A journey to the mat

The unbreakable bond of the Elshwike Brothers
Ali Elshwike (left), celebrates a win against his brother Hamzah Elshwike (right). The unforgettable wrestling match served as a proud moment for both brothers. (Photo courtesy of Chris Waddell)
Ali Elshwike (left), celebrates a win against his brother Hamzah Elshwike (right). The unforgettable wrestling match served as a proud moment for both brothers. (Photo courtesy of Chris Waddell)

Many can think back to one moment of pure happiness that will never be forgotten. That was the case for Athens Drive senior Hamzah Elshwike, his brother Ali Elshwike, and wrestling coach David Pyper during one wrestling match. Both Pyper and Hamzah taught each other strength that neither will ever forget.

Hamzah joined the wrestling team as a sophomore after being approached by Pyper. He later introduced Pyper to his brother, Ali, who is primarily nonverbal and often participates with the team. In January 2023, the two participated in Pin Down Autism Super Duals, a charity tournament that benefits autism awareness every year. Chris Waddell, who was inspired by his autistic son, runs the tournament each year.

“My youngest son, Maddox, was and is the inspiration for having The Pin Down Autism Super Duals Tournament.  He is a joy to be around. He always has a smile on his face and is always looking to joke around and have a good time,” said Waddell.

At this event, Hamzah and Ali participated in a head-to-head match. Hundreds cheered as Ali pinned down Hamzah. All those involved reflect on the moment as extremely special.

“It was one of the coolest days of my coaching career just to have that going on. Since then, I have gotten to know Ali,” said David Pyper, Athens Drive Men’s Wrestling Team Head Coach.

“[The tournament] was one of the most special moments for me because that gives me purpose. Making sure he is happy and making sure the people I care about are happy,” said Hamzah.

When Hamzah decided to try out for the wrestling team, he was hesitant at first. As many students are, he was unsure about making a commitment that would consume so much time, and he was not sure he would be a good fit. Now, his time on the team has changed his perspective. 

Me and Ali weren’t always super close, but because I met Coach Pyper, because I started wrestling, putting all this work and effort into wrestling made me realize I need to do the same thing for my relationships with the people that are special… Me and Ali started hanging out more,

— Hamzah Elshwike

Pyper notes how Hamzah has always shown incredible patience with Ali. Pointing out the countless voice messages he has received from the two, he recognizes how Hamzah can always bring out the best in Ali, their bond allowing Ali’s more responsive side to show.

“With Hamzah, it’s always clear, clean, and they can communicate even if it’s not always in words,” said Pyper. “His love for his brother is really unmeasurable.”

Hamzah’s love for his family drives him to be a better person. In every area of his life, he uses his passions to bring good to the people he cares about. Pyper stresses how his strong values make him a great teammate and a phenomenal person.

“Hamzah is probably one of the most caring, giving, and sacrificial kids we’ve ever had as a team member and that I’ve ever coached,” said Pyper.  “He is always looking to help others, to go the extra mile for someone else, to try to lead by example; [he is] just a wonderful young man.”

Hamzah spends a part of each school day with Ali and is often called into his classroom to help with any issues he may encounter. During his time in PEPI, a class that allows him to work in the special needs classroom, he can spend even more time with Ali. Pyper believes that the unwavering support that Hamzah shows his brother has greatly influenced his character. 

“He has always been able to show that same love and kindness to others. It is not just with his brother. He has learned through his brother how to do that,” said Pyper.

Hamzah and Ali Elshwike pose for a selfie. Ali often joins Hamzah during wrestling practice. (Photo courtesy of Hamzah Elshwike)

Hamzah will graduate at the end of the 2023-24 school year, so he won’t be around to help Ali during the school day. However, he isn’t worried and knows their bond will remain strong.

“I’ll still be around, and I’ll still be here to take care of him,” said Hamzah. “Coach Pyper taught me to honor my brother through everything I do. By me, doing [my] best, it’s my way of honoring him because he doesn’t get to get a part of that experience.”

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