Richmond-Burton’s Suttons compete about everything, including tattoos

RICHMOND – Somebody here is getting a butterfly tattoo on the small of his back.

It’s not a permanent tattoo, mind you. It’s a spray-on tattoo that must be worn throughout the duration of spring break next month in Fort Myers, Fla.

The rules have been set for the four male contestants in the Sutton household: Brothers Garrett, Grant and Gavin, along with their dad, Howard. It’s a weight differential contest, with all three brothers vying to gain the most weight and Howard competing to lose the most weight between now and spring break.

The contestants weighed in Sunday and will return to the scales in three weeks. Everyone has agreed to the guidelines, which are as simple as the stakes are high.

• Smallest weight differential loses.

• There’s no backing out.

• You can’t wash off the tattoo.

• You can’t wear a shirt on the beach to cover it up.

“The worst part,” Garrett said with a laugh, “is when you get a tan, there’s going to be a butterfly white spot right there afterward.”

Wrestling season might be over, but friendly competition is a year-round sport in this family of remarkable athletes and amateur comedians from Richmond-Burton.

Five days ago, all three Sutton boys placed in the top three in their weight classes during the state individual wrestling meet in Champaign. Garrett won the 160-pound title match for his second straight state championship, while Grant finished second in the 126-pound finals and Gavin placed third at 113.

Garrett, a senior, will wrestle on scholarship for at Michigan next year. Bright futures also await Grant, who is a junior, and Gavin, who is a freshman.

But move past the mat and look beyond the stats, and it quickly becomes apparent that the Suttons are a close-knit, down-to-earth family that just so happens to be filled with great wrestlers. Howard and Patti Sutton have raised the family on their 5-acre property in Richmond, where soccer and volleyball games break out in the yard almost as quickly as food disappears from the kitchen.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said, ‘Gee, I feel like I need to write a book,’ ” said Patti, who works at Richmond-Burton. “They’re funny. You think of wrestlers and football players as these big, burly kids, but they are so entertaining.

“They’re like our Huey, Dewey and Louie.”

The brothers thrive in school – Garrett chose to go to Michigan in part because of its excellent business program – and take their wrestling workouts seriously. They’ll return to the mats in about a month for a vigorous offseason training program at the Overtime School of Wrestling in Crystal Lake.

More important than being good wrestlers, Howard said, is that his sons are good kids who look out for one another. Their sibling bond is stronger than a headlock.

“We’re really fortunate,” said Howard, an electrician who also coaches wrestling and football. “Through school, through football, through any sports they’ve ever been involved with, they’ve always been the leaders.”

It starts with Garrett, who embraces his role as mentor to his younger brothers.

“It’s basically like I’m setting tracks for them,” Garrett said. “And hopefully they will follow.”

It continues with Grant, who is ready to take on a bigger leadership role when Garrett moves away for college.

“I look up to both of them,” Grant said. “I look up to Garrett because he’s an inspiration for me. And Gavin, I look up to him, too. He’s already good, and I’m excited to see where he goes.”

It ends with Gavin, who wanted to wrestle for about as long as he can remember.

“I wanted to do it because they did it,” Gavin said. “When they would be eating dinner, I would be in the car with my wrestling shoes in the back.”

Time flies when you’re having fun, which is to say that time flies in the Sutton family. All three brothers are teenagers now, and each one has a monster appetite and a perpetual hunger to win family competitions.

It was not surprising, then, to learn about the brothers’ calorie extravaganza on the first full day of the weight differential competition. Keep in mind that they already had eaten breakfast and lunch.

“After school, we made a Chipotle run,” Garrett said. “Then to Yogeeze for ice cream. And then we drove home and my dad had some steaks waiting for us.”

So far, the contest is too close to call.

“We all have a pretty good shot,” Grant said. “I think we’re all a little scared on the inside about that tattoo.”

They’re all a little scared, that is, with one older, wiser exception.

“Trust me,” Howard said with a chuckle. “I’m not going to lose this one.”

• Northwest Herald sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at and on Twitter @tcmusick.