More than three decades ago, Walt Edelblute hauled his sons and as many friends as they could cram into his car to youth wrestling tournaments.
It paid off when his sons Pat and twins Rich and Rob reached Lakeland High School.
Walt Edelblute, now 73 years old, is following his grandsons’ success at Lakeland – although most of the responsibility of taking Brian (126 pounds), Willie (113), Sam (106) and Alex (98) to spring and summer tournaments has been passed on to his sons.
“It’s been part of their birthright,” said Rob, who is in his 18th season as Lakeland’s coach. “They’ve grown up on a wrestling mat.”
Grandpa has been known to stop at a rest area and have his grandsons work off some extra energy.
“We’d get out and he’d make us run a half-mile and back,” Willie said.
The first generation blazed a trail for the second generation. Pat – the father of Willie, Sam and Alex – was Lakeland’s first Tri-State champ and went undefeated before losing in the state final his senior year. Rich – Brian’s father – won a state title. And Rob was a state champ.
Rich and Rob were on back-to-back state championship teams in the late 1980s.
Brian, a senior, Willie, a junior, Sam, a sophomore, and Alex, a freshman, are each seeded second in their respective weights going into the State 4A tournament Friday and Saturday at the Ford Idaho Center in Nampa.
The Edelblutes give Lakeland a formidable block in the lower weights.
Rob said he and his brothers didn’t have much of a choice but to wrestle when they were growing up.
“Dad used to tell us we could dig dandelions out in the yard or go to wrestling tournaments,” Rob said. “We thought wrestling was a little more entertaining.”
Like their fathers and uncle, the younger Edelblutes are similar in size. Brian is the heavier of the second batch and his father was at the same weight.
“We all wrestled at 118 in college,” Rob said. “Dad found a sport for us that it didn’t matter your size.”
This is the only season the brothers and cousin will be together. And they want to make the most of it.
Brian, Willie and Sam each finished second last year.
Unseeded going into the tournament, Brian pulled off two upsets to reach the state final, and he was ahead in the title match when he was reversed in the final 17 seconds.
“It was heartbreaking,” said Brian, a four-time state qualifier. “I cried a lot.”
Brian wants to match his father’s state title.
“It would mean a lot to me after all the years I’ve put into this,” Brian said.
Sam also was leading in his title match and, like his cousin, gave up a reversal.
“It was just as heartbreaking,” Sam said.
If Sam reaches the final, he will likely face the same kid who beat him last year.
Willie’s title match wasn’t as close. He lost 10-4 after pinning the champ earlier in the season.
“I was real nervous,” Willie said. “I don’t think I’ll be as nervous this year. We’ll be in the same arena as we were for the Rollie Lane tournament.”
Alex is the rookie but he established credibility during the season to earn a second seed. He wrestled the kid who is seeded first a couple weeks ago at the Hall of Fame Classic and lost 13-3.
“He scored 10 points off my shots, my mistakes,” Alex said.
The second generation ends with Alex – unless Rob’s 11-year-old daughter can talk her dad into letting her try it.
“She’s in gymnastics and that’s just fine,” Rob said.
Brian and Willie cracked 100 career victories this season and Sam and Alex are likely to do so in time.
Given the odds, multiple Edelblutes could win a title.
The Edelblutes aren’t given much slack in the practice room.
“You’re expected to work a lot hard than someone else would,” Alex said.
That work could pay off, though, this weekend.
“Since we were little we’ve been working to be state champs,” Willie said.
“All of us have a chance to win a state title,” Sam said.
Uncle Rob agrees.
“It’s definitely possible,” Rob said. “They’ll all be right there. It depends on which ones show up.”
Rob is having the time of his life coaching his nephews.
“It’s interesting, they all have their own little special talent,” Rob said. “Brian has the most heart; Willie is the most knowledgeable, technical wrestler; Sam is the most athletic; and Alex has a little bit of all of it.”
And as soon as state finishes, Willie, Sam and Alex will get back in the practice room to prepare for spring and summer tournaments, which will include occasional road trips with Grandpa Walt.