Wrestling A Family Affair For Lamottes

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Growing up in Bridgeport, Ohio, Jeff and Matt LaMotte's second home was the wrestling room at the local high school.

"That was our lifestyle -- that's what we did -- and thankfully my wife (Vicki) was always very supportive," said the boys' father, Dave LaMotte, now a wrestling coach at Payson High School.

The sport's heritage in Matt and Jeff runs deep. Their father has built a career as a successful wrestling coach and was a collegiate champion at West Liberty State, a Midwestern hotbed of wrestling.

But even before he accepted a wrestling scholarship to West Liberty, LaMotte's competitive juices were flowing. In the small Ohio town where he was raised, sports competition was second nature for most every young boy. No video games, no movies on the VCR -- sports was the crowning interest of most.

Part of the reason for the attraction to athletics was the blue-collar work ethic instilled in the boys by their parents.

Seeing their father's labor to put food on the family table, there were few slackers among the town's boys.

Another reason the youngsters flocked to athletics were the sports heroes they had in their midst-- NBA Hall of Famer John Hlavacek was raised near coach LaMotte's boyhood home. So were professional baseball players Phil and Joe Niekro and former Olympic and Arizona State University wrestling coach Bobby Douglas, now of Iowa State.

"Bobby was a legend. We had a lot of great athletes there and we wanted to be like them," coach LaMotte said.

In raising their two sons through their formative pre-teen years, LaMotte and his wife were careful not to force Jeff and Matt into sports. "They kind of took it upon themselves," coach LaMotte said.

Once the pair chose to become wrestlers in elementary school, the parents turned into their biggest supporters, providing guidance at every turn.

But, coach LaMotte admits, they were some rough times.

"Sometimes when I was coaching (the boys) I might have been little bit tougher on them than the other kids (on the team)," he said.

There also was the parental and coaching challenge of having to motivate the two boys differently because they had different temperaments.

"I always say it (coaching your sons) is a bigger learning experience for the adults than it is for the kids," Dave LaMotte said.

Through ups and downs, Jeff and Matt continued through their wrestling careers, winning state championships -- Jeff at Payson High School and Matt at Gilbert High.

Today, they are starting members of the Phoenix College Bears team.

Last week, both traveled to the National Junior College Athletic Association Championships in Rochester, Mich. To compete there, the brothers had to qualify at an earlier regional championship held in Yuma.

In the 149-pound competition, 18-year-old Jeff came up short, losing two opening matches. "He's young. I think he was a little in awe of the surroundings," coach LaMotte said.

Matt, a 23-year-old ex-Marine who served two tours of duty in Saudi Arabia, won two matches before losing a 7-5 overtime heartbreaker to a wrestler who went onto the championship round.

The brothers have since returned to Arizona and will continue their studies at Phoenix College.

Plans are for them to return to the Phoenix College team next year and hope to do well enough to earn a wrestling scholarship to a four-year college.

Coach LaMotte says he and his wife are extremely proud of what the two boys have accomplished on and off the mat.

The sons opting to follow in their father's footsteps is a special treat for both parents, but it was the boys' choice early on.

Coach LaMotte said he believes he knows the reason the boys took to wrestling: "That's just what happens when kids hang around the wrestling room for so long."

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