CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Waiting a year to get back on the mat is no longer the case for Luke Luffman. The 3-time state champion, and Urbana-native made his Illini debut earlier than expected.
“It’s kinda what people were mentioning,” says Luffman. “But to hear it and actually go through with it is completely different than speculating about it.”
After junior wrestler Brian Burns suffered an injury in the off-season, Luffman was needed as the Illini’s heavyweight competitor. The coaching staff decided they would forgo the initial plan to red-shirt Luffman.
“He got a big smile on his face, and shook my hand and said ‘I’m ready to do this.,'” says head coach Jim Heffernan. “He handled it just like I thought he would, like a champ, and was ready to move on and is ready to do something great for the team.”
“It’s kinda nice to know they have faith in me, and they trusted me to get the job done,” says Luffman.
Luffman was put to the test early, in just the third meet of the season. Against No. 13 Missouri, it came down to the wire in heavyweight bout with the Illini trailing 16-14. Luffman was able to secure six points, and give the Illini the win.
“It was a win or lose situation for the team,” says Heffernan. “So at the end of the day it showed a lot of composure, a lot of maturity, and a lot of experience.”
“It definitely was a little nerve wracking, just getting put into that spot, but the training put my body and my mind in the right place to get the job done,” says Luffman.
So far, Luffman hasn’t lost a match to start his freshman campaign. The next meet for Luffman is on Friday night, it’ll be his first time competing in Champaign since winning his third state championship back in February.
The Orange and Blue make their debut at Huff Hall Friday, December 6th, at 7:00 P.M. against Northern Illinois University.