Family ties common in Iowa wrestling

BY J.T. BUGOS | NOVEMBER 19, 2009 7:21 AM

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The Iowa wrestling program is no stranger to having brothers on the same squad. What the program isn’t accustomed to, however, is having an uncle and a nephew who view themselves as brothers.

Freshman Ethen Lofthouse joined his uncle, junior Luke Lofthouse, on the Iowa squad this year.

After wrestling with his younger brother in high school for three years, joining Luke Lofthouse was something Ethen Lofthouse had looked forward to for a long time.

For Luke Lofthouse, the three months he has shared the wrestling room with his nephew have been completely normal.

“I grew up with him and lived with him all my life,” the 197-pounder said. “It’s actually really cool because I haven’t been able to see him wrestle much because I’ve been here. It’s nice to have him around, and it’s not weird at all. It’s a good situation.”

Ethen Lofthouse has lived with his uncle and his parents since seventh grade, so he sees Luke Lofthouse as more of a sibling. A twin, perhaps?

Twin wrestlers have tended to be common for Iowa.

Ed Banach, a four-time All-American and three-time NCAA champion, and twin brother Lou Banach, a two-time NCAA champion, anchored the Hawkeyes from 1980-83.

Troy Steiner, a four-time All-American and NCAA champion, and twin brother Terry Steiner, a three-time All-American and NCAA champion, wrestled for legendary head coach Dan Gable.

And who can forget about head coach Tom Brands and assistant coach Terry Brands, who starred on the mats at Iowa from 1989-92? Tom Brands was a four-time All-American and three-time NCAA champion, and twin Terry Brands was a three-time All-American and two-time NCAA champion.

Now, the brotherly love extends to junior Matt Ballweg and redshirt freshman Mark Ballweg. A third brother, Jake Ballweg, will join the Hawkeyes next season.

Brother or uncle, Ethen Lofthouse said Luke Lofthouse is a good influence and a good person to look up to.

Luke Lofthouse tries to be the best role model possible, and he said he might even take his nephew under his wing more than he needs to.

But once the Avon, Utah, natives step on the mat, family ties are forgotten.

Luke Lofthouse said it hasn’t been odd grappling with his nephew. Once they start wrestling, he said, all is fair game.

Ethen Lofthouse admitted to having a bizarre feeling wrestling his uncle at first, but those have passed.

“Now, it’s just a guy on the team,” the 174-pound youngster said. “What happens in the room stays in the room.”

When both were younger, Ethen Lofthouse said, some wrestling in the house wasn’t infrequent. Now that they are both older, though, a mutual respect has developed, and they don’t feel the need to tangle outside of the wrestling room.

If the rest of the Hawkeyes decide to give them heat about their family tie, which is unique because they are only six years apart, they won’t have a problem joining forces.

“If they do start, I’m pretty sure Luke and I can handle our own,” Ethen Lofthouse said.

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