COLUMBUS — When Hunter Lucas was looking around Ohio State’s Jerome Schottenstein Center throughout his appearances at the high school state wrestling tournament, little did he know that someday he would return to Ohio State to be a part of the nationally ranked Buckeyes’ wrestling team.
Lucas, who was a two-time Division III state runner-up at Lima Central Catholic, is now a redshirt sophomore on the Ohio State squad.
However, Lucas’ road to Columbus wasn’t a clear path.
Before the three-time state-placer found a home at Ohio State, Lucas spent one season at the University of Maryland, where he competed for the Terrapins.
After the one season at Maryland, Lucas saw an opportunity to return to the Buckeye state.
“What got me to transfer there (Ohio State) was that a 125-pounder here at Ohio State was leaving because of something he did,” Lucas said. “I saw there was a chance for me there. It’s closer to home. I’m a big family guy. And I’ve always been an Ohio State fan. So, I really saw an opportunity and went after it. My parents have been to all of our matches. So, it’s pretty cool.”
In high school, Lucas was a two-time state finalist, and a state-placer in his other appearance at the state tournament.
In his first season at Ohio State, Lucas compiled a 20-5 overall record with four pins, two major decisions in six tournaments. He won the Findlay Open and Storm Open.
So far this season, Lucas is 7-4, competing in the 125-pound weight class. Ohio State (7-0) is currently ranked No. 2 in the nation, behind Big Ten-rival Penn State.
“This year, it’s been pretty tough,” Lucas said. “I haven’t performed that well this year, as I did last year. But I think that’s in part that I’ve been wrestling in the open division in tournaments, instead of the freshman, sophomore divisions at the NCAA tournaments. In the open division, you’re wrestling starters. So, it’s a lot tougher competition.
“I’ve had some good matches with some (nationally) ranked guys this year. So, I think I’ve progressed. I just haven’t had the success this year that I had last year. However, I would say I’m pretty happy, and I’m getting better,” he said.
For Lucas, the whole experience of being at Ohio State seems surreal.
“When I was first coming to Ohio State, I was like ‘do I even belong here?’” Lucas said. “I grew up watching these guys; and to be wrestling with them is an amazing experience. You learn so much just being around your teammates and wrestling with them, day to day.
“When I first got here, I was super excited to wrestle with (now graduated) Nathan Tomasello. I was really excited about that, because he was kind of my idol growing up, watching him win four state (high school) titles (at Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy), a national (NCAA) title and four Big Ten titles. I really like wrestling with Luke (Pletcher, a current OSU wrestler) too. It’s pretty cool to be with these guys. Wrestling on the same team with Kyle (Snyder) last year was pretty cool. Not many college kids can say they had an Olympic champion on their team. That was really cool. Just hearing him talk and hearing how he prepares for matches, was such an experience.”
For Lucas, competing at the college Division I level has not always been a sure thing in his mind.
“Thinking back, when I was young, that’s all I wanted to do (wrestle in college),” Lucas said. “Once I got to high school, the workload was amped up a little bit and it started to become a little harder. So, I was a little skeptical after my sophomore year when I got fourth at state; and I wasn’t sure if I was going to be good enough to be a D-I wrestler. But once you get to college, it’s a whole different story. Everybody is good.”
Lucas gives Nick Sanchez, his high school coach at Lima Central Catholic, a great deal of credit for helping him get to the next level.
“He did a lot for me,” Lucas said about Sanchez. “He was a good coach. He not only helped me on the mat, but he helped me, mentally. He also helped me with the college process.
“I’m pretty fortunate. I’m glad I chose to wrestle in college. I’m enjoying the experience and having fun.”
For Lucas, wrestling is a huge part of his college experience. However, he has higher goals for down the road, academically. Lucas is majoring in sociology and is also taking biology and chemistry classes in hopes of going to medical school to become a surgeon.
Lucas feels he made the right choice to come to Ohio State.
“It’s a higher pace,” he said. “Every single guy you’re going to wrestle is good. Everybody works hard. You have to find a way to work harder and work smarter. When you surround yourself with these types of people, it makes it a little bit easier. I thought I could wrestle at a Division I school. I just wasn’t sure which one.”