LCA’s Tuck doesn’t let inexperience hold him down


TROY — Sam Tuck entered his senior year with an understanding he needed to get on an accelerated growth schedule in order to make something of his final season. That meant he needed to both get stronger and more skilled to not let his inexperience be a hindrance to his potential.

Just in his third season of wrestling, his work paid off.

Tuck will be one of five qualifiers from Legacy Christian heading to the OHSAA state wrestling tournament starting Friday in Columbus.

He is the only one of the group who has not previously placed on the podium at state. It would be tough for him to have accomplished that seeing how he never got past sectionals until this year.

“I was so excited,” Tuck said of his qualification. “I didn’t really show it, but I was just like let’s go. Working hard all summer to get to today, it felt good to have it pay off.”

In his first year of wrestling as a sophomore competing in 190 pounds at sectionals, Tuck came up one win short of advancing to district. He wasn’t entered as a junior.

Tuck with his offseason work made the move up to 215 for this year. He began his final chance at making state by receiving the only bye in the sectional tournament despite being the three-seed in the field of seven in his division. Needing only one win to advance to districts, he lost his semifinal match 11-4 to the two-seed.

Being one loss to having his high school career ending, he bounced back in the third consolation round to get a 21-5 victory to advance and went on to win the third-place match too.

Tuck still would not have been considered one of the favorites to move on from districts with the potential to face two sectional champions or needing to prevail in a rematch with his sectional semifinal defeater. Two decisive wins, including an 11-3 major decision over a one-seed from Greenon, set up an opportunity against a 40-plus win champion from Allen East in the semifinals.

The match went into overtime at 3-3. He attempted to win with a lunging take down toward the feet which was blocked, but managed to stave off a counter as he circled around the mat. Outlasting his opponent’s conditioning, Tuck was able to grab hold of a leg and get around to his opponent’s back to get the points and become a state qualifier.

As he mentioned, Tuck didn’t show much excitement in the moment despite his coaches and supporters all leaping to their feet in celebration. The laid back nature he exudes is one reason he believes he has improved on the mat.

“For me, it’s a strength I think,” Tuck said. “I don’t get too excited or like, I don’t think I’m always going to do great. I just want to go out and wrestle today and that’s just how I work.”

Three years ago before he began his path as a grappler, Tuck wanted his focus to be on becoming a better basketball player. As that path did not go in a direction he was hoping, a friend suggested that wrestling could fill his time since there was not an individual filling the role of his weight class.

He continued to participate in multiple sports until deciding over the summer before his senior year that he wanted to solely focus on getting better on the mat.

“During the early part of seasons when we would be lifting, he would come in while playing other sports but then he decided to not play anything else this year and focus on the weight room, which is what we did,” head coach Mike Sizemore said. “I couldn’t stop him from making gains. He just wanted to do more and more. I just kept pushing him to the limit where he would say he couldn’t do anything more.

“I’ve seen some progress like his, but it takes a special person to be willing to give that commitment and that time and dedication to get it all done.”

Wrestling at Legacy Christian when you’re new to the sport doesn’t provide many chances to ease into things. The team is invited to participate in several high level competitions and has been consistently fielding several college commitments and state champions.

Tuck said he made a quick decision prior to the start of his senior year that he wanted to pursue if he could join the ranks of his teammates in becoming a college-level wrestler.

He commended his peers for how they help one another improve and his coaches for the way they kept things simple as he dedicated himself to learning more and about the sport.

“It’s a culture,” Tuck said. “Our program is phenomenal. I get to deal with some of the best kids in the country.”

He has dealt with some of them outside of varsity tournaments too. Tuck said competing on the summer circuit helped get his mindset into the right place, as well as increase his bond with his parents.

“So they were kind of hesitant about it at first,” he said about become a wrestler. “They never really knew too much about it. But they really, really love it. They really like the crowd reactions and everything. They’ve drove me to Michigan, Illinois for tournament and it’s been a great time. I love their support.”

Sizemore said the best quality he sees from Tuck is his overall ‘want to’ toward everything, appreciating the commitment he made to getting better.

“I use an analogy in the room: Who wants to be a state champion?” Sizemore said. “Well, everybody in the room is gonna raise their hand. But on the flip side of that coin, are you willing to do the work necessary to be that state champion? We outlined those things. If you’re not willing to do any of them, you might as well just hang it up because that’s not going to happen. Sam is willing to put in the work and the time.

“It took us a little bit to get that out of him because he’s kind of a quiet young man. But it takes a few losses to get there because you’ve got to feel that from somebody else first. Once you do, then you know what you’ve got to do to get there.”

Tuck may be a more reserved individual, but he made some of the loudest noise with his skills at districts.

In the district title match, Tuck faced a competitor from Miami East who was a state qualifier a year ago. He trailed for most of the match, but again was able to force overtime by gaining a take down with 14 seconds left and nearly pulling off another to prevail. He blocked several shots in the extra periods and grabbed a brief one-point lead with an escape before the match went into the ultimate tiebreaker period where he wasn’t able to ride out the 30 seconds needed to win.

As his opponent celebrated his win, Tuck’s teammates and coaches began to applaud for Tuck as well in encouragement of his performance. Numerous observers and a pair of officials were heard commenting how they felt it was the best match of the tournament.

“My coaches were talking and were like, we don’t care if you beat him,” Tuck said. “We just want you to wrestle as hard as you can.”

He said his teammates are now giving him the same advice in preparation of state. The 215-pound division only has a few returning placers, but one of them includes the state’s only undefeated wrestler in D-III, Lucas Thomas from Cadiz Harrison Central, who would be a potential quarterfinal opponent for Tuck.

LCA as a team has a chance at a four-peat, and Tuck’s goal of wanting to place would be a big factor in that happening.

Having only three years of experience hasn’t stopped him yet on this year’s journey. Three more wins could achieve his goal.

Contact Steven Wright at 937-502-4498 and follow on X (formerly Twitter) @Steven_Wright_.

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