Luczak clinches bronze at CIS national championships
Cougars athletes bring home some hardware
During the last weekend of February, the nation’s best wrestlers assembled in Edmonton to see who would claim the title in each division. Third-year Jacob Luczak was part of the University of Regina’s team, and was one of two Cougars to medal at the event, along with Kayla Brodner, with each of them bringing home a bronze and silver, respectively.
Thunder Bay native Luczak’s journey towards a CIS podium started early, beginning with another combative sport: judo. Starting at the age of six he, as well as his brother, would compete in the sport. As Luczak’s brother’s high school years began, wrestling presented itself as a good cross-training tool, one that eventually led the younger brother to train with his high school team at an earlier-than-normal age. This was due, in part to, the school’s coach, says Luczak.
“The coach actually had [his brother] bring me out when I was in grade seven to the high school practices, so I’d ride the bus and I went and trained with them… so I’d been training with the high school for two years prior to actually being in high school.”
Having progressed through the high school ranks, it eventually came time to pick where to continue his wrestling career, and Luczak decided to head west.
The transition to the CIS level is daunting to most, but it was one that this particular wrestler navigated with relative ease, placing third in his first ever university competition. Luczak puts this down to his mentality coming in.
“I’d been competitive in combative (sic) sports since I was six years old. I was mature, so I understood [that] if I’m going to compete at a certain level I have to bring myself mentally to that maturity level.”
The Cougars aren’t just succeeding on the mat, but on the track as well! Check out our coverage of the Cougars at the Canada West Championships last week.
Indeed, it this level of mental fortitude that helped push him towards his success this season. He sums up his approach this way:
“I don’t really count my wins and losses anymore. I just wanna go wrestle that tough match and put everything I have in it.”
However, it is not just mental preparation that has impacted the bronze medalist’s season, but also the team’s regular trips to the United States to face consistently stiff competition.
In fact, the Cougars participated in almost as many state-side events as they did Canadian competitions, an approach that Luczak says helps him once he returns to Canadian soil.
“I come back with a confidence of saying, ‘I look at all these Canadian guys and in CanWest and say none of these guys are any tougher that that guy I had a match with two weeks ago. I’m wrestling two three-minute rounds here, I wrestled for seven minutes straight [there]. Kind of in your mind you have a mental edge, you’re thinking ‘oh, this is a cakewalk.’”
Jacob goes on to say that it is the increased level of difficulty that contributes to his confidence boost.
“You’re not going to go down there and have a match that’s easy. In Canada, sometimes you get away with, you know, a good draw or something, but there, maybe [their] skill level isn’t vastly better than us. But, it’s the level of just physicality and toughness that they have in the U.S. that gets you trained to wrestling tough and wrestling hard.”
All of this prepared Luczak well for CIS regular season, and the post season, during which he medaled at the Canada West Championships before moving on to the CIS competition. Again, mental approach was pivotal.
“CIS championships were exciting. I went in, I was really calm, really, really calm, and I didn’t have to cut any weight or anything, so I didn’t really care. I put no care into wins and losses because it was my last tournament I just said I’m leaving it all out there. Ultimately, in my opinion, there are only two things you can ever be scared of, and it’s losing or getting hurt and, logically, I just worked it out in my head that if you’re scared of those two things, the only way you can avoid them is to just wrestle calmly and cleanly, and to wrestle as hard as you possibly can. Go out ready for war every time.”
Did I mention that he did all of this on a sprained ankle? An injury that relegated his foot to what he calls “a block at the end of my leg.”
Luczak makes no excuses.
“I definitely don’t blame anything on it. I don’t make excuses for myself. It was a circumstance I was in and I just tried to deal with it, but I can definitely say it affected me.”
It was an injury that almost barred him from competing, a situation he faced last year after sustaining a concussion. This, however, was not something he could allow.
“I was thinking about not wrestling Canada West because it was painful, but I couldn’t because I was already pretty frustrated with having to miss last year and I couldn’t do that again. But, I was definitely tempted to call it a season.”
Despite the team’s sustained success, Luczak highlights the lack of attention that wrestling tends to attract.
“It’s sad that we don’t get the recognition. In almost any other country in the world, you say you’re a wrestler, like, I’ve trained and travelled to Chile and Poland and different places. People understand the difficulty, the struggle, it’s not for everybody. It’s the most basic human physical confrontation, physical battle. It’s one human against another one… it’s the rawest of the raw, I think, and it definitely needs more recognition.”
In any case, it is a confrontation that Luczak and the Cougars have proved they are more than proficient at participating in, and they have the hardware to prove it. After all, no one can argue with the amount of banners that hang in the CKHS as a testament to their successes over the years.