Lofthouses making opponents say 'uncle'


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Luke and Ethen Lofthouse are fierce competitors. Their matching 4-0 records this season attest to that. But their competitive streaks aren't focused solely on their opponents on the wrestling mat.

The Hawkeyes' uncle-nephew tandem grew up in the same house, and some of their fiercest battles have come against each other.

Redshirt freshman Ethen, senior Luke, and Luke's younger brother used to play intensely competitive football games in the backyards in their hometown of Avon, Utah. And they weren't two-hand touch.

"He's what, five years older than us?" Ethen said. "We were small, and he'd just smear us."

Luke smiled at the memory.

"We used to play for hours. It would always end up with one of us being really mad and leaving," he said. "I'd run and tackle him and throw him into the snow. I think it was fun for them. Sometimes, maybe not so fun."

The intensity of the Lofthouses' football games has stuck with them in college wrestling. Head coach Tom Brands praised the strength and physicality of both grapplers but said their wrestling styles differ. Brands said Ethen is "an explosive, rocket-fuel type of guy" and called Luke "a plodder" — but noted that it was a "good thing."

The styles have produced similar results so far this season. Luke has won by two major decisions, a technical fall, and a pin. Ethen has a technical fall, a major decision, and two pins — including one in 52 seconds, the fastest on the team this season.

Underneath the competitiveness is close a relationship. Both Lofthouses consider each other to be like a brother. Last year, Ethen lived with Luke and Luke's wife shortly after their wedding.

Ethen said his uncle has been a valuable mentor as he adjusts to college life and athletics.

"Last year, I was able to watch and learn from him, and he'd lead me through things," Ethen said. "His example was a big help in high school, and it's a big help now."

Luke said while he sees it as his responsibility to help mentor all the Hawkeyes' young wrestlers, he acknowledged it's "a little different" with Ethen.

Luke praised his nephew's performance this season, and said Ethen had "gotten tough" and was better in every aspect of the sport than he was last year.

Brands said Ethen benefits from the guidance of his uncle.

"They definitely help each other, and there's a mentorship there," Brands said. "A lot of good comes from those relationships on the team."

While Luke may act as a mentor to his nephew, the 25-year-old senior is a respected elder to the whole team. He took a break two years ago to perform a Mormon mission, and he married last year.

That experience, Brands said, gave Luke the respect of his teammates.

"There's a lot of respect and reverence," Brands said. "He's almost like a grandpa, even though he's not even close to that age."

So which Lofthouse is the better wrestler? When asked, that competitiveness — which Luke said still extends to even board games — shines through.

"I'm obviously going to say me," Ethen Lofthouse said. "If you ask him, he's going to say himself."

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