Cesar and Eric Grajales are two tough kids. The brothers, now 12 and 8, are national Amateur Athletic Union wrestling champions who started learning the sport with their dad and each other on the living room carpet, way back when the boys were still in diapers.
Both started competing at age 5.
In the AAU Grand National Championships in Bakersfield, Calif., last summer, Cesar won the Novice Class 70-pound title in Greco-Roman style wrestling by defeating the defending champ. He also placed third nationally in the freestyle competition.
Eric won U.S. National championships in both styles of the sport for the Bantam Class at 45 pounds. He was only 7 when he captured two gold medals; he placed second in national meets when he was 5 and 6.
"Wrestling has been a part of my family's activities since I can remember," Cesar says. "My dad was part of a state championship team at Brandon. My cousin, my age, was second in the national meet.
"It helps me to have confidence to know I can always defend myself, and my friends seem to respect me for how much work I put into it and for what I have accomplished so far. The discipline in it makes me know how important it is to respect others, too," Cesar says. "That same discipline helps me in my studies. I study hard and make straight A's."
Cesar is a seventh-grader at Bay Point Middle School. Eric is a third-grader at Maximo Elementary. Both say their favorite subject is math.
During the season, from late February to July, the two young athletes train five and sometime six days a week. They work out with the Brandon Wrestling Club for three hours two days a week and with the Countryside Club a day or two, and run 2 or 3 miles on the days they're not working out.
"I really enjoy wrestling because it is something I can do with both my dad and brother, and so far I have done pretty good at it," Cesar says. "I don't mind working out so long and driving far to train and compete. I even get to pump some weights sometimes. I don't like running, though. It is needed so I don't get tired in a long match, but I get tired running."
Each brother has won more than 100 matches each season and has walls and drawers loaded with medals, ribbons and certificates as proof.
Wrestling has a language all its own, and the Grajales brothers speak it well.
Cesar's most successful move to put an opponent on the mat has been the arm throw. "He also has a lot of speed and quickness," says dad Cesar Grajales Sr. "They both do."
Cesar also likes to use the double leg takedown, which looks like a football tackle. The attacker wraps up both legs of his opponent and twists him around and down to the mat.
"My favorite pinning combination is the cradle," Cesar says.
With the cradle, a wrestler locks up one of the opponent's legs and arms and rocks him over on his back.
Eric's favorite takedown move is also his favorite pinning maneuver.
"I like the head throw for both," Eric said. "At least it works pretty good for me now."
A wrestler gets an opponent into head throw position by locking one arm around the back of the neck and holding his wrist with his free hand, then executes a hip throw to bring his opponent to the mat. By holding an opponent in the head lock, a pin can often be scored.
The technical term for a pin is scoring a fall, which means that both of an opponent's shoulders are pinned to the mat. When holding an opponent on his back for three seconds without pinning his shoulders, a wrestler scores a near-fall.
As a member of the 1982 Brandon High School state championship wrestling team, the boys' father became part of national and now international high school wrestling history.
Not only did the Brandon team win 11 state wrestling championships, more than any other team in Florida, but the Eagles hold the national and international record of consecutive high school wrestling wins.
The Brandon team has gone 25 years without a dual match loss.
Yet no child of any of the streak wrestlers has ever been on the team.
"I am proud of being part of the "streak' and national history and I hope my sons will be on that team in high school," the senior Grajales said. "My sister and other family members live in Brandon and we will move back there when the boys start high school."
Both boys go to matches with their cousins and cheer for the Eagles.
"If they stay undefeated for another two years, I may be able to be part of history, like my dad," Cesar says. "That sure would be special."