Prep pulse: July 23, 2018

Prep pulse: July 23, 2018

When Luke Luffman captured his second consecutive Class 2A 220-pound championship at the IHSA state wrestling meet last February, it definitely felt like the sky was the limit for the Urbana rising senior and University of Illinois grappling commit.

He's proven that to be the case this summer, expanding his reputation on both the national and international stages.

After collecting a seventh-place display in the 110-kilogram Greco-Roman cadet competition at the United World Wrestling World Championships to kick off July, Luffman produced an even stronger display at the Cadet/Junior National Championships over the last two weeks.

The easygoing, but hardworking Tiger first defeated all comers in the 220-pound freestyle junior division to earn the winner's trophy. He followed that up by securing a runner-up finish in the 220 Greco-Roman junior event.

Let's first trace back to the worldwide event, which was held July 2-8 in Zagreb, Croatia. Flights from Chicago's Midway International Airport to Zagreb run at a minimum of 14 hours. So this was a serious commitment for Luffman.

He began his representation of the United States by knocking off Greece's Nikolaos Ntounias via fall. But in the quarterfinal round, the Czech Republic's Marcel Albini ousted Luffman from the tournament.

Luffman had a longer stay in both of his national tournament events, which were contested in Fargo, N.D. Both his success and his shortcoming came against a familiar face to fans of the Illinois prep grappling scene.

Jace Punke, a rising senior at Washington, met Luffman in the finale of both the 220 junior freestyle and Greco-Roman showcases. Both guys were coming off an IHSA state tournament triumph earlier this year, with Punke's coming at 2A 285 pounds.

Punke garnered the top overall seed in the junior 220 freestyle bracket, but Luffman took him down via a 4-2 decision in the title bout Tuesday.

Luffman then was seeded first in the junior 220 Greco-Roman division, but Punke returned the favor by snagging this championship on Friday.

So what's left for Luffman before he moves on to Jim Heffernan's Illini program? A third consecutive state victory in 2019 would be quite the capper.

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