“I heard she was coming but that she was really nervous about it,” Pepple said. “She goes to see (Hayden) one week and then me the next. She gets to watch us both this Saturday.”
If it appears that Lee and Pepple aren't exactly on the same page, then it's because they haven't talked since the annual family Christmas get-together. From that point on, everyone in the family has ominously awaited Feb. 9. The families are close and so are Hayden and Garrett, who train together in the off-season.
Lee is 32-1 and a junior. He placed last year at the state finals.
Pepple is 37-0 and a sophomore who spent much of last year on the Knights' junior varsity squad.
And they have never faced each other outside of practice. Ever. The closest they came was earlier this year at the Garrett Tournament. Hayden didn't make weight.
“Hayden has always been in a bigger,” Pepple said.
“We're on the same team in the summer, so in the dual meets, we wrestle different weight classes,” Lee said.
Although they've never faced off with an actual match, they cousins see each other almost every day in the summer.
“We train together, sparring with each other, all summer long,” Lee said. “So we know each other pretty well.”
Pepple says he admires Lee's strength and ability to scramble; Lee says his cousin's work ethic and intensity are unmatched, except by him.
But the mutual admiration has stopped. Both vow that it won't be “just another wrestler” if they face off Saturday.
“He's not my cousin right now. He's just another wrestler,” Lee said.
“He's a great wrestler and all, but I'm wrestling for a championship and a great seed for state,” said Pepple.
As with the Harbaughs after the Super Bowl, it's going to be an uncomfortable embrace. And, it may even take a week to wear off, just in case they face each other again at state. But then, it should be back to normal.
“We are pretty close,” Lee said. “We may be cousins, but we are wrestling brothers.”Where: Allen County War Memorial Coliseum.
When: Saturday, first round at 9 a.m.
Who: Top four placers in each weight class from the Carroll, Jay County, Goshen and Peru Regionals.
What's at stake: The top four finishers in each weight class advance to the IHSAA Finals in Indianapolis on Feb. 15-16.
Top area entrants: East Noble's Connor Knapp (113), DeKalb's Zach Krumlauf (132), Carroll's Riley Lefever (170), Bellmont's Brad Busse and Bishop Dwenger's Ben Evans (182), Bishop Luers' Everett Green (195), Churubusco's Jason Nicodemus (220).