Griffith's Jose and Angel Escobedo and Andrae Hernandez, Lake Central's Michael Escobedo and Bishop Noll's Daniel Bedoy have something else in common: legitimate shots at bringing home state titles.

It's a handshake that brings a family together.

For Griffith's Jose and Angel Escobedo and Andrae Hernandez, Lake Central's Michael Escobedo and Bishop Noll's Daniel Bedoy, it's a tribute to their uncle, Pelos Escobedo.

Whether they're together at postseason tournaments or wrestling in their grandparents' garage, these five cousins pay their respects to Pelos, who was killed in a car accident in 1995 at the age of 26.

"We put our hands together, then we say Uncle Pelos' name, then we pull our hands out and pretend that we're rolling dice," said Bedoy, a senior who is ranked No. 2 in the state at 160 pounds. "We just roll (our hands) and see what happens. We always know Pelos is watching, and we put it in God's hands or fate's hands to see what happens. It's a symbolism that we thought out.

"When we were younger, he'd always be there."

Pelos Escobedo loved wrestling and wanted his nephews to love it even more. He was the one who would journey to tournaments and clinics with Michael Escobedo Jr., Michael's father, and David Escobedo, another brother in the wrestling family.

David doesn't have any kids, but treats his nephews as such. He was there from the beginning, and has been instrumental in the process of developing these high school standouts, especially after Pelos passed away.

"We wouldn't have been able to do it without David. He devoted himself to our kids, because he didn't have any of his own," said sister Josephine Hernandez, mother of Griffith's Andrae Hernandez, the state's No. 2-ranked 125-pounder at 52-0. "He sacrificed a lot for the boys and just kept with it. Traveling around the country isn't cheap, and (it) takes a lot of time and money. He'd help with hotel rooms, tournament fees and transportation.

"If it wasn't for him, I don't think any of the children would have had the opportunity."

David, a self-employed heating and cooling specialist, is single and able to make those sacrifices for his nephews.

"It's easy for me now with Angel in high school," said David, referring to the undefeated 112-pound Griffith freshman. "It's like a homecoming with Angel in high school and Daniel (Bedoy) being healthy. It's like being back together again, like it was when they were all little."

Bedoy, who missed his entire junior season at Noll because of a knee injury, has a shot at the 160 state title. Senior Michael Escobedo, the defending 145-pound state champ, is ranked No. 1 at 152 and can become the first wrestler in Lake Central history to win back-to-back state titles.

Jose, known as "Keque" to all, is a Griffith sophomore who was seventh at state at 103 pounds a season ago.

Angel, a freshman 112-pounder, is 51-0 on the season, and Andrae Hernandez, who was fourth at state at 125 last season, is the brother of former Bishop Noll standout Rene Hernandez, who now wrestles for Purdue.

Heading into Saturday's Merrillville Semistate, the five cousins have combined for a 206-1 record this season.

We are family

Pelos was the last of nine children of Michael Escobedo Sr. and wife, Apalonia. All the children attended West Side.

Michael and Apalonia purchased a home in Griffith, along with son-in-law Rene and daughter Josephine Hernandez. Living with them is Rene and Josephine's son, Andrae, along with Antonia Rodriguez (Angel's mom and Josephine's sister) and her sons Angel and Josh.

Jose is also there, under Michael Sr. and Apalonia's guardianship.

Ann Bedoy, Daniel's mother, is a single mother of three who lives in Hammond and got laid off last Friday from Allied Tube in Harvey. Daniel was especially close to Pelos, who was his mentor.

"When Danny was in fourth grade, the kids went to Indianapolis for (age group) competition, and he didn't place," Ann said. "With so much competitiveness in the family, it was hard on him. But Pelos had a special moment with Danny.

"Pelos asked for a medal down there and brought it back home and gave it to Danny. He told Danny it was an 'effort medal' and he told him that he would be a great wrestler when he got older. Four days later, (Pelos) passed away."

Daniel put those words to use. He turned into a great wrestler and, just before the start of the season, was rewarded a scholarship to Purdue, where he'll join Rene Hernandez next year.

Michael Escobedo Jr. has offers from plenty of Big Ten schools, as well as a full ride from Eastern Michigan on the table. Andrae, Jose and Angel, could be doing their thing at the D-1 level, too.

But first, they have a plan in mind.

Fab five

It's deep into the postseason and all five cousins are going to practice on a daily basis, then asking more of themselves afterwards. They meet over at the Escobedo-Hernandez household in Griffith at least two nights a week to get in some extra drills.

The jam box plays, the smiles and laughs come out, and everybody in the family pops in and out of the garage to check things out. They're all family. That's no secret, but showing love and affection is meant for the living room or kitchen, not the garage.

That's where the mat is.

A chart on the wall includes all five first names, plus a sixth, that of 9-year-old Josh. They go through drills and play wrestling games to earn points.

There's "The Foot Game" or "Toe-Tag Game," where you have to touch the other person's foot three times, a drill for shooting toward legs and another for most takedowns in the quickest time. You get one point for winning the whole game.

The winner gets a mark next to his name, and at the end of this season, whoever has the most marks will receive a present from Southlake Mall, courtesy of the other four. Angel and Michael are tied for the lead.

"Everybody tries their hardest because there's a lot of pride on the line," Angel said. "I know Michael gets fired up, because they always tease him that a freshman is hanging with him."

Right now, the bragging belongs to Michael, the only member of the bunch to have won a high school state title. However, there's plenty of other accolades they can throw back at one another.

"We brag about what we have," Jose said. "Michael had the first state title, I had the first national title, Angel was the first triple-crown champion (national champion in freestyle, folkstyle and Greco-Roman), Daniel was the first Cadet (National) champ and Andrae placed the highest at state as a freshman.

"We've all got something to bring to the table."

On Sundays, the extended family comes together for some quality time. They talk about what happened at the tournament the day before and enjoy each other's company.

Since the kids don't get to eat much on Thanksgiving and Christmas for fear of missing weight, and tournaments keep them away from home during Easter and the Fourth of July, Sundays take on a special meaning.

Five state titles might be too much to ask, but even a couple would be fine.

After all, this family has never been selfish.

Brian Waddle can be reached at bwaddle@howpubs.com or (219) 933-4191.

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