Chris Lascari has tired of wrestling at certain points in his life. But the North Star junior could not imagine walking away from the sport.

“There are times when you hate it, but in the end, you always come back,” said Lascari, a 145-pounder who brings a 40-5 record into the Southwest Regional Tournament, which begins today at the Cambria County War Memorial Arena. “Personally, I can’t see myself not wrestling. It’s kind of part of me now.”

It seems to be a part of everyone in the Lascari family. After all, Chris and his three brothers have become synonymous with North Star wrestling during the past six years.

Between them they’ve combined for nearly 400 victories and the youngest has not yet set foot on a varsity mat. There is Sal, a 20-year-old redshirt freshman at Slippery Rock University; Tony, an 18-year-old senior; 16-year-old Chris; and 14-year old Joe, who is in eighth grade.

Sal set the District 5 record for career wins two years ago with 132.

Tony, a 130-pounder, broke that mark this year and brings 140 career victories into today’s action. Chris already has 107 and could break Tony’s record next season.

It would have been hard to imagine that kind of legacy when Sal first signed up for the sport 14 years ago. His father, “Big Sal,” as he is known, had qualified for the California state high school tournament and wrestled in junior college. When he and his wife, Paula, moved to Pennsylvania to be near her family, he signed the boys up for wrestling.

His oldest son found success quickly, reaching the Pennsylvania Junior Wrestling finals as a 9-year-old, and the desire to excel in the sport spread throughout out the family, all the way to Joe, who was then 4.

The family bought a wrestling mat and plopped it down in the middle of the living room.

Even though Big Sal was traveling increasing distances to take the boys to tournaments, they couldn’t get enough.

“They’d wrestle all day and then come home and have their own tournament,” he said.

Each tournament charges an entry fee and, as the costs began to mount, the father gave the boys a chance to back out.

“I was begging them, ‘Does anybody not want to wrestle this week?’ ” he recalled with a laugh. “But I could never get a ‘No.’ So, we’d pack up and take any kid that wanted to go.”

The Lascaris have helped take the North Star program to new heights. Last weekend, the Cougars captured their fourth straight District 5 tournament title. Coach Lou Lepley, who has been around for each of those victories, knows how much the family has meant to the team’s success.

“If you take any one of them out of the lineup, I don’t know if we win one district title, let alone four of them,” he said.

The oldest son, who will be looking for an East Regional championship and a berth in the NCAA Division I tournament this weekend at Gardner-Webb in Boiling Springs, N.C., won two individual district titles and three PIAA medals, including third in 2004.

Tony captured his second District 5 title last week and has placed twice at the state meet. But things weren’t always so easy. It was tough being “Sal’s younger brother.”

And it didn’t help that his other brothers were bringing home medals from state competitions.

“It was hard to see all three of my brothers make it to the PJW state finals,” Tony admitted.

His family also saw how tough times could be for him.

“We’d feel bad,” Big Sal said. “We’d have three first places and nothing. But he just stuck with it and now he’s pretty good.

“Right now, I think he has a better shot to win a state title than Sal did. And I never would have thought that.”

Chris, who goes by the nickname L.B. – short for Little Bear -- which he picked up in junior high for his ferocious attitude, won his first district championship last weekend, but he has his hopes set a little higher.

“I like district titles and all that,” he said last week, “but as I’ve said before, the gold medal is what you want at states.”

For all their similarities, Lepley sees plenty of individuality in the family.

“They all three have different personalities,” Lepley said. “Sal was always gung-ho about wrestling. He definitely was dedicated and a very hard worker.

Tony is more laid-back, carefree, go-about-my-business and gets the job done. Then you have Chris, who is a combination of the two. He is more vocal, like Sal, but can be laid-back also.”

And Lepley hasn’t even gotten to coach Joe yet, who already has won two state championships.

For now, Chris and Tony will take center stage.

”It’s been a long road,” Tony said. “My dad talks to us a lot about how it takes a lot to get where we are now. It takes a lot of time, a lot of traveling, and a lot of money. That’s what you’ve got to do I guess, start early and keep working.”



Eric Knopsnyder can be reached at 532-5080 or eknopsnyder@tribdem.com.

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