Brotherly love of the game

Ryan Baker, Men’s Sports Assistant Editor


Brotherhood. That seems to be the theme at UW-Whitewater. Warhawk sports have been home to some of the most ferocious sister and brother duos playing sports at the collegiate level together. Whether it be on the same team or playing different sports, UW-W always has the chance to let siblings showcase that last name on the back of their jerseys.

In 2022, Whitewater has four brother duos that play on the same team together in their respective sports. Wrestlers John and Justin Fortugno. Basketball players Delvin and Miles Barnstable. Meanwhile, football has two pairs of their own in Egon and Steven Hein playing alongside Michael and Tommy Coates.

Each pair brings along different paths and upbringings to have gotten to this point in their athletic careers. Each pair also brings their own stories, opinions on who is better, and superstitions to the table.

John, being a junior, is two years older than Justin. That hasn’t stopped them from wrestling together for the past 12 years. Their age difference caused a two year hiatus while John wrestled as a Warhawk until Justin joined him this year.

“I would definitely not be here if it weren’t for him,” Justin said. “I was looking at a couple other schools, and of all the schools, I definitely liked Whitewater the most and the fact that my brother was here, I wanted to keep it going, so I just said why not.”

Getting his younger brother to join inside the ring has only helped John to improve his game each and every day. They also ensure that they warm up together before every match because neither of them let each other get their guards’ down.

“It definitely motivates a lot more having my brother here. Ever since he came here, I feel like I’ve turned it up a lot, and I’ve been a better wrestler,” John said.  “When one of us is down, he is really the only one that can tell. He can push me through and help me. It really helps me a lot having him here.”

With the same ages and age gap, on the complete other side of things, the Barnstable brothers are getting their first opportunity to be on the court at the same time.

“So far this year has been one of the best years of basketball I’ve played because of him, because on days when you don’t want to practice or do stuff you can just talk to each other,” said Delvin.  “You can push each other through stuff. It’s awesome.”

After both playing since they were seven years old, a tradition has begun between the two before donning the Warhawk name in unison in front of fans. Naps. The two make sure they get 30 to 60 minutes of shut eye before every game.

While those two are getting some rest, the Coates brothers are downing tubes of pure sugar before football games with the rest of the team. Pixie sticks are the superstition that Tommy Coates has made famous for the Warhawk football program.

“I’m not really sure I understand it all that much, but the day before the games we have to go to the gas station to get candy to give out,” said Michael.

Some may say that it may be an out of the woods superstition, but it falls right in line with how the Coates got to be wearing purple every Saturday together. Tommy transferred to Whitewater after a year at North Central. A team that defeated Michael’s Warhawks in the National Championship back in 2019, something that put some friendly heat between the Coates family.

“It was more of a family competition thing,” Michael said. “A week later we were all sitting around the table at family Christmas. My dad would always say that he put a bet on one of the teams, but would never say who.”

“It was great because I won a national championship, but I would rather win one with him than against him,” Tommy said.

Now Tommy has that opportunity after deciding that playing with his brother was one of the main factors in him choosing his transfer school. Steven Hein also knows something about following in his brother’s footsteps.

“Him being my older brother, he’s always been a role model for me,” Steven said. “Always someone I looked up to, so when he came here, I wanted to be like him. It was always a dream to be on the same team suited up with him.”

The Hein brothers just completed their second year of being teammates, which makes it especially interesting when it comes to practice, given that they plan on opposite sides of the ball. Steven is a top receiver and Egon is a top defensive back, but that doesn’t stop the brotherly love.

“Before the game, I go up to him and hug him and dap him up,” said Egon. “I always tell him that we were born to do this. I feel like that’s our thing. We do that right before the national anthem or stretch lines.”

Motivation to get better, motivation to show each other who’s better, and motivation to make the team better runs through all these brothers’ veins. However, seeing who would win a one-on-one between brothers is sure to get some blood pressure boiling.

“It’s actually pretty close between us, but I’ll give this one to Justin,” said John Fortugno. “Back in high school I did beat him twice, but he’s gotten a lot better. He’s a little bigger than me now, so I’ll give it to Justin.”

“We both have our days so we go back and forth and one thing I can say is that we can never break each other,” said Justin Fortugno. “We both come at each other all the time at a hundred miles per hour, and you can never really tell who’s winning when we wrestle each other.”

“Me. Always. Delvin. Every time,” said Delvin Barnstable.

“Last year, a hundred percent me,” said Egon Hein. “Right now it’s a toss-up, but I would probably give it to him just because he’s grown so much since he’s gotten here.”

From pixie sticks to naps, brotherhood is seeded in Warhawk sports. There’s nothing like being able to suit up with your brother in any aspect of life, but something about being able to in sports rings a certain bell in the minds of the fans, the players, and especially the brothers.