Sports are all in family

McDonogh wrestlers Bryn and Curtis Holmes are carrying on a tradition of athletic excellence.


Two days before one of the year's more prestigious wrestling tournaments, it was dinner time at the Holmes household. And with a plate of six, freshly baked, breaded chicken tenders in front of each of them, brothers Curtis and Bryn faced tough decisions.

Teammates on the McDonogh wrestling team, both Curtis, a freshman, and Bryn, a senior, were two pounds over their weight limits. But with a chance to be first at something - not to mention a rare opportunity to beat Bryn at anything -the choice was made easier for Curtis, who quickly made the food disappear.

"Everybody around school is always like, `That's Bryn's little brother,' and I'm like, `Yeah - and my name is, uh, Curtis,' " said the younger Holmes, 15, who consumed a protein shake as swiftly as he had eaten the chicken tenders.

"I know what that's like. They used to call me `Little Travis', and I hated that," said Bryn Holmes, 18, referring to his freshman season as a teammate of older brother Travis, now a lacrosse player at the University of Maryland. "But I'm a better wrestler because of Travis, and I'm trying to do the same for Curt. But I know how it can drive you a little bit when you're always trying to get out of your brother's shadow."

Their sibling rivalry, however, has taken a backseat to their mutual goals as standouts on a talented Eagles squad.

Bryn Holmes, who wrestles at 152 pounds, is one of only three seniors on a McDonogh team that is ranked No. 2 in The Sun. McDonogh is considered the top threat to dethrone No. 1-ranked Mount St. Joseph, the defending Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference and private schools state tournament titlists.

The brothers performed well over their first two weekends of tournaments, with Bryn finishing first in both the St. Benedict's and McDonogh invitationals, and Curtis second and first, respectively.

A two-time MIAA and private schools champion, Bryn was 12-2 with nine pins and a 14-0 decision. Not far behind was Curtis, who was 9-3 with six pins.

"I look up to Bryn, even though it's hard being in his shadow," Curtis Holmes said. "I want to do as well as him - even better."

Like Travis Holmes, who received 12 varsity letters, Bryn plays lacrosse and football at McDonogh, having earned All-Metro honors in both.

Although Bryn can hardly wait to join Travis at Maryland, where he'll also play lacrosse, he claims his motivation to achieve similar success is surpassed by his desire to please his parents, Cory and Erin.

"They're pretty tough on us all the way around, but not too bad. It's just because they want us to be the best that we can be," Bryn Holmes said of his parents, whose youth league coaching benefited the three boys and their sister, Steffani, 10. "We hear a lot of stories about what they went though, situations they were in at my age. We can learn from it."

Cory and Erin Holmes, both 38, took far from traditional paths toward adulthood. They were sweethearts at Ellicott City's now-defunct Waterloo Middle School and were married as high school juniors before Travis was born in December of their senior year.

"The timing wasn't the greatest," Erin said, "but our parents were very supportive."

Still, the newborn's arrival meant a drastic change in plans.

Erin was an All-Howard County soccer, basketball and softball player at Hammond. Considered a college prospect as a guard and shortstop, she graduated from high school less than a month after Travis' birth.

She started her own daycare business and earned business management degrees from Howard Community College and Columbia's Phoenix University.

Equally determined, Cory, who earned All-County honors in football, track and lacrosse at Howard High, cut short his lacrosse career as a UMBC freshman to work full-time in the family's dry-cleaning business.

Erin's daycare business thrived over the next 16 years, as did two dry-cleaning venues Cory owned. Cory sold the business in 1994 to join his father's recruiting firm. And in 2004, the couple opened their own recruiting firm, called HNH Partners, Inc., in Owings Mills, near McDonogh.

All the while, however, the young parents never lost sight of their children, always finding time to coach them in sports, including wrestling.

"When I look back, sports has been the backbone of our lives. It gave us a lot of opportunities that the kids, otherwise, they never would have had," Cory Holmes said. "I wrote a letter for Travis when he graduated from McDonogh that started with, `I know it seems like sports has been everything, but when you think about it, where would be without them?' "

The Holmes brothers have certainly made their mark on the mat.

A former private schools wrestling champion, Travis finished as high as seventh at the prestigious National Preps Tournament. Bryn Holmes, who had finished third and fourth at National Preps, pinned five opponents in a combined 4 minutes, 32 seconds to win the 152-pound title last year. Bryn's career record is 143-18 with 92 pins.

Curtis Holmes is part of a talented freshman class at McDonogh that includes former junior league stars Eric Filipowicz (103), Shane Milam (135) and Alex Pagnotta (160).

"I've been around McDonogh wrestling since Travis was a freshman," Curtis Holmes said. "I try to set an example for the rest of the guys - kind of like Bryn does for me."

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