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Early to end wrestling career at State Meet

The three-time state qualifier will compete Friday at the Berry Center.
Senior+Lucas+Early+picks+up+his+opponent+and+throws+him+during+a+regular+season+match+on+Nov.+15.+
Maya Ortiz
Senior Lucas Early picks up his opponent and throws him during a regular season match on Nov. 15.

With his name officially hanging on the wall in the mat room, senior Lucas Early is on his way to the State Championships once again.

“We take a lot of pride in having our names on our wall,” wrestling coach Jeff Knight said. “So now he’s up there forever as you know, the first boy to be a three-time state qualifier.

Senior Lucas Early prepares to start a match on Nov. 15. He won the district wrestling title this year and finished second at the Region Meet. (Maddie Glenn)

At the District Meet, Early earned his first District Championship after taking 2nd place during his sophomore and junior seasons. 

At the Region Meet, Early reached the 106 pound finals before falling to Ellison High School’s junior Aodhan Jimenez, who took 4th at the State Meet last year. The 2nd place finish earned Early his third trip to State, however. 

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“He did very well making it all the way to the Region finals,” Knight said. “He lost to the one wrestler that’s ranked ahead of him. It was a very competitive match for the gold medal.”

Early will now compete in the State Meet on Feb. 16-17 at the Berry Center in Cypress with a hope to win it all. Early won one of his three matches last year at State.

“We’ve only had one boy ever medal at state and so I would love to see him be able to make it to the medal stand,” Knight said. “Our goal is to make it to the medal round and, of course, his ultimate goal is to be the state champion. Just to see him get there Friday and win those early matches and put himself in position to win a medal.”

Over the last two years Early has become a tremendous leader for the wrestling team. The team consists of 55 wrestlers, and Early has been a mentor for the newcomers.

“He’s really stepped up the last two years on helping teach the different methods,” Knight said. “He kind of takes a lot of the younger kids kind of under his wing, and it’s been a really good mentor to them.”

As the team captain, Early holds the responsibility of helping the team. The coaches have kept pushing him each day as well, which has helped him to stay accountable. His teammates have also helped support him each week. 

“The coaches just push me to be better every day,” Early said. “You know, give them 100%. Not let me slack off. And (my teammates) push me to be the best leader I can be and they sacrifice their time to watch me.”

Early said his biggest supporter is his dad, who makes a point to go to every one of Early’s meets.

“He loves it too,” said Early. “He likes seeing me have success and become a better person through wrestling.” 

With the end of his senior season approaching, Early has left a legacy of 44 wins and only two losses this season. He recently achieved his 100th career win, a feat few high school wrestlers achieve. He does not plan to wrestle in college.

“It’s bittersweet – being a senior,” Knight said. “This is his last go around.”

This story was originally published on Park Times on February 14, 2024.