Stepping Out of His Brothers’ Shadows

Justin Sokol, a senior, chases his brothers who’ve shined before him, Josh and Jake Sokol.


Leo Shimmura

Justin Sokol’s banner is hung up for Senior Night at the Hopkinton vs Holliston game.

Editors Note: This article has been altered since its publication. More sources have been included and mechanics have been edited. 

Walking into the Sokol household, a uniform for Minnesota Vikings (NFL), is placed in a jersey display frame for every visitor to view.

It is printed with the name Sokol.

As you walk around the house, newspaper articles about the successful wrestling career of Sokol are framed up on the walls, with a plethora of awards and trophies strategically placed around the corners of the house.

“Yeah, there’s a lot. There isn’t a day where my eyes don’t glance at one of them.” Justin Sokol said.

But none of them say, Justin Sokol.

Justin’s brothers, Josh and Jake, have had successful athletic careers and achievements.

Josh Sokol signed with the NFL team, Minnesota Vikings on April 30, 2022. Before the NFL, Josh went to Sacred Heart University for 5 years where he was an All-NEC First-team elected member for three years straight and won the Northeast Conference Championship.

Jake Sokol, the middle brother, went individually undefeated in wrestling in his junior and senior years. He was a TVL All-star in wrestling for all four years of high school, gaining attention from the Boston Globe and Milford Daily News. He was also a captain of the Hillers football team during his senior year. Now, Jake plays football at Sacred Heart University as a sophomore linebacker.

Walking around the Hillers athletic department, you can see the paths they’ve paved, and the footsteps Josh and Jake have left in Hopkinton for football, wrestling, and track and field.

“Their resumes are insane… they’ve set the bar high,” Justin said.

Because of their athletic status, Jake and Josh have been under the spotlight for most of Justin’s life, while Justin watched from the shadows.

Before the Hopkinton vs Holliston football game, one can hear whispers about the Hometown NFL Hero, Josh, from elementary school kids as they imitate him in their tackle football game.

A Hillers fan was also heard saying, “The Sokols’ younger brother is apparently playing.”

“People come to watch Jake or Josh Sokol’s little brother, not Justin Sokol… that angers me,” Justin said.

Being in the shadows of the spotlight that shines on Josh and Jake hasn’t just started recently, it has for Justin’s whole life. Whether on the football field or the wrestling mat, Justin hasn’t been seen as Justin, but just as the little brother of Josh and Jake.

Even on HCAM News, there would always be a reference to the Sokol brothers when Justin is in conversation.

Justin lives in his brothers’ shadows, and the pressure and expectations put on Justin are immense.

Justin Sokol—Football“Everything I do will impact my brothers’ names and the road they’ve paved for me. If I cause one mistake, they’ll view me as a failure. The pressure is immense.” Justin said.

He doesn’t just play for Justin Sokol, he plays for the reputation of his brothers. But the high standards Josh and Jake have set for Justin have also left another challenge for him.

“The amount of ‘of course he’ll win, he’s one of the Sokol’s… ‘ makes me lose love for sports. All my hard work just gets labeled as ‘of course, he can do this, he’s a Sokol’.”

Walking down the steps to the basement of the Sokol household, the clanks of the weights smashing on the ground could be heard.

The basement was at first a family room, with the 55’ TV playing 24/7, creating the white noise that filled the house. But as time went on, it slowly turned into a physical training room, filled with gym equipment.

A hole could also be seen on the wall, from supposedly when Josh lost a playoff game with the Hillers in his last season. Justin stares at it every morning, understanding the pain of losing the final game of a final season.

“I don’t wanna leave any regrets out there.”

Waking up regularly at 6 A.M, Justin does a workout with his father, Mark. Six days a week, Justin lifts, benches, and cleans. Mark watches as sweat droplets splatter on the ground. As Justin drops the weights, they roll toward the divots on the mattress where the weights were slammed down for the past several years.

Mark has seen Josh, Jake, and Justin go through this routine an infinite amount of times.

“Justin tries to one-up them (Josh and Jake) by grabbing heavier weights than them when they were his age,” Mark said. “I can tell he feels frustrated, and he just wants to succeed for himself, and not be categorized as one of the Sokol brothers.”

Justin understands that this is the reality. But he also has a solution to all the problems he carries.

He only has one way out. Only one way to prove himself. Only one way to be Justin Sokol.

That solution is to be the greatest in the family.

“If I want my name recognized, if I want my name to be above my brothers, I have to become the greatest in the family,” Justin said.

Evan Vanbeek, a childhood friend of Justin, has seen this change in mentality, especially since the start of high school, when the comparison between Justin and his brothers started to take off.

“Justin knows that his viewed as just the little brother. So he wants to prove everyone wrong, and make his name known, as Justin. Not just the Sokol brother.” Vanbeek said.

Vanbeek is also a defensive lineman for the Hillers and often lines up with Justin in-game. When asked about what he might think is going on in Justin’s mind, Evan responded with the famous Creed 2 line.

“I feel like it’s that scene from Creed 2… ‘this guy got nothing to lose, that makes him dangerous’, and that is exactly what Justin is right now… dangerous.”

“He has nothing to lose, so he will do whatever he can to do everything he can,” Vanbeek said.

The mentality has forced Justin to be this year’s superstar, as he leads the Hillers as team captain, and receives multiple Defensive Players of the Game awards. He is averaging 1.5 sacks per game, and 22 sacks this season, also forcing 5 fumbles this whole season.

Fans call him “Dawg” to symbolize his wild playstyle, bulldozing through the opponent’s offensive linemen, and getting the tackle.

The regular season for Hillers football has come to a close, and Justin Sokol is set to be a TVL All-Star this year.

With the wrestling season near the corner, Justin hopes to continue what he did last season: a Wrestling All-State finalist and a finalist at the Northeast Regional finals. And he hopes to extend his high school record, as he is 65-19. 18 of those losses came from when he was a freshman.

As the alarm rings at 6 A.M, announcing the start of his daily routine, Justin and Mark will head downstairs. Clangs of weights are heard throughout the neighborhood,

Justin’s revelation, as his new mentality will tell him, is to outshine his brothers from the shadows. To become Justin Sokol, he needs to pave his own path, and create his own name.

And for all that to become reality, he has to be the greatest.