Philadelphia is known as the city of brotherly love. On the Penn wrestling team, though, this sense of camaraderie is taken to a whole new level.
Senior Canaan and sophomore Ray Bethea are entering their second and final year of wrestling together for the Quakers.
Canaan excelled at 184 pounds a season ago, going 24-11 overall, including 8-3 in duals. And both he and Ray have a blue-chip program pedigree to back them up.
In fact, Canaan and Ray are the fifth and sixth of seven Bethea brothers, respectively. Their path to wrestling was set when their oldest brother, Isaac, joined Trenton Central High School’s team when he was in 10th grade. Isaac followed his mother, Gloria, in coming to Penn, where he played defensive back for the football team. Then came Erin, the first Bethea to wrestle for the Quakers.
When picking schools, Ray admits that Canaan played a huge role in his decision. Ray admits that other schools were still options, but “with [Canaan] here there was just no way I could really turn down the opportunity to go through it together.”
“There was no selling Penn,” coach Rob Eiter said. “It was already sold.”
Like the Penn tradition, the sport was passed down through the family, brother to brother.
“We’ve been wrestling as long as I can remember,” Ray said. “We go way back.”
Canaan and Ray have been wrestling together for 12 years, 10 competitively.
“We were home-schooled, so there’s a blurred line as to when we started wrestling,” Canaan said. “We used to wrestle each other on the rug.”
“Personality-wise, they are actually quite different,” Eiter said of the two Bethea brothers on his roster. “Canaan is pretty quiet and Ray is a little more outgoing. But … when they smile, they have that kind of smile that lights up the room.”
Canaan wrestles in the 174-184 weight class while Ray competes in the 157-165 weight class. But their age and size difference never stopped them from pushing each other and competing, even from a young age.
“We used to brag a lot about who won more tournaments, and a lot of times we would end up with the same record,” Canaan said. “But we would find a way — maybe somebody had a pin at a faster time or did something a little more spectacular.”
The brothers have maintained their competitive edge, but their dynamic has changed as they have matured.
“It is more friendly now,” said Canaan. “We cheer each other on and hope for the best.”
“There is always the competition aspect but now it is more of motivating each other,” Ray said.
Though Canaan has excelled in Penn’s wrestling program in the two years when he was the only Bethea on the team, having Ray by his side has added an extra level of motivation to Canaan’s work ethic.
“I always have my little brother here and it reminds me that if he can do it I can do it,” Canaan said. “When I’m real worn out, I think that’s when [the motivation] really kicks in.”
“Anytime I see my brother wrestle, it just gets me pumped up.” Ray said. “In practice, any time he’s on the mat, my blood gets flowing and I’m ready to go too.”
When asked if Eiter ever lets Canaan and Ray go up against each other in practice, the duo just laughed. After all, Penn wrestling’s practice mats are far removed in both time and distance from the Betheas’ living room floor, but the passion between the brothers persists.
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