Wrestling champ leans on faith, family
Having just completed 8th grade at Holy Rosary Academy in Anchorage, Lucas’ success on the mat is a continuation of his wrestling dominance the past five years in Alaska.
Lucas recently traveled to Virginia Beach to compete with wrestlers from all over the country, many of whom came from large schools with excellent coaching and training opportunities. In three days he took down nearly two dozen contenders in his age and weight class to win the national title in the 127-pound division.
Described by Holy Rosary Academy principal, Catherine Neumayr as a “humble young man,” his soft-spoken demeanor belies a confidence and self-assurance that is the result of years of dedication and focus on his sport. Lucas exhibits none of the arrogance that sometimes accompanies such athletic success, Neumayr said.
His mother, Ursula Lucas, who is originally from Pilot Station, said her son started wrestling somewhat by accident. One day she had taken him to watch his older sister, Sarah, play soccer at Anchorage Christian School. There they saw some youngsters practicing wrestling at the same facility. A natural affinity for the sport came from his father, Michael, who wrestled competitively in high school and college in Ohio.
He was in second grade at the time and, as his mother described him, “a little shy.” As he began wrestling, she attended every one of his matches, which gave him a sense of security. She noticed early on that practicing made him stronger.
“I would see him opening up with the other boys his age,” she said. “As he grew older he worked into winning ways and learned to work hard.”
But for Lucas, the road to becoming a national champ entailed more than hard work and persistence. It was partially the result of the supportive community he found at Holy Rosary Academy. Educators, students and families associated with the school helped him see the value of dedication, good sportsmanship and respect. He said that despite the small size of Holy Rosary, he feels grounded in the schools positive Catholic environment.
As Lucas enters high school, he and his parents are aware of opportunities that could be afforded him at larger public schools, but Lucas is happy where he is.
“I don’t know anything else,” he said of Holy Rosary Academy, where he has been since kindergarten. Despite the K-12th grade school’s small student population and some logistical challenges, it plans to launch a new wrestling program in the fall. It will be in full compliance with the Alaska Student Athletic Association, enabling the academy to compete with schools of similar size.
While that might seem an advantage to compete with wrestlers of similar means, Lucas has no intention of slacking in either his training or his spiritual and mental fitness. He continues to practice with his peers and works on his conditioning twice a week at East High School’s open gym. In addition he runs track and cycles. His family attends Saint Patrick Church where the children participate in faith formation.
Lucas notes that his faith forms a natural part of his routine before a big match.
“I’ll pray and ask God to help me perform to my best, and thank God afterward,” he said.
Years of repeating this pattern have carried him through hundreds of matches, including the inevitable defeats.
“It builds tons of character,” his father observed.
Lucas notes how wrestling also has shown him how anything less than a single-minded pursuit of excellence can result in defeat.
“If I’m not in the gym, I know the next guy I wrestle probably is,” he said.
His parents note that Lucas’ dedication to staying in championship form has helped keep him from the distractions and the darkness that sometimes beset young men of his age. As his mother said, “He doesn’t have time to get in trouble.”
Beyond an example of what persistent pursuit of a goal can achieve, Lucas also is a role model and an inspiration to both younger and older wrestlers.
Lucas, who is part Alaska Native, travels around the state and nation, meeting competitors of diverse backgrounds and ethnicities. But wherever he goes, he is simply regarded as an exceptional sportsman. According to his father, “If an Alaskan kid does well the whole wrestling community is fired up about it.”
Competing at the middle school level, Lucas won Western regionals and took second place in Alaska state championships last year, a competition that drew over 1,000 wrestlers. He also won the prestigious Triple Crown, defeating 22 contenders in the three different styles of wrestling: Freestyle, Greco-Roman and Folkstyle.
Not one to rest on his laurels, Lucas looks forward to the launch of the competitive wrestling program at Holy Rosary, hoping upon graduation from high school, to win a scholarship to attend one of several colleges known for exceptional wrestling teams. His father admits to entertaining thoughts his son might one day compete in the Olympics. Lucas’ dreams are more humble.
“I’ll probably go to whatever college accepts me,” he said.
When he began this journey that has led to star status in the prep wrestling world, seven-year-old Lucas would barely leave his mother’s side. She now sees a confident young man, who takes a lot of pride in his sport and consistently performs well.
“He’s really doing very well with it,” she said.
In recalling that first day at Anchorage Christian School she thought wrestling might simply be a fun activity for Lucas — something he could do while his sister played soccer.
“I really wasn’t expecting him to win,” she admitted.