Four ex-Dodger wrestlers making history at UNI
CEDAR FALLS — Years of blood, sweat and tears have helped turn a local wrestling vision into what will become both reality and history on Sunday.
Four Fort Dodge Senior High graduates — Brody Teske, Drew Bennett, Triston Lara and Cayd Lara — will be on the mat for the University of Northern Iowa in this weekend’s season-opening triangular at South Dakota State University. The Panthers will take on South Dakota State at 2 p.m. and North Dakota State afterward in Brookings, S.D.
All four ex-Dodgers have been separately dreaming of an opportunity like this since they were old enough to put on a singlet. When their respective commitments to head coach Doug Schwab’s program became official — first Triston Lara in 2016, followed Bennett and Cayd Lara in 2017 and Teske last January — the possibility of it happening simultaneously emerged.
Once the 2021 lineup and schedule were publicly announced this past Sunday, a special feeling of achievement resonated with the new four horsemen of Fort Dodge and UNI wrestling. Their time together has arrived.
“It’s exciting to have the other Dodger guys around and really have that ‘home’ feeling again,” said Teske, a redshirt sophomore who will be at 125 pounds. “The day I transferred here (from Penn State University a year ago), we talked about doing it.
“It’s cool to actually have it happen and know the community of Fort Dodge is behind us.”
Bennett, also a redshirt sophomore and the Panthers’ 141-pounder, knows how unprecedented the moment will be. The city has never — in its long and storied athletic history — had four athletes competing together on the same squad at the Div. I level in any sport. The Dodger quartet is also believed to be Iowa’s first Div. I foursome from the same community on a single team’s wrestling card since Cornell College in both 1947 and ’49 (Waterloo West’s Dick Hauser, Leo Thomsen, Lowell Lange and Kent Lange).
“The fact that all four of us are in a starting lineup isn’t too surprising really. We’ve been chasing that dream since we all started together when we were four years old,” Bennett said. “We expected that of ourselves. But the fact that we’re all chasing this dream on the same team, together, is surreal.
“(Dodgers) are never out of the fight. We’re gritty, don’t care what people say about us, and we’ll bring all we’ve got every time. That’s how we were made in Fort Dodge. I can’t wait to represent Fort Dodge and UNI this season. It’s time for us to bring home some titles.”
Triston Lara, the elder statesman as a redshirt junior, will be at 149 pounds. He said the familiarity and support the four lifelong teammates offer each other “definitely adds motivation and fuel.”
“I’m super excited to be in the lineup with three of my brothers,” Lara said. “We’ve been wrestling together since we were little kids. We all hold each other accountable, and push each other just like we did growing up.
“The Fort Dodge community has been supporting us since we were very young. It definitely feels good to give back to them after all they’ve done, and bring some of the Red and Black east to Cedar Falls. Fort Dodge is such a tight-knit, family-oriented community…I know a lot of fans will travel to Cedar Falls and cheer us on when things get back to normal (post-COVID-19 pandemic).”
Cayd Lara, who is less than 18 months removed from an illness that suddenly had both his career and future hanging in the balance, fought back and will get the nod at 157 pounds.
“It’s awesome…feels almost like high school again,” said Lara, also a redshirt sophomore. “I don’t think there have ever been four guys from the same high school in a Div. I wrestling lineup. It’s going to make these road trips that much better. Just crazy — we’ve had an extremely close relationship since we were in diapers.
“The first thing Drew, Triston, and I talked about (was making the lineup together). When Teske transferred in, that made it even better. These next couple of years are going to be extremely special.”
The Laras are living together with teammate Jack Wagner in a house just off campus. Bennett rooms with FDSH graduates Tyrnan Lara and Kade Solverson, along with Panther wrestler Gable Fox. Teske transferred in mid-season from PSU last year and is living with a teammate from Georgia.
“(Making the lineup) was an expectation for myself. I never thought twice about it,” said Teske, the Dodgers’ only four-time high school state champion. “It’s just a part of going and getting what I want, which is to be on top of the podium in March.
“College wrestling has certainly prepared me for life. The uncertainty of what tomorrow brings and the hardships that this sport presents is just hardening me for the ‘real world.’ I have learned that hard work and a strong faith always win out. Always.”
Bennett has worked his way through injuries and frustration to reach this breakthrough moment.
“The biggest thing I realized once I got to UNI was how good people are at this level,” said Bennett, a 2018 state champ for the Dodgers. “The types of things that you learn once you get into a wrestling room at this level are endless. The different styles in wrestling and different personalities in people really help you grow.
“All of my teammates and coaches at UNI continue to help me improve in not only my wrestling, but in life as well. And for that, I’m truly blessed.”
Triston Lara agreed.
“Now into my redshirt junior year, I can say college wrestling is extremely tough. Everyone is tough,” said Lara, a gold medalist at FDSH in 2016 and ’17. “Nothing is ever handed to you.
“Honestly every day is a grind. Whether it’s actual competition or even practice, everyone pushes you.”
Cayd, Triston’s younger brother, isn’t taking a single second for granted as the historic convergence approaches.
“Wrestling is a tough sport. College wrestling is pretty much the pros,” said Cayd, who racked up 175 wins for the Dodgers — second all-time only to Teske. “There’s a small percentage of athletes that make in.
“Every day is a competition. There are no easy days. But I can’t be satisfied with just making the team if I want to accomplish my goals this year.”