An Unbreakable Bond
For Medford High School brothers Javis and Willie VonRuden, the 2017 sports season didn’t just bring a bevy of personal success.
It brought a chance for the brothers to continue building on a bond that has been forged in the spirit of competition from a young age.
With Willie on the mound and Javis behind the plate, the two created a duo that carried the Tigers’ varsity baseball team two games away from securing a chance to play for not just a section title, but a berth to the Class AA state tournament.
“I knew he was going to compete here fine,” Javis commented about his younger brother. “Toward the end of the year, he was really starting to get going early in the game.”
Willie didn’t just compete.
Cementing himself as the ace on a youthful Tigers’ squad, the younger VonRuden consistently hurled strong innings for the Tigers, leading the pitching staff in strikeouts. In fact, Willie was a mere start away from breaking the school’s single season strikeout record. Javis noted that when the upcoming sophomore is in the zone, he’s nearly untouchable.
“It’s a lot of fun to be behind the plate,” he added. “It’s fun catching his curveball and he overpowers hitters with his fastball. So, you really can’t be wrong calling a pitch.”
Prior to the 2017 season, Javis has shared the spirit of competition with his teammates. In fact, the last time there were two VonRuden boys suiting up for the Tigers, the roles were reversed. It was Javis learning from their oldest brother Nick, who currently competes for the Southwest Minnesota State University wrestling team. Having gone through the rigors of not only having the rough moments as an underclassmen experiencing their fist taste of varsity action, but sharing the field with a brother, Javis said the experience has helped him guide his younger brother. As for the younger VonRuden, it’s a dream come true.
“I’ve always wanted this experience,” Willie said. “If I have a rough inning, He’ll just come up, pat me on the butt and say ‘flush it. We still need you.”
It doesn’t stop at baseball.
The two also play football.
In fact, they both are quarterbacks.
Javis was the signal caller for the varsity while Willie led the junior varsity squad last fall. While there are little signs of Javis losing the job to his brother, that doesn’t stop the Tigers’ coaching staff from making sure their leader is giving it his all.
“He (Willie) had a great season on JV as the quarterback last season,” added Javis. “Coaches keep telling me I have to step it up otherwise I’m going to lose my spot. They give me a hard time about it, but he’s still there pushing me on the sidelines.”
Javis wasn’t too shabby for Medford last season either.
In 10 games last fall for the Tigers, he threw for 1,573 yards and 16 touchdowns.
However, by no way, shape or form did that mean Willie was going to let his brother have the entire spotlight.
During two-a-days last fall, Javis recalled that during ‘thud’ - drill that calls for defenders to simply wrap-up ball carriers - Willie showed that there is more to his ability than meets the eye.
“He actually out ran me,” he added with a chuckle. “It was a little embarrassing, but it is what it is.”
Willie added that as he went to throw a shoulder into Javis’ tackle attempt, “I just gave him a little smirk, before pulling away.”
Rather than partaking in solely football and baseball as a senior, Javis added that he plans to return to the mat this winter after a four-year hiatus.
While Willie was accustomed to watching Javis light up the stat sheet during the fall from the sidelines, it will be the older brother that will take it all in. As a freshman, Willie secured his first of what looks to be a few Class A state tournaments berths. He noted that to have his brother come back to the mat for one final chance to be in the wrestling room together would be special.
“It will be a lot more fun with him by my side on the mat,” he added.
He recalled a moment from he went up to the Rumble on the Red - a tournament in Fargo, North Dakota - last year, which fell on his birthday, of just the amount of support he receives from his brother.
“He gave me a shout out on Twitter just saying ‘happy birthday. Bring back some hardware and it was a picture of us from a tournament when were little after winning the quick pin awards. It’s awesome to have that support.”
When they’re not throwing touchdown passes, securing takedowns or recording strikeouts on the mound, the two brothers are able to find themselves in different environments. Javis stated that he enjoys being a avid outdoorsman, often hunting and fishing in his spare time with some of his teammates while Willie can be found doing a wide variety of activities with his fellow classmates.
As the older VonRuden prepares for his final sports seasons as a Tiger, he notes that the future of the schools athletic programs are in good hands.
“It’s nice knowing that when my class leaves, that Willie’s class has the chance to do something special if they continue to work.”