McKenzie twins wrestle to the top


Luca Roy

John and Alex were able to drill with each other throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

Twins John and Alex McKenzie, juniors at Archie Williams High School, have taken the high school wrestling scene by storm. In the 2022 NCS tournament, John placed second, qualifying him for a spot in the state tournament; Alex finished seventh. How were the twins able to rise up from an undermanned and underfunded AWHS wrestling team?

The twins’ wrestling career started in sixth grade when their dad suggested they join the White Hill Middle School wrestling team.

“He didn’t force us to wrestle, but we definitely wouldn’t have signed up by ourselves. He was like, ‘I’m not gonna think of you differently [if you don’t sign up], but you should really do this,’” Alex said. 

When John and Alex first started to wrestle, they did not have the same passion that they now share for the sport. This was in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic hitting in the middle of their eighth-grade year when they were just starting to develop in the sport.

Alex McKenzie performs a double leg maneuver on John McKenzie during a practice session. (Luca Roy)

“It was hard to wrestle during [the pandemic] because everything was canceled,” John said. “Especially wrestling, being possibly the most COVID-unsafe thing.”

Despite the pandemic, John and Alex were always able to spar, or “drill”, with each other and continued to develop new techniques and moves throughout lockdown.

One move in particular called “the cradle” stood out to the twins. Drilling against each other day after day, they learned to perfect the move. John even attributes a large part of his 2nd place finish in NCS to the “cheat code move”.

John admits that it did take some time for him and Alex to figure out how to effectively practice with one another. At first, the twins were too competitive with each other and weren’t able to effectively spar.

“It took us a while but now I think we’ve got a good flow going where we’re equal and we actually get work done, which is like the whole point,” John said.

Once they figured out how to practice productively with each other, they made the perfect duo. From that point on, John and Alex were able to carry their success into high school, training together and pushing for improvement.

“It definitely helps that Alex and I are kind of perfect for each other. Like I’m always going to have a drilling partner, and I know he’s going to be in the room, especially when I’m in the room. So that makes it a lot easier for us,” John said.

“He’s always a consistent partner. It’s kinda great because we have like six kids on our team, so there’s a lot of practices where it’s just John and I in the room. And the good news is, he’s around my weight,” Alex said. 

Although they are similar sizes, John and Alex compete in different weight classes. This past season, John wrestled in the 145-pound division, while Alex wrestled at 160 pounds.

“Alex and I have always been in different weight classes because we don’t want to wrestle each other in tournaments,” John said.  

“It’s just really annoying to show up to a tournament and there’s like three guys in your bracket and one of them is your brother, so we try to not make that happen,” Alex said.

Despite not competing against each other in tournaments, John and Alex will continue to push each other through training during the rest of their high school careers.

Next year, Alex hopes to place top two in his weight class in NCS, to match his brother’s achievement from earlier this year.

“He is the first state qualifier in the school’s history from both Drake and Archie Williams. He kinda got smacked in states, but we’re gonna be there again next year and we’re gonna kick ass,” Alex said.

The story of the McKenzie twins should inspire other young athletes to find the same drive and passion in their own peers. A great training partner to push you past your physical and mental limits is one of the most powerful things for an athlete, and has propelled the McKenzies to success in their wrestling careers.