Josh (left) and Justin Portillo (right) (Photos/Josh by Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com, Justin by Mark Lundy, Lutte-Lens.com)
#1 Grand View (NAIA) vs #4 Nebraska-Kearney
Saturday, January 15th
What is bigger than 110 straight dual wins? What is bigger than two perennial wrestling powers finally meeting? What could be bigger than two universities that finished as runner-up at their last national championship tournament? Is there anything bigger than a Saturday battle between titans in the wrestling world? Go back to Ali versus Foreman in the jungle. Do you remember the Miracle on Ice? How about the Yankees versus Red Sox in game seven? All of these massive matchups pale in comparison to what we have brewing Saturday. Really, the only fight that could have been close was "Holyfield v Schwartzkopf," but we all know that the heavyweight champ punked out of the "War on the Shore." There will be no ducking or bumping this Saturday in Kearney.
Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages, I present to you, Josh Portillo versus Justin Portillo. There has been a great history of wrestling brothers: Banach, Schultz, Steiner, Brands, Sanders, the list goes on and on. What those families were able to avoid was being on opposite sides of the mat in college. We have all heard the stories of the Brands having to be separated in the Iowa room, but what would have happened if they had gone to opposing powers and had to actually wrestle? I am not 100% certain, but I feel like Bonnie would have had to come down from the stands and it would not have been to hug the boys.
I asked Papa Portillo his thoughts on the battle this Saturday and what he expected, "no punches thrown" was his reply. Regino Portillo and I met in 2019 on our way to Cleveland for the national championship and ever since then, I have always enjoyed the quick interactions I have had with him. I can recognize him, which is a huge problem I have with his sons. You see, Justin and Josh are twins. And when Justin is at the Division II national tournament, he sports his brother's Loper's logo. More than twice and closer to three times, I have spoken to him like he was Justin with zero clue. What makes it even sadder for me, in 2020, Josh and I sat down for one of the best talks I have ever had with a young man on camera. We are talking about a soul-bearing reflection. And still, I somehow cannot tell the two of them apart unless I really take the time. I can tell the Brands apart at a glance!
The two actually shared a title at the Ridgewater Open way back in their redshirt season in 2016-2017 while members of the South Dakota State University Jackrabbits. I do not want to point fingers, but we all know which one did not want to scrap. I kid. Honestly, teammates share titles all the time. I really wish I could be in Nebraska to watch this. That should tell you how badly I want this; I never want to be in Nebraska. Their corn is trash. Their Huskers "sell-outs" are a joke. It is the only state you can drive across on cruise control without touching your wheel if your vehicle is properly aligned. But I want to be there, dang it.
The Clarion, Iowa natives spent a year in Brookings before departing. Justin headed to Grand View University back in his native state. Josh left for the state of Nebraska and the Division II powerhouse Nebraska-Kearney. They have each found success in their new homes. They are both multiple-time All-Americans. They have both excelled on the mat and in the classroom. They have both grown as young men. What Justin has had, though, is the chance to hoist a team national championship trophy with his squad. Josh has been close but is still reaching for that lofty goal. In 2021, Josh and the Lopers were one match away from their own banner raising ceremony. Kearney is going to battle for a national championship this season. Grand View will be doing the same.
There is a video making the rounds on Twitter from an "Iron Sharpens Iron" camp wherein an absolute barnburner of an exhibition, the brothers are apparently about to start OT in a 15-15 match. Josh (in blue) hits a deep firemans into a lift and takes Justin (in red) off his feet. The return is a nice drop that allows Josh to pull his head and finish the takedown to the gleeful shouts of all the campers. The quote from Justin on it should tell you all you need to know about his motivation.
"I've replayed this match in my head countless nights. About 2 years ago, @p2funky_ embarrassed me in front of many kids who looked up to me at this wrestling camp… this Saturday, I seek to avenge my honor and regain my spot as Alpha Portillo once and for all!"
I know dad said "no punches thrown," but he did not say anything about fireworks. Frankly, given the exciting styles of the brothers, I expect everything plus a kitchen sink to be thrown. I hope that they start all three periods in neutral. Justin is not going to take it easy this time around.
"Been waiting for this one for a long time… people always ask which one of us is better. We are both usually pretty humble about answering that, but it's time to find out the answer once and for all. There's a lot on the line this match, and I just hope Josh is ready, because I will not be holding anything back this time around!"
Josh, you have been put on notice. And #D2Wrestle, you have been given your warning as well. We cannot allow this aggression to stand man! I made sure to reach out to the best student in #D2Wrestle; that's not just my opinion. The NCAA literally gave him an award last year for being wicked smart. Josh already has "unofficial" win under his belt, but he wants more.
"Anytime you put two wrestlers as dynamic and funky as us Portillo Bros, you get a scramblefest. We both like to wrestle open and score lots of points. We aren't holding anything back, we've wanted this match for as long as we could remember, not only for us but for our teams. Looking forward to a great dual and figuring out who the best Portillo is… well, for that day, at least."
Do not let the hidden emoji fool you (it was one of those big smiley faces). Josh wants to win this one not just for bragging rights for him, but for the Lopers as well. Maybe no one understands all the storylines of this dual better than the one and only Jason Bryant.
"This is some made-for-tv type drama that could be unfolding. Why doesn't Grand View put the streak on the line - well, here's one of the top Division II programs with Nebraska-Kearney - so it might answer a couple of questions. Is the NAIA's best comparable to Division II's best? How would Grand View do against the best from other divisions? But then to consider a 110-match win streak is also on the line and it could potentially come back to a set of brothers deciding it one way or another? Are you kidding me? I'll be doing everything I can to watch this, even while working the Virginia Duals this weekend."
For me personally, I love grudge matches. And you may have noticed I have been doing my best to stir the pot a little on Twitter this week. Not that I needed to. Justin and Josh have been ribbing each other for this whole lead-up. But I seriously cannot believe that Portillo's Hot Dogs have not caught on to this. This has promotion written all over. Show up, bring some food, treat the fans and take the press. I really hope that they decide to start the dual at 133. Everyone deserves to see this match as the finale of what is going to be a great day of wrestling. And like Regino said, "guarantee that Portillo will win."