Luffman sets pace for freshman season


Photo courtesy of Illini athletics

Freshman Luke Luffman points out to the crowd after defeating Missouri’s Rodrigo Diaz at Francis Howell High School in St. Louis on Nov. 14.

By Andrew Medina, Contributing Writer

Luke Luffman’s freshman campaign has taken off this season.

Luffman began wrestling at seven-years-old when a wrestling coach spotted him at his brother’s football practice. The coach encouraged Luffman to take up wrestling. And, soon after joining, Luffman dominated the wrestling mat, eventually winning three state championships.

“I was always a super active kid so it was a way for me to get all my energy out,” Luffman said. 

Luffman didn’t realize he had the potential to be a wrestler at the Division I level, but always knew he wanted to be one. Luffman worked hard throughout his high school wrestling career and quickly found success, registering a 33-0 record his senior year and winning a state championship. But winning wasn’t the only goal Luffman had during his early career, instead, he said he focused on improving his skills. 

“I was less focused about results and future aspirations and just more about wrestling the best I could,” Luffman said. 

Luffman said he’s always tried to keep competitions light-hearted, even before matches, since high school. His perspective has allowed Luffman to stay composed at the college level.

“It’s a little more challenging because the pressure of these duals are a little higher but I’m still trying to keep it light, keep it fresh, and just keep it to where I’m wrestling at my best,” Luffman said.

Luffman said his light-hearted attitude has made a difference in his results and said his easy-going demeanor lends itself to a more relaxing atmosphere. His positive attitude is present during practices, especially before when Luffman’s teammates are playing games and goofing around. Luffman even got up to kick an approaching ball back into the game his teammates were playing while being interviewed. He said practices fly by because of how much fun they’re having. 

Although there’s an element of fun, Luffman said college practices are much more demanding than in high school. But, he enjoys working hard and sees that his teammates aren’t afraid to push themselves.

“If I’m going to do something, I need to work to be the best at it,” Luffman says. “That’s just been my mentality with everything.” 

Hand-fighting, a skill that requires one wrestler to take control of another opponent’s hands to achieve a more dominant position, is clearly a more important aspect of college wrestling than it was in high school, according to Luffman.

“The hand fighting is just at a different level,” Luffman said. “Everybody is really good.”

Competing in college presents a significant change for some athletes, but Luffman hasn’t allowed new challenges to bother him. 

“It’s just focusing on scoring points and not overlooking anybody and just wrestling each match,” Luffman said.

Luffman’s mindset has served him well in his wrestling career and contributed a 7-0 record this season, so far.

Luffman hopes to keep improving his wrestling this year and is determined to do the best he can for himself and the Illini. 

“I just want to keep wrestling tough,” Luffman said. “If I keep focusing on those smaller things the big things will take care of themselves.”

Luffman said he’s always looking out for his teammates and aims to make them proud.

“I would say we are all super close as a team. Everybody has each other’s backs,” Luffman said. “It’s always nice to have that little tight-knit bond group that are there for each other.”

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