WHITEHALL — Jackson and Shane Cook have come a long way in their relationship since the rough-and-tumble days as youngsters clashing in “bumper bikes,” which is very similar to bumper cars but with bicycles instead.
One particular day, a collision with their bikes grew a little more intense.
“There were baseball bats involved, sticks involved and just plain, old fists involved,” a smiling Shane Cook reminisced about one of the bigger blow-ups with his fraternal twin. “It was rough. That was a rough day.”
The Cook brothers were born 10 weeks premature on Feb. 24, 2005 – Shane about a minute before Jackson.
They both weighed 3 pounds at birth. You’d never know it now, as the sons of Jeanna Cook and Geoff Cook are both physical forces for Whitehall’s dominant wrestling and football teams.
“He’s my Day 1 … literally,” Shane Cook quipped.
You might not believe they’re related, let alone twins, by looking at them or spending any amount of time around them. But as different as they are, Jackson and Shane Cook are absolutely on the same page in their love and respect for each other.
Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark
As seniors entering the home stretch of their high school careers, the Cooks are trying to savor every moment together. It’s one of the reasons that Jackson decided to wrestle again this season despite not doing so the last two years.
Wrestling is not Jackson’s passion – football is — but he grapples so he can share the experience with Shane, who shines in the sport. Turns out, Jackson is not too shabby himself on the mat.
“The only reason I’m really out here now is because of him,” admitted Jackson, who is 24-0 with eight pins on the season in the 190-pound weight class despite dealing with a shoulder injury suffered during football season. As a freshman, he was 16-8 with eight pins.
Shane Cook has made a name for himself on the mats during his Whitehall career. Wrestling at 285 or 215 this season, he’s 33-0 with 27 pins. The two-time state finals qualifier is 141-16 with 102 pins in his career. He placed third in Division 2 at 215 pounds last season.
This winter, the twins are both ranked in Division 3 by Michigan Grappler: Shane is No. 1 at 285, while Jackson is rated No. 15 at 190.
On Saturday at Montague, both of them pinned their way through the Greater Muskegon Athletic Association tournament in leading the Vikings to a 16th city title in 17 years. Shane recorded his 100th career pin in the process.
Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark
They’re both key wrestlers for a Whitehall squad that’s having another great season, ranked No. 4 in Division 3 as a team with designs on ultimately advancing to state finals weekend again.
“I think they’re both really similar in that they’re both really competitive. They both work hard. They’re both really great kids – really good leaders. They’re always doing the right things,” said Justin Zeerip, who has two brothers of his own and co-coaches Whitehall’s wrestling team with sibling Collin Zeerip.
“It’s like any set of brothers, though; they might have some spats here and there … . From my vantage point, your brothers are like your best friends and I can tell they’re best friends. They’ve been really great for us this year.”
The Cook brothers were keys to Whitehall’s highly successful football team in the fall as well. Playing at about 210 pounds, Jackson was a starting running back and linebacker, while Shane (then 260 pounds) was a starting guard who also played defensive line.
Whitehall’s 11-1 football team set a school record for scoring and came very close to capturing the program’s first regional title but lost a 28-21 heartbreaker to eventual Division 4 state champion Grand Rapids South Christian.
Photos by CatchMark
In the classroom, the Cooks are quite similar. They’re both very good students. Jackson is pushing a 4.0 GPA, while Shane is just over 4.0. The twins’ class schedules this school year are nearly identical, including Advanced Placement courses.
When it comes to their personalities and most certainly their looks, they’re very different, however.
“There’s a lot of people that learned we were twins, like, last year,” said the 5-foot-10 Jackson, a blond with blue eyes and an athletic build, who is more introverted. He has a tough exterior, but there are moments where his emotion comes out.
Five-foot-9 Shane, who has brown hair, brown eyes and a stout build, possesses a more jovial personality. He tends to be much more talkative than his brother.
Despite any differences, their respect for each other is unwavering.
“What I like about Shane is – and this guy’s No. 1, right; he doesn’t lose – he doesn’t look like a No. 1. No offense, Shane,” said Jackson, as he smiled and looked at Shane. “If you looked at guys he wrestles, he doesn’t look like he should win that. He’ll wrestle guys (that look more athletic) and he’ll whoop them.”
Said Shane: “My favorite thing about Jackson is, even when I know he’s tired or when I know that he wants to be done with the match, his competitiveness and his will is just way more than the other person’s. Even if he’s worse than the other guy, his competitiveness just takes over.”
The Cook brothers fought like cats and dogs when they were younger, but admiration for each other has grown over the years. Also raised by Matt Gorton, their mother’s significant other, the siblings have the type of relationship where they can pick on each other, but once an outsider does it, they’ll rush to each other’s defense.
“If anybody’s talking about Jackson, it doesn’t really matter – he comes before really anybody,” Shane Cook said.
The expression “iron sharpens iron” applies to the Cooks, especially given the fact that they wrestle against each other every day in practice. Often, what they see in practice is a stiffer test than what they’ll face in an actual competition.
That’s pretty much the standard for Whitehall wrestling: Practices are typically more grueling than matches.
“In practice, (the Cooks) bang on each other pretty hard. When they get in a match (it’s different),” said Whitehall sophomore teammate Ryan Goodrich, who is a good buddy of the Cooks. “Against (Temperance) Bedford, I think Jackson had a pretty tough kid and Shane’s right there on the mat, yelling to the mat, helping him out. Heated matches, they’re always there for each other, helping each other out.”
Shane is setting his sights on helping Whitehall get back to team wrestling state finals as well as capturing an individual state title. As for Jackson, sure he wants to succeed, but his ultimate goal is making sure he gives the team everything he has.
Remember, Jackson is not doing this for him. He’s doing it for Shane and their teammates.
Soon enough, the Cooks will be headed off to college, very likely going their separate ways. Jackson has aspirations to play college football, while Shane is focused on wrestling at the next level.
The day they part will be very difficult on both of them, but they’ll most certainly be keeping a close eye on each other.
“It’s going to suck not ever being able to, like, play a sport with him again,” Jackson said about Shane. “During our senior speeches (in football), we both just broke down.”
Said Shane: “Personally, I think there’s going to be a lot of tears there. Also, though, at the same time, even though we’re not going to be with each other I feel like we’re still just always, whenever we’re together, we’re just going to be like same ol’, same ol’.”
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