Urbana senior, future Illini becomes first C-U grappler to claim trio of state titles

Urbana senior, future Illini becomes first C-U grappler to claim trio of state titles

CHAMPAIGN — Luke Luffman had sweated up a storm under his black and orange Urbana jacket.

Luffman's upper body was soaked following Saturday night's Class 2A 285-pound state-championship wrestling match inside State Farm Center. His skin needed to breathe.

But Luffman also was required to wear a piece of Tigers gear if he wished to accept his third consecutive first-place medal.

He obliged.

After a bevy of photos taken by family and friends, the Urbana senior hopped off the podium and hastily removed his jacket.

This revealed a gray T-shirt bearing the phrase "University of Illinois wrestling" — Luffman's next stop on his grappling journey that reached even greater heights on Saturday.

There was still some time to live in the past, though, and take in a monumental accomplishment.

"That's the same jacket I wore on the podium for freshman year, sophomore year, junior year, senior year," Luffman mused. "I wore the same four singlet all four years (too). It's going to be hard to turn those in."

Luffman rocked out in his longtime equipment one last time, piling up 11 points on Westville/Georgetown-Ridge Farm sophomore Hayden Copass before pinning him in the second period.

It made Luffman the first three-time prep wrestling titlist in Champaign-Urbana history, winning his previous two 2A crowns at 220. It was the perfect cap to a perfect season, with Luffman compiling a 33-0 record as a senior.

"I believed (I could win three), but I'm going to say not a whole lot of other people believed it," Luffman said. "I just continue to progress and try to sharpen up my skills."

A chorus of "Luuuuke" rained down on the decorated athlete after Luffman rolled over Copass to defeat his younger counterpart for the fourth time this campaign.

That tally accounts for all four of Copass' losses on the entire season for the promising sophomore. It's not a condemnation of Copass — Luffman just proved he's a unique and dominants talent.

"I figured that if I scored a lot of points, he would kind of say 'Screw it' and I could pin him," Luffman said. "So I was just trying to put points up and hope for the best."

Luffman's best was more than enough yet again.

He didn't lose across his last two years at Urbana and concluded with a 15-2 ledger at the state meet in his prep career.

"It was just great to come out here and just get it done in my last match, in front of a good crowd," Luffman said. "Just an overall good time."

One aspect Luffman wondered about heading into Saturday was how the finality of this state series might affect him.

Turns out he didn't experience much in that regard, but he doesn't expect that to last forever.

"I'll bet you it hits me in about three days," Luffman said, "when I'm like, 'Yeah, I'm going to go to wrestling (practice). Oh, no, I'm not going to go to wrestling practice at the school anymore.'"

Luffman figures he'll spend his spare time lifting weights before he graduates in a few months.

Then, it's on to making himself an integral part of coach Jim Heffernan's vaunted Illini program.

For now, Luffman remains a Tiger, even if this triumph against Copass ended Luffman's prep tenure.

He isn't quite ready — at least not mentally — to give up his Urbana roots just yet.

"I have lots of memories and lots of wins and lots of good times with family, lots of good times with my coaches," Luffman said. "Just going to be sad when I have to turn (my gear) back in."