Brothers ready to add chapter to Lee legacy
Mike and Matt Lee have won 65 of 69 matches between them this season, a record that is unmatched among brothers in Oregon high school wrestling.
But the Crater High standouts will tell you that their toughest bouts have come in the living room, back yard and family shop.
These are the venues where the classic bouts have occurred. Where elbows and ankles have been twisted and turned. Where noses have been bloodied. Where cradles, fireman's carries and grapevines have been honed.
Five boys. No girls. Not a sissy in sight.
When your brothers beat you up every day you learn to withstand pain, Mike Lee says, only half in jest. There is definitely a pecking order that gets established when you come from a family of all boys.
The oldest sibling, Travis, toiled in obscurity at Crater in the late 1980s. He made it to the state tournament as a sophomore in 1987 but broke his hand as a junior and then got mononucleosis as a senior.
Travis helped establish the Lee legacy. And now his younger brothers are making the Lee name synonymous with greatness.
Doug Lee, the No. 2 son of Art and Dawn Lee, was a two-time state champion for the Comets and is currently one of the top wrestlers for the Oregon Ducks.
Then there is 11-year-old Ronnie, who recently won an age-group state championship and is headed to a national tournament next month.
He brings his friends out to the house and then works 'em over, Mike Lee says with a grin. Ronnie says, `Come on over, guys, and I'll show you some moves.' And then he tortures them.
Ronnie, who is in the Crater locker room with Mike and Matt after a recent practice, disagrees and begins to protest. Of course, his argument falls on deaf ears.
Such is the state of affairs in a family of boys, where competition runs rampant, regardless of the activity. From dominoes to video games to king of the couch -- the Lees love to compete.
But if people think the Lee household is awash in chaos, they're dead wrong. Art Lee laid down some laws on Day One, and anyone who cares to disobey them faces stiff discipline.
When I was younger I was getting into trouble pretty often, Mike Lee admits. Nothing major, but enough to get dad riled up. I remember going to bed one night and thinking, wow, I went a whole day and never got spanked!
Art and Dawn Lee taught the boys self-respect, self-control and more than a little humility. They may get wild with one another in the back yard or in the family's shop, where a wrestling mat has been stationed for years.
But in public the Lee boys are as polite as preachers.
All of those boys are a coach's dream, Crater coach Greg Haga says. You just couldn't ask for better kids.
Although no one would ever accuse Mike Lee of being loud and overbearing -- other than his brothers -- he is the gregarious one in the family.
He likes to laugh, joke and carry on, Haga says. He's the chatter box of the family.
Matt, on the other hand, doesn't usually say more than one or two sentences a day, Haga says. I took him water skiing last summer and all the way home my 5-year-old daughter was asking him questions and talking up a storm. All Matt would say was `yes' and `no.'
Mike Lee heads into today's Class 4A state tournament as one of the favorites in the 160-pound weight class. The senior has posted a 34-3 record and is coming off a Southern Oregon Conference championship.
He faces a tough road to the state title, however. He'll likely have to take on West Linn's Abe Umbras -- who handed him one of his three losses -- in the semifinals. A win over Umbras would land Mike a probable berth against defending champion David Jansen of Barlow in the finals.
Matt Lee's path to the crown is no less formidable. The junior 152-pounder also has a highly competent customer in his bracket -- two-time defending champion Travis Johnson of Sandy.
Win or lose, the Lees will hold nothing back. Crater wrestlers are known for their attacking, aggressive, relentless style, and the Lees personify it perfectly.
And after all those toughen-you-up brouhahas with their older brothers, Mike and Matt know they have nothing to fear.