Twin Congers 12-year-olds Nicholas and Matthew Pecora agree on a lot.
They like the same sports — wrestling, lacrosse and football — and both like the competitive and physical nature of all three sports. However, one thing the Felix Festa Middle School sixth graders can’t agree on is their head-to-head record on the wrestling mat. When they are asked who’s beaten who more, both hands proudly shoot straight up without hesitation, and then they exchange slightly confused glances.
While their competitive side has taken over when they’ve faced off in the past, the two don’t enjoy wrestling each other. Two years ago the two ended up facing off in the state tournament, with Nicholas coming out victorious. At the most recent section tournament, when Nicholas went to weigh in, he weighed 121 pounds, just a pound too high to compete in the 120 pound division, where Matthew would be wrestling.
Their mother, Denise Pecora, told Nicholas he could drop the pound by hopping on one of the workout machines at the tournament before it started, but Nicholas didn’t want to. Denise Pecora thinks the two might’ve hatched a plan to avoid wrestling against each other.
“It wasn’t on purpose,” Nicholas Pecora said. “I could’ve lost the pound quickly, but I didn’t want to wrestle my brother.”
It worked out well for both twins, as Matthew won the section at 120 pounds and finished third in states, and Nicholas finished third at both sections and states in the 130 pound division. They're waiting to find out if they definitely qualified for nationals.
The twins facing off against each other wasn’t just hard for them, though.
“I’m their biggest fan, their loudest fan, and just love to cheer them on,” said Ed Pecora, their father. “Watching them go up against each other was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.”
Denise Pecroa said she and her husband had a unique understanding of what was going on during this year’s Super Bowl, when brothers Jim and John Harbaugh faced off as opposing head coaches. During the lead up to the game, the brothers facing off was a major story, with their parents conducting numerous interviews.
“That was obviously on a much larger scale, but we knew what they were going through,” she said.
The two boys didn’t always dislike wrestling each other, however. In fact, while growing up the two would go at it in the house, but in a style that closer resembled what they saw on the WWE than during the Olympics. The twins started wrestling actually in second grade for the North Rams Club as a winter sports activity and said they haven’t watched the WWE in quite a while.
“We saw the four padded walls in the wrestling room and thought the kids would have fun in there,” Denise Pecroa said.
The two quickly took to the sport and saw success rather quickly. They started independently entering tournaments the Rams club didn’t enter, but discovered for certain tournaments they needed a coach on the mat with them. Last year at the state tournament they ran into Joe Bucello, coach at Westlake High School in Thornwood and their youth program.
“I was lucky enough to run into them last year down at states, and this year they told me they didn’t have a place to practice so I told them to come by my room and I was incredibly lucky to get them,” Buccello said. “I’m absolutely honored to have them in my wrestling program. To see them standing on the podium for Westlake only makes me wish that they would come to Westlake. They’re great boys, they work hard and they deserve everything they got.”
Next year they’ll get to go out for the Festa team and plan to start wrestling for the school.
They’ll also continue playing their other sports for now, as well.
“I’m very happy to see their success in sports,” Ed Pecora said. “Physical ability is a gift. Competitive spirit can’t be taught.”
The two take the same competitive spirit to their other sports, as well, and especially enjoy when they get to take the field together. In football, both play linebacker, where Matthew especially likes not only the sport’s physicality, but also its opportunities for intimidation.
“When you’re lining up at linebacker and you see the quarterback looking at you, and you just stare at him until he gets nervous, I really like that,” Matthew said.
The two also have an older brother, Edward Pecora, who is in eighth grade, and there have been times when all three have been on the same team at the same time.
But the twins’ parents aren’t just stressing the importance of sports to their kids. Ed Pecora said they tell their kids that if they start working hard in school at a young age, they can get into an Ivy League college. While Nicholas said he isn’t sure what college he’d like to go to yet, Matthew already has his eyes set on Dartmouth and possibly a career in finance.
Until then, though, the twins will have their sports, and in turn, their competitiveness.
“I just love everything about [sports],” Matthew Pecroa said. “I really like to win, but after losing I’m much more motivated to win the next time. My competitiveness rises.”