The first calls Jagger Tyler made upon learning he was moving to Mitchell were Brock and Brandon Sparks.
Although Tyler lived in Wagner his entire life prior to his father, John, becoming principal at Mitchell Middle School, he knew the Sparks twins through years of AAU wrestling. All three are similar in weight and have navigated similar successes and challenges during their high school wrestling careers.
But now that all three are Kernels, their relationship has been pivotal in moving from unsuspecting underclassmen to experienced wrestlers with a chance to reach the state finals this season. Combined, the Sparks twins and Tyler have gone 46-6 this season and have helped lead Mitchell to a 14-1 start and a chance at the Eastern South Dakota Conference championship.
“I love having a few good guys to be able to drill hard with and drill right with,” Tyler said. “It really improves my wrestling at every level. … We get into some awesome scrambles. Brandon and I had an awesome wrestle-off earlier this year, so there’s a lot of tough competition. It’s just fun scrapping.”
All three have qualified for the state tournament the last two seasons, but have found limited success on arrival. Brock Sparks placed fifth in the Class A 106-pound division in 2019, but they each went 1-2 at the state tournament last season, with Tyler losing a 1-0 113-pound quarterfinal match in Class B and suffered an overtime loss in the consolation round to be eliminated.
The Sparks brothers are now juniors and Tyler is a sophomore with multiple years of varsity experience. They grew tired of being the underclassmen who were taught a lesson in big matches. Now they are the experienced wrestlers and it has shown thus far.
“You learn a lot (wrestling Brandon and Tyler) because they’re always there to beat on you,” Brock said. “They’re always there to tell you what you’re doing wrong. They’re always there to help you out.”
Brock and Brandon have always been natural sparring partners in practice, but Tyler rarely had a chance to practice against someone of similar size and experience due to smaller roster numbers at Wagner.
Meanwhile, Tyler adds a unique skill set as a long and lanky 126-pounder. Brock (132) and Brandon (120) are slightly shorter and sturdy, and Tyler gives them an opportunity to train against a body type they see often in lighter weights.
“Jagger is really tall and has long legs and most of the kids in our weight class are normally taller,” Brandon said. “I think it kind of helps with his funkiness and how his hips move. It helps Brock and I out a lot and I think it helps him, too.”
Mitchell head coach Andy Everson believes each of the three wrestlers has a chance to reach the state finals this season, but there is still growth to be made. All three made the finals of the Jerry Opbroek Invitational last Saturday, but could not come away with a championship.
Tyler (17-1) suffered his first loss, while Brock (18-2) lost for the first time in 12 matches and Brandon (10-3) had not lost since starting the season 0-2.
“We’ve really been working on pushing the tempo,” Everson said. “In my opinion, that’s why we lost a lot of those matches. We were just out-paced. Another aspect of having those three guys battling each other, is that they’re all capable of doing that. They’re all capable of upping that level of speed. Having the ability to flip a switch for those three is a huge deal.”
Mitchell competes in the River City Rumble at 10 a.m. Saturday in Chamberlain.