By Ellen Walter
A number of Case Western Reserve University students attend school with their siblings, but few can say they compete on the same sports team too. And for seniors Nate and Nick Tommas, it goes a step further: They’re not only siblings, but twins—and co-captains of the Spartan wrestling team.
For them, going to school and competing together—including at this weekend’s NCAA Division III Regional competition—is how they’re most comfortable.
Growing up in Willard, Ohio, a small town just 90 minutes from Cleveland, “We did pretty much everything together—the same sports, the same clubs, same friend group,” said Nick, a nutrition major.
And, biochemistry student Nate added, they were competitive in “just about everything, especially wrestling.”
When asked why they started the sport, Nate joked, “we were really bad at basketball.” Nick chimed in with a jab at his twin: “He was worse.” (Nate didn’t disagree, sharing that he went an entire season only scoring one point.)
Wrestling turned out to be the right fit, especially with their father as their coach throughout junior high and high school. While in high school, the brothers each earned three varsity letters in wrestling, served as team captains and were Ohio High School Athletic Association Division III district qualifiers in their senior year.
Nate and Nick Tommas are not the only twins on the wrestling team; there are also Alec and Andrew Hoover, second-year students and also fellow brothers of Zeta Beta Tau.
This is one of the few times—if not the only time—that two sets of twins have been on the same Case Western Reserve athletic team.
At the NCAA Division III Central Regional competition this weekend, all four brothers are focused on closing the season successfully.
Head Coach Danny Song, who has coached the Tommas brothers for four years and the Hoover brothers for two, has watched the sets of twins grow as brothers and competitors.
“They know each other as well as you would think,” Song explained, “and they know exactly which buttons to push.”
Aside from their competitive nature, he shared that “each pair of twins brings a ton to the team in terms of work ethic and positive culture.”
Though they considered parting ways in college, wrestling played a large role in keeping them together. Danny Song, head coach of Case Western Reserve’s wrestling program, recruited both of the brothers to join the team.
That was a priority for the Tommas twins, as was building a strong foundation in pre-medical studies. Case Western Reserve’s close proximity to and connection with University Hospitals and Cleveland Clinic solidified their interest.
And the university being close to home didn’t hurt, either.
Plus, their parents are happy the twins chose to attend college together—even though they “think we have no social skills when we’re not with each other,” Nate said.
They do spend a lot of time together—but also have found many friends through both the wrestling team and their fraternity, Zeta Beta Tau.
And even when they’re separated—the brothers wrestle in different weight classes—they still find ways to compete. Song mentioned that he often has to split up the sparring brothers in practice “only to look over minutes later and see that they are working out with each other again.”
But it isn’t all competition between the Tommas brothers; they also serve as a built-in support system for each other.
When Nick, who is on a pre-dietetic track, mentioned that he was “hoping” to join a dietetic program with the U.S. Army, Nate confidently told him: “You’re going to get in.” If he does, the brothers both will serve in the U.S. Army, as Nate will participate in the Health Professions Scholarship Program, attending medical school as a commissioned officer.
“It’s apparent that they love challenge,” Song said, “and seek out opportunities to work hard and smart.”