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The Frias family name has become synonymous with Lakeland College wrestling.
The Frias brothers - Jake, Robby and Joel - are enjoying the thrills of wrestling and coaching together at Lakeland. It's not often that siblings have this opportunity, and the Frias brothers, all Oak Lawn Ill., natives and graduates of H.L. Richards High School, are grateful for the opportunity.
It started in 2006 when Jake, a 2010 Lakeland graduate and now a Lakeland assistant coach, decided to wrestle for Lakeland. He was going to walk-on at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, but remained on the radar of then-Lakeland Head Coach Pete Rogers.
"Lakeland was a small tight-knit community and Pete really recruited me," said Jake. "For years I was coming to camps at Lakeland. Pete took me under his wing."
Jake finished of one of the most prolific careers in Lakeland wrestling including one Northern Wrestling Association championship, a three time NWA runner-up and 103 career victories. He ranks second in career victories and takedowns and is now relaying that success to his brothers and their teammates.
Jake was instrumental in getting Robby and Joel to transfer to Lakeland. Jake was the consummate big brother, calling and texting both several times a week, and that constant contact kept the three close, paving the way for a reunion at Lakeland.
Robby, a junior this season, started his college wrestling career at Illinois State University competing in club wrestling as a freshman, but he found the competition lacking.
"I was doing great in school, but something was missing," Robby said. "Illinois State was a big school and I didn't have the opportunity to play a leadership role like I do at Lakeland. Jake always encouraged me to come to Lakeland and he played a big role in making the transition happen."
Joel, a sophomore this season, attended Elmhurst College for a year, and after some academic and personal struggles, Jake convinced him that Lakeland would be a better fit.
"Jake is part of the reason why I am here," said Joel. "Jake was constantly telling me there was a spot at Lakeland for me."
Robby and Joel benefit from having their brother as one of their coaches. The two can depend on Jake for getting in extra workouts and helping them focus mentally. Jake isn't afraid to tell his brothers where they need to improve on and off the mat, but with that comes the challenge of balancing coaching and being the big brother.
"It's different," said Jake. "I have to combine the fact that I am a coach as well as a big brother and I can't play favorites."
The Frias brothers cherish the role of family when it comes to school and wrestling. Growing up in the Frias household was rough, especially in high school when all three would be cutting weight at the same time.
"We feel really bad for our mom now," Jake said. "Our parents were always supportive and expected a lot out of us."
And when the Frias brothers brought home their report cards, they knew that three A's and an AB aren't good enough for their parents. Instead, their father is always telling them they can do better.
"Our parents were really hard on us about grades when we were growing up," said Jake. "Dad was constantly on us about grades and we would whine and complain, but in hindsight it helped us tremendously for academic scholarships. If it wasn't for him, I don't think I would have been an Academic All-America."
Jake and Robby started wrestling when they were in first grade and kindergarten, respectively. In fact, Jake was going to play indoor soccer until he went to one of Robby's wrestling practices. The rest, he said, was history.
Robby and Joel both believe Jake would have the decision in a wrestling match against them today. They all credit their hard work and willpower as reasons for success on and off the mat, along with the bond that comes from family.