been a little bit more than ready to take on his less experienced opponent in Indianapolis Cathedral Sophomore Tyler Willis (43-2).
"After the first take-down I thought to myself, 'hey that was kind of easy', and I finally committed to a shot," said McMurray. "So I just started committing and started scoring more and more points. They added up I guess, I didn't know the score in the end. I guess it was 9-0 or something like that, which that is pretty cool."
To tell the truth, Willis looked as if he never had a chance. So as the seconds counted down to Sean McMurray's third individual state championship in a row, he raised three fingers into the air towards the Portage fan section, towards his brother.
"That was incredible," said McMurray on the final seconds of his championship match, making him the 31st wrestler in IHSAA history to win three state titles.
"My adrenaline took over after that. My adrenaline was pumping, but to be in a category with a bunch of three-timers such as Andrew Howe, Reese Humphrey, Josh Harprish, it was just amazing. It was amazing to think that all of these guys I looked up to, I am listed right underneath them now."
But after the final buzzer had sounded and the referee had raised his hands into the air, the younger McMurray made his biggest gesture of the night. One that he had been waiting for his whole wrestling career.
"Seeing him up close and everything, it hit me," said T.J. McMurray. "If I saw his first time I would not be crying, but he came over and hugged me, and we both went into tears."
"It was pretty cool that he could get back and see the end of my senior year, because he missed every big accomplishment I ever had in high school wrestling," said McMurray. "So it is pretty cool he got to see the end result."