Hamilton freshman and Bronc wrestler Hannah Hurst had to get tough in a hurry. With two older brothers that wrestle, tapping out was never really an option for Hurst since the wrestling mat essentially existed every day inside her home.
"... My brothers would just pounce on me; it would come out of the blue sometimes," Hurst said, chuckling.
But no amount of toughness could prepare Hannah and her family — including Noah Hurst, a junior at Hamilton — for the tragedy they would face in November 2017.
Hannah and Noah's older brother, Isaac — one of the siblings' chief motivator for taking up wrestling — suddenly passed away from a still-unknown condition. He was 18 years old.
Before even talking to Noah and Hannah it's evident how much the two middle siblings looked up to their older brother. Noah wears Isaac's cracked and worn headgear and the elder brother's shoes. Last Tuesday, at the Hamilton wrestling quad, Noah also sported some spiffy socks with pink and blue donuts on them.
"Socks were just me and my brother’s things," Noah explained. "We’d always wear creative socks ... I always wrestle for my brother."
Their brother was a standout wrestler and team captain in Hemet, California, where Noah, Hannah and the Hurst family moved from in April. Isaac would have been wrestling at Missouri Baptist University, according to his mom, Debra, and her son simply loved the sport.
"He was incredibly passionate," Debra said of Isaac. "It didn’t go as easily for him as it did for (Noah and Hannah), though. (Isaac) would lose and lose and lose (early on) — he’s probably the most tenacious person I’ve ever met in my life.
"He never gave up. He was such a big supporter of his team. He had so much strong character — he was a really, really good example for them."
Truly, the qualities Isaac exhibited were passed down to Hannah and Noah. Every time the two take the wrestling mat, they show the same heart.
Hannah hasn't lost a single match to another girl this year in Montana, according to Hamilton coach Chad Williams, and she's won a few against the boys, too. She sits at 18-20 overall, according to her trackwrestling.com page. Last Tuesday, she dropped an 11-6 decision to Dillon's Tate Hanson, but she came out firing and nearly scored the first takedown.
"She’s got heart, too. She never quits," Williams said of Hurst, who wrestles at 113 pounds. "She hangs with the guys — she’s the real deal."
Noah added, "It’s funny watching her matches on my phone because we record them and watch them. It’s funny watching the guys get caught by surprise."
That makes for an interesting dynamic, too. It's not too often that there are brother-sister sibling duos on a wrestling team. While girls do wrestle, and several states have girl wrestling divisions (including California, where the Hursts moved from), Montana does not. The girls compete with the boys.
For the Hursts, though, that's part of the fun.
"You don’t see a lot of girls wrestling," said Noah, who has a 20-9 overall record this season, according to trackwrestling.com. "(Isaac and I) kind of forced her into the sport and then she started catching on and liking it. We wrestled a lot, so it’s really nice having someone with your family wrestling with you."
The two have become some of each others biggest cheerleaders, too, especially after moving to a new high school in a new state.
"They encourage each other to do wall sits at home, and it actually makes them very strong having each other," Debra said. "They’re probably each other’s hardest competitors and they’re each other's biggest supporters."
But the Broncs are becoming family, too.
"It’s a great experience and I’m hoping many more people will join because it’s really fun," said Hurst encouraging more people, and girls, to wrestle.
One of those girls may very well be Noah and Hannah's younger sister, Faith, who said she plans to go out for wrestling when she can.
After all, the her older siblings learned a lot about themselves with help from the wrestling arena.
"I’ve learned everything from my older brothers," Hannah said.. "Isaac taught me that even though you lose, you’ll get the experience and you just go for it. Risk it and have fun."
Hannah, Noah and the rest of the Hamilton wrestling team head to the Western A divisional wrestling tournament at Butte Central on Saturday. The state wrestling tournament in Billings is on Feb. 8-9.