Luffman continues quest for three-peat

Luffman continues quest for three-peat

MAHOMET — Luke Luffman furiously flipped through a deck of playing cards in a corner of the Mahomet-Seymour gymnasium on Saturday afternoon.

The Urbana senior wrestler already secured his spot in a Class 2A sectional championship match, slated for later that day.

Just another step in attempting to become a three-time state champion — though for the first time at 285 pounds after previously competing at 220.

So what game was Luffman playing to keep himself busy while wrestlebacks occurred on a pair of mats to his left?

"I was showing my coach magic tricks I've been working on," Luffman said with a smile. "I know it's kind of weird, but I've just been trying to ... keep things light."

What Luffman pulled off a few hours later certainly wasn't magic.

The future Illinois grappler is just good at his sport.

Luffman pinned Georgetown-Ridge Farm/Westville sophomore Hayden Copass in the second period of their first-place bout to head into next Thursday's state meet with another postseason title under his belt.

"He's a real tough kid," said Luffman, who topped Copass for the third time this campaign. "It's nice to know I'm doing the right things at the right times."

Even though Copass has plenty of high school left, he's Illinois MatMen's third-rated heavyweight in Class 2A. Luffman wasn't facing an underexperienced newcomer.

But the crafty veteran used a quickness that would make 120-pounders blush in making life difficult for the taller Copass.

"That's pretty much all I've been focusing on," Luffman said. "I've been working on my footwork, just making sure I'm able to outquick (the opposition)."

Luffman was one of three local stars to not only top a sectional podium, but also suit up for an all-area championship match.

Danville's Anthony Turner and Centennial's Cam Nesbitt squared off with Rantoul/Paxton-Buckley-Loda's Peter McCusker and Champaign Central's Dalton Hall, respectively, and came away triumphant.

Both of those wins, however, arrived in a much different fashion than Luffman's.

The 145-pound senior Turner needed three injury stoppages to get through a 5-3 decision in his fourth meeting of the season versus McCusker.

The timeouts were caused by Turner's bloody nose. It's common to see this issue on the mats, but Turner is more acclimated to it than many of his contemporaries.

"I've got low white blood cells and low iron, so my nose just bleeds all the time," Turner said. "I think I lost 2 1 / 2 pounds of blood the other day. I was lightheaded and everything."

Making matters worse for Turner this time around was his general health.

"I was sick (for the last four days)," he said. "Everybody just keeps feeding me medicine and energy drinks, and it's all coming down at the same time."

Being the only Viking heading to State Farm Center on Thursday, Turner has even more motivation to fare well on the big stage.

"For my teammates next year, I'm always going to be family," Turner said. "They're going to have a role to step up to, so I feel like that's going to make everybody else hungrier."

The 160-pound senior Nesbitt stunned previously-unbeaten Hall with a takedown in their match's final 10 seconds.

That alone would've been enough for a 3-1 decision, but Nesbitt doubled down and earned a pinfall right as the final horn sounded.

"He was tired. He just didn't want to wrestle anymore," Nesbitt said of Hall, who defeated Nesbitt in the regional round. "So I just took that into my head and pulled it off."

Nesbitt said he executed a body lock on Hall before popping his hips and sending Hall to the ground.

The Charger was one of three on his squad to wrestle in a title match Saturday, though pals Cajaun Johnson and Dontaice Roberson fell short at 106 and 170, respectively.

Still, that Centennial has three chances to follow up on 2018 graduate Justin Cardani's multiple state-championship career is significant for the program.

"We had some ups and downs this season," Nesbitt said. "But we all told each other at practice last Thursday we were going to pull it off."