Kelso senior Alan Luff slapped his hands against the hardwood. Happy his team won, but frustrated by Prairie forfeiting the 113-pound match in a Greater St. Helens 3A League dual, Luff got to run the gamut of emotions.
That’s the way it goes sometimes for some of the state’s best wrestlers. Nobody wants to send out a young grappler against Class 3A’s third-ranked 106-pounder.
“It was my senior night, and I wanted to wrestle,” Luff explained. “It came down to that last match, and I was ready to go. Obviously they weren’t. … It’s only happened a couple times, but it just really makes me frustrated. Why would you forfeit points when you still have a good chance? You never know.”
But that’s probably the only negative that comes with the prestige. After a fourth-place finish at last year’s Mat Classic, Luff has rolled through the state’s toughest competition this year. He’s 32-3, finished third at the prestigious Tri-State Invitational and fourth at the Sierra Nevada Classic in Reno.
Quite the resume for the favorite to win his bracket at Saturday’s 3A Regional meet at Inglemoor High School.
“I feel like I’ve done what I wanted to do,” Luff said. “It’s my last year. I’ve wrestled my whole life and always dreamed of going to state and placing. Now my next dream is to win it.”
Luff, always one of the smaller kids in class, fell in love with wrestling in second grade. He was sometimes picked on for his size, he said, and wrestling provided an escape. Ten years later, he’s one of the best grapplers in a Hilander wrestling room that carries with it plenty of prestige.
“It’s not an easy sport, but I love it,” Luff said. “Every day I get to come in here and compete with all these great people, great wrestlers. We have a bunch of ranked wrestlers in there. It’s just that bonding time I get to have with them is just great.”
In two weeks time, he hopes to be standing atop a podium at the Tacoma Dome and soon thereafter see his name in gold along the walls of the Kelso training room he’s spent countless hours in.
“It’d mean everything,” Luff said. “I want to be one of those top-tier Kelso wrestlers, I want to have my name in gold on this wall. That’s just been my dream since I was little.”
It’s helped Luff, of course, that he gets to work with some of the state’s best coaches, including two four-time state champions and a hall of fame coach. Pat Connors, the state’s first four-timer, did so at the lighter weights (101-108-115-129) and that’s been a major boon for Luff.
“This program is huge. What coach (Bob) Freund has done for us, what he’s done the past 30 years, is unbelievable,” Luff said. “That’s why these coaches come back in and help us. It’s just a great program and has obviously helped me mold into a great person.”
But first things first, he has to get past regionals. Edmonds-Woodway’s Ethan Nguyen and Reece LeCompte, along with Shorecrest’s Thomas Rhodes provide his stiffest competition.
In Tacoma, he’ll have to go against last year’s runner-up, Bethel’s Donnie Krissak, and top-ranked Kenndyl Mobley of North Central.
“I have some tough kids, but I feel like I have a good shot,” Luff said.