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Laras bring brotherhood to UNI wrestling

—Messenger file photo Fort Dodge brothers Triston Lara (left) and Cayd Lara (right) will be in the starting lineup for Northern Iowa on Sunday along with Dodger graduates Brody Teske and Drew Bennett.

CEDAR FALLS — Brothers Triston and Cayd Lara have leaned heavily on each other for physical and emotional support for as long as they both can remember.

There’s always a certain bond among siblings, but the Laras treat family like oxygen. That unconditional connection was instilled at an early age within both the Dodger wrestling program and the Fort Dodge community.

It’s a kinship they’ve continued to cultivate under head coach Doug Schwab at the University of Northern Iowa.

“Wrestling alongside Cayd is a dream come true,” said Triston, a two-time state champion at Fort Dodge and current redshirt junior for the Panthers. “Cayd and I have been going to battle together for years now. I love having him here.

“Cayd and I are pretty close in size now, so it’s awesome having a super tough workout partner that just happens to be my brother, too. He means a lot to me, so having him here definitely adds motivation and drives me to do better in everything: school, wrestling, or life in general.”

When UNI heads to South Dakota State on Sunday, the Panthers will feature four former Dodger standouts in their starting lineup: Triston and Cayd at 149 and 157 pounds, respectively, along with Brody Teske (125) and Drew Bennett (141). It will be the first time since 1949 that a quartet of wrestlers from the same Iowa community take the Div. I mat together as teammates.

“It’s pretty special,” said Cayd, a two-time high school state runner-up who ranks second on FDSH’s all-time charts for career victories. “Not many people get the opportunity to have a brother with them in college (as a roommate), let alone wrestle together.

“Triston pushes me to my limits and motivates me every day. Without him, I’m not even close to the person I am today.”

Landing a starting role with the Panthers is just the first step in the journey ahead, Triston insists.

“I’ not going to just settle on making the team or the slineup,” Triston said. “I’ve put a lot of time and hard work into the offseason and during quarantine. With the goals I’ve set for myself, this is just a small, small part of what’s to come. I’m working to be a 2021 NCAA All-American.”

Cayd, a redshirt sophomore who helped lead the Dodgers to the 2018 state championship, called this past year a “rollercoaster.” In addition to the highs and lows of being an underclassman in a major-college program, Cayd faced an uncertain future in the summer of 2019 when he suffered a sickle-cell attack in Colorado that landed him in the hospital for close to a full month.

“There is still work to be done. I can’t be satisfied with just making the team if I want to accomplish my goals this year,” said Cayd, who hasn’t seen official live action in 21 months. “Also, it just goes to show anything is possible. A year and five months ago, I didn’t even know if I would ever put a singlet back on. Heck, with how I felt, I didn’t even know if I would make it to the next day.

“I’m extremely blessed just to be here.”

The family environment made UNI a perfect fit for the Laras.

“I love wrestling for Coach Schwab,” Triston said. “He fires me up. I’d run through a brick wall for that man. All of the coaches at UNI care about you and really make UNI feel like home.

“The coaches really remind me of (FDSH head) Coach (Bobby) Thompson and (Dodger assistant) Tanner Utley. Overall, I love being a Panther and representing UNI.”

Cayd agreed.

“I wouldn’t want to compete for any other coach in the country. And off the mat, Coach Schwab’s goal when it’s all said and done is for his athletes to be the best they can be. The best son, brother, dad, worker, etc. That’s what makes this so special to me, and why I love it here at The University of Northern Iowa.”

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