When Max Thomusseit and Tyler Wilps joined Pitt’s wrestling team, each was joining forces with an older brother. But by end of their careers, they would be like brothers themselves.
The pair of redshirt seniors will leave behind countless hours of blood and sweat, handfuls of accolades and their home for the last five years when they accept their diplomas this spring.
Their arrival at Pitt was no coincidence. Following their older siblings, Zac Thomusseit and Matt Wilps, the younger duo started alongside them five years ago.
Five years later, their combined accomplishments total 178 career victories, four conference championships and seven NCAA championship appearances.
“We’ve trained together for five years,” Thomusseit said. “I pushed him, and he pushed me. It’s like a brotherhood.”
Of those NCAA championship appearances, Wilps — who qualified three times — earned All-American status twice, headlined by his runner-up finish this season.
Thomusseit, who qualified every full season of his career, made three appearances in the round of 12.
The championships — two in the ACC by Wilps, and one EWL and one ACC championship for Thomusseit — helped validate the program’s transition from the Eastern Wrestling League to the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2013.
Pitt head coach Jason Peters said the two will leave a lasting legacy on the program.
“What they have done for Pitt wrestling and the University of Pittsburgh was pretty special,” Peters said.
Peters, who was an assistant coach with the program when Wilps and Thomusseit came to Pitt, has watched their careers flourish from mat-side.
Thomusseit enjoyed instant success, notching 27 wins in his freshman season and earning an EWL runner-up finish and Freshman of the Year honors. His first year culminated in a NCAA championship appearance.
Wilps, on the other hand, redshirted his first year at Pitt and battled through the subsequent season, earning honors as the team’s top freshman and just missing a berth at the NCAA championships.
“I would like to be pictured as the guy that was not expected to do what he did,” he said.
After a final season in the EWL during the 2012-2013 campaign, the two developed their talents quickly during the team’s first two years in the ACC.
Wilps won two ACC championships and earned All-American honors in each of his final two seasons.
Meanwhile, Thomusseit earned an ACC runner-up finish in 2014 before winning the ACC championship this season, earning the No. 2 seed at the NCAA championships.
Despite wrestling plenty of matches on the highest stage and against top-level competition, both wrestlers were coy about naming a defining moment that highlights their respective careers.
“Every match was great,” Thomusseit said.
“I never beat anyone I didn’t expect to beat,” Wilps said.
The confidence that oozes from the pair is a product of their competitive relationship and hard work.
That relationship, built in the wrestling room, now has no bounds.
“We could not see each other for five years, and it wouldn’t change a thing,” Wilps said.
The pair might not see each other much in the future. Both will graduate this spring and head in separate directions.
Wilps said he will apply to medical schools this spring. Thomusseit said he will move south, hoping to earn a job with other former wrestlers, including his brother, at Hendrick Motorsports.
Regardless of where they end up, each said that he is thankful and aware of the legacy he will leave on Pitt’s wrestling program and the University in general.
Wilps said he wants his legacy “not necessarily to have been an All-American, or do as well as I did, but more as a testament to someone who has done everything he needed to do, to do it and that hard work does pay off.”
Thomusseit added that collegiate wrestling has shaped the rest of his life.
“The University of Pittsburgh and the wrestling program have been one of the best things that has ever happened to me,” Thomusseit said. “It’s made me into the person I am.”