Just three years ago, Olivia Devine sat in the bleachers at an early-season wrestling tournament, a clueless little sister trying to make sense of her brother Dylan’s new sport.
“I don’t think I even knew he had been doing wrestling until that day,” Olivia said of her first glimpse of Dylan on the mat. “To see him go out there and get his hand raised [by the referee after a win], I figured, ‘Well, he must have done something right.’ ”
Back then, Olivia was a sixth-grader who didn’t play sports; Dylan was an undersized DeMatha football lineman hoping to please his coaches. Earlier this month, as the pair sat side-by-side in the gymnasium at Paul VI Catholic during the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference wrestling tournament discussing the action during a lengthy break between Dylan’s matches, their shared passion for their newfound sport was evident.
This winter, Olivia cracked North County’s varsity wrestling lineup as a freshman while Dylan continued what has been a decorated career at DeMatha. Already 49-2 this season — with 150 wins for his career — and The Post’s top-ranked 195 pounder, the senior hopes to take his first Maryland Independent Schools tournament title on Saturday at McDonogh in Owings Mills.
“They’re quietly competitive,” North County Coach Wayne Liddick said. “You’ll never hear them brag or be arrogant or talk trash. They’re really similar like that.”
Dylan Devine picked up the sport when Bill McGregor, who was then the DeMatha football coach, suggested the team’s linemen use wrestling as a way to stay in shape. With an uncanny knack for balance helped by a background in martial arts, Dylan proved a natural on the mat.
Dylan — a heavyweight during his first two seasons — gave up football after his sophomore year to focus full-time on wrestling and has only continued improving, finishing third at the National Prep tournament last season. Thanks to a daily workout regimen and an improved diet, he now competes at 195 pounds.
For the past two years, he’s had a constant training partner in his little sister.
Olivia Devine also grew up practicing martial arts and earned a second-degree black belt. Right away, wrestling’s similarities appealed to her.
“I think it’s the work ethic involved,” Dylan said. “What you put in is what you get out. We both love it.”
To prepare for her first high school season, Olivia attended open mat practices at North County several times a week during the summer and a wrestling camp at Bloomsburg (Pa.) University, where she was the lone girl that session. She also worked out almost daily in the basement of the family’s Severn home alongside Dylan.
Olivia competed mostly on junior varsity this season, compiling a 6-5 record wrestling at 132, 138 and even 145. She finished her season at the county’s junior varsity invitational on Tuesday.
In 24 seasons as a wrestling coach in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland, Liddick had never used a girl on varsity before, but he didn’t hesitate turning to Olivia when his lineup thinned due to injury and illness. She made her varsity debut with a pair of losses at the Arundel Holiday Tournament, where Dylan won his weight class.
At first, Olivia leaned on Dylan heavily for help. Dylan taught her moves that utilize her leg strength and continues to provide feedback when the family gathers to watch tape of matches.
“It’s easier when he critiques her,” their mother Theresa said. “She’d rather hear it from him than us.”
“He breaks me down and builds me up.” Olivia added with a smile.
Lately, there have been fewer lessons and more conversations. Dylan, who hopes to wrestle in college — with West Virginia and Edinboro among his options — chuckles when thinking about how far his sister has come in a short time.
“She knows a lot more now,” Dylan said. “We’ll talk about what a guy should’ve done [on the mat], and sometimes now she’ll argue with me because she’ll know something better than I do.”