‘It’s part of us’: Wrestling a fabric of the Speek family

By KYLE GRABOWSKI

Staff Writer

Published: 01-30-2023 6:18 PM

GRANBY – Eliza Speek raced down the stairs and launched herself into her father John’s arms. His wife Christine tipped the Mahar wrestling coach off with a text from Granby’s wrestling dual match against Franklin Tech.

Eliza earned her first varsity victory as a seventh grader after appearing in every match of the season.

“It felt amazing when you’re coming off that mat getting your hand raised, not just for a JV match but for a varsity match was just amazing,” she said.

In the Speek family, the celebration is the beginning. Eliza, her twin brother Simon and their older sister Quinn all wrestle for Granby. Christine films all of their matches from the stands. They all watch them on the big screen once everyone returns home.

“It’s part of the family. It’s part of us,” John said.

John never forced any of his five children into wrestling. Despite wrestling himself throughout high school in Connecticut and coaching the sport at Mahar for a decade, he let them choose their own paths. His oldest son Noah pointedly brought books to read when his mother Christine brought him to the Senators’ matches.

“I didn’t try and push anything on them. They’ve come to it on their own,” John said.

The bug still bit the rest of them, however. Abram wrestled four years for Granby and is now at Syracuse. John’s Mahar squad faced the Rams on Abram’s senior night. He completely recused himself from all lineup decisions despite that spot in the lineup’s importance to the match.

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“I’ve got too many competing allegiances,” John said.

The youngest three siblings are on the Rams roster this winter. Quinn, a sophomore, handles the scorebook as she recovers from a rib injury. Her impact even extends outside the gym, though. She recruits classmates at the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter school, where all three Speeks attend, to join the co-op team at Granby along with students from Amherst. Quinn puts up posters and has written articles extolling the sport’s virtues.

Seventh grade twins Simon and Eliza joined the team this year. Eliza began club wrestling last spring and after a brief break for soccer in the fall has attacked her first varsity season with gusto.

“I have always loved the sport, loved watching it. I just wanted to be like (my siblings) and work hard and do a tough sport,” Eliza said. “It’s been hard not to win. Sometimes I get on myself. I keep on telling myself that it’s my first year. I literally have so many years ahead of me. It doesn’t matter if I win or lose, I’m getting experience.”

Simon usually wrestles before Eliza in the 106-pound slot. He was one of the first to high-five and hug his sister after she walked off the mat with her arms in the air.

“I have someone to talk to and share wrestling with. When I lose, she reassures me,” Simon said. “We do talk about it and share a lot of things. We bond a lot because of wrestling.”

That bond spans generations. John’s mother, though she never wrestled herself, attended all of his matches and honed his technique.

“She was like my second coach,” he said. “She was really dedicated to it.”

Christine plays her part both attending and recording Granby’s matches. She helps transport her kids and other PVCICS wrestlers to Granby for practice and meets.

“Even though she has never stepped on a mat, none of us could be involved in the way that we are without her,” John said.

Wrestling means so much to the Speeks that John has thrown himself into growing the sport, as well. Mahar has hosted an all-girls meet on Martin Luther King Jr. Day every year since 2019. His mother, along with wrestlers he coached at Mahar and his daughters, inspired him.

“I want a place for my girls to wrestle where they can really achieve and they don’t have to be the girl wrestler, they don’t have to be the extra wrestler,” John said. “When a girl starts to beat a boy in a match everyone goes crazy and everything. That’s nice but it’s also alienating. It reinforces the idea that’s not supposed to be you. When you’re at an all girls tournament, winning that match is just you’re another wrestler winning a match. That’s what I wanted to make for them.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.]]>