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Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Wrestling cousins, from left, Luers’ Sam Lovejoy, Garrett’s Hayden Lee, East Noble’s Garrett Pepple.

Wrestling tradition

Cousins from Luers, Garrett and East Noble carry legacy

– The best motivation for a wrestler can oftentimes come from his family.

Garrett junior Hayden Lee (No. 2 at 106 pounds), East Noble sophomore Garrett Pepple (No. 8 at 106) and Bishop Luers’ Sam Lovejoy (No. 16 at 126) are all ranked in the top 16 in the state and share similar bloodlines.

“We are all family, and we are all some of the best wrestlers in northeast Indiana,” Lee said.

Technically, Pepple is a cousin to Lee and Lovejoy separately, but the three consider themselves cousins. And Lee and Pepple, wrestling in the same weight class, could face off in some tournaments and in the postseason.

“Every time Garrett and I go, it is always at each other,” Lee said. “When we wrestle, it is like we are brothers. We are pushing each other to get better. He’s got someone to go after, and that’s what is always pushing me because I have to stay fresh at the top (of the semistate). Everybody is gunning for me, even in my own family.”

Although none of their fathers were wrestlers, the cousins got into the sport because of other relatives.

“It is nice to have other people in the family who wrestle and share stories and things that are going on,” Pepple said. “It is someone to work out with in the summer. We are always pushing each other.”

Lee and Lovejoy followed their brothers, with Josh Lovejoy (2001) and Tony Lovejoy (2010) also wrestling at Luers and Logan Lee (2011) at Garrett. Tony Lovejoy earned state medals with seventh-, fifth- and third-place finishes. Hayden Lee (third place) and Sam Lovejoy were state qualifiers last season.

“Tony was always beating up on me growing up,” Sam Lovejoy said. “That’s where I got a lot of my toughness. We will scramble for what feels like forever, but it might be 10-15 seconds. We will do it again in the two-minute live drill, and we will cover the whole mat.

“My oldest brother (Josh) started to do it, and he kind of picked it up, and he was pretty good for Luers. And then, my brother (Tony) really stepped up and did it hard and the expectations went on my shoulders. It is about becoming the best wrestler I can.”

Kevin Lovejoy, Sam’s father, figured there have been about 500 career wins among the six cousins.

And when they are in the need of a good offseason practice session or workout, the three can venture to the Pepple’s two-year old wrestling room/workout center in the family’s garage just south of Kendallville.

“I can come out every night and just drill and work out and get good cardio in during the season,” Garrett Pepple said. “It helps out.”

Pepple’s father, Brett, built the 800-square-foot facility. It has three smaller mats and a wrestling partner/take-down machine named “Bill” and is painted in East Noble’s blue, gold and white school colors.

“To get to the highest level, these kids have to commit themselves to working hard,” Brett Pepple said of the facility. “The more you do outside of the high school room during the summer and offseason, the more success you will have.”