Favorite athlete: Jordan Burroughs
Favorite team: Team USA
Favorite memory competing in sports: Competing with my teammates at my last state tournament.
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: During an interview with PA-Wrestling.com my junior year, one of my teammates did a variety of funny things behind the reporter to make me laugh. This became something we did back and forth the rest of our high school careers.
Music on mobile device: Mac Miller
Future plans: I will wrestle at the United States Naval Academy while pursuing my degree, and I will serve afterwards.
Word to live by: “Process over outcome”
One goal before turning 30: Secure a stable job that interests and motivates me.
One thing people don’t know about me: I first visited The Naval Academy when I was 9 years old, and I knew it was the spot for me after that first visit.
By Ed Morrone
For all intents and purposes, Luke Lucerne was born to wrestle.
Well, he certainly wasn’t put here to play baseball.
“I was definitely the kid kicking up daisies in the outfield,” Lucerne said of his short-lived experiment on the diamond.
He also tried soccer growing up, but it was evident pretty early on where the Council Rock North senior’s true passion lied. Lucerne got his first taste of his chosen sport with the Council Rock Wrestling Association (CRWA) when he was just 5 years old, explaining that he was indoctrinated into wrestling by his dad and built-in-coach, who wrestled at Rider University.
Like many who grow to love wrestling, Lucerne was drawn to the fact that any success or failure he encountered were decided entirely by himself.
“What really stuck with me, and what I loved about the sport, is that everything came down to me,” Lucerne said. “It’s a hard thing to get around early on as a kid, because if you lose there’s nobody to blame it on. But eventually, anyone who makes it through the sport embraces that. You take everything into your own control.”
Lucerne, who wrestled at 126 pounds this past season, has been the model of consistency for the Indians. Council Rock North head coach Tom Vivacqua first crossed paths with Lucerne about a decade ago through CRWA, and Vivacqua, who has been coaching wrestling for 35 years, knew instantly that Lucerne was a rare breed.
“I was always impressed with Luke, even when he was in middle school,” Vivacqua said. “He was always a very serious, committed kid beyond his years. Even as a young lad, he was super focused and locked in on wanting to be a good wrestler. Coming in, I just said to myself, ‘Wow, this kid is really intense and is really going to work hard and set some high goals for himself.’
“It wasn’t just an occupation on the side for him. It was something he really wanted to excel at. Just very mature, and not even just as a wrestler, but you could talk to him about a lot of things that a young middle schooler wouldn’t get or understand. We knew right away that he was pretty special. Not just a regular Joe…he was going to shine.”
Lucerne entered the varsity lineup right away as a freshman and responded by posting a 36-8 overall record. His inaugural season culminated with the first of four trips to the state tournament in Hershey, where Lucerne reached the semifinals and ultimately placed sixth.
Lucerne went 33-11 as a sophomore, and though it was his only season where he didn’t place at Hershey, Lucerne was already serving as a team captain. He was universally respected by teammates due to the unwavering time, commitment and work ethic that he brought to the table. The way Lucerne sees it, so long as every member of the team shows up and consistently does the work, then the results will take care of themselves. And, if you keep working your tail off and you still don’t win as much as you had hoped, then there’s nothing to be ashamed of.
“When I became a captain, I put an emphasis on putting in full effort every day in that room,” Lucerne said. “There’s no reason for anyone to be upset if you and your partner give full effort. If you do that, there are no regrets or anything else that can be asked for if you just embrace that. Full effort is something that crosses all boundaries in everyone’s lives, not just in the wrestling room, but with family, religion, in the classroom.”
Lucerne posted a 35-10 record last season as a junior, finishing fourth in Hershey, and this past year went 31-4 and placed third. As a team, the Indians placed fifth in the state. It was an utterly remarkable culmination in the careers of Lucerne and fellow seniors Cameron Robinson, Dillon Sheehy and Sammy Hayes. Lucerne (135), Robinson (152) and Sheehy (129) all barreled through the 100-win milestone, and Hayes would have likely made it there himself had a broken ankle in January of last season not wiped out the rest of his competition schedule.
That quartet posted a career record of 500-141 at Council Rock North, a winning percentage of .780. All four of them will be wrestling at Division-I college programs: Lucerne at Navy, Sheehy at West Point, Robinson at Iowa State and Hayes at Pittsburgh, with all four leaving immeasurable legacies on the program.
They did it, Lucerne said, the old-fashioned way: by having a ton of fun and never putting too much pressure on themselves that blinded them to the fact that they were all having the time of their lives.
“We were so close,” Lucerne said. “We did the little things right along the way, and no matter the outcome, we put a lot of faith in the plan to do everything that we could to reach our goals. We had a lot of fun on the mat with each other, as well as hanging out between matches in the warmup area at states or in hotel rooms the night before the state semifinals. Just being high school kids, not letting the weight of where we were deter us from enjoying the moment, rather than being super serious and too locked in, which we all battled with early on in our careers.”
Sharing that with six of his teammates (also making it to states from North were Kyle Hauserman, Max Harar and Anthony Burke) made the Indians’ fifth-place finish as a team much more cherished than any individual honor or placement Lucerne ever achieved himself.
“Seeing my teammates succeed feels better than winning my third-place match,” he said. “We were so committed to each other and the work that we put in. To have six of your best friends, in addition to your coaches, cheering you on is just real special.
“We faced so many adversities together, and the highs always came after our lowest points. Ever since ninth grade, I’ve embraced the belief that what I do next is what matters most. It’s helped me achieve all the things I’ve done, just not dwell on loss. Instead, take the next step forward.”
The next step for Lucerne will indeed be a big one at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. Going to Navy has been a dream a decade in the making for Lucerne, who said he knew he wanted to go to school there, wrestle and serve his country afterward since he was 9 years old.
Lucerne’s father was able to arrange a private tour of the campus, as well as the school’s wrestling facilities. Even from such a young age, Lucerne was completely blown away and knew he would devote his life to one day getting there himself as a cadet and wrestler.
“I wish there was a way I could explain it, but I just understood that it was special,” he said. “It’s not just a mental and physical mission like you’d get at any other D1 program, but a moral mission and character building aspect to be the best possible version of yourself. I think I had always tried to embrace that without thinking of it that way, to be the best version of myself in everything that I do every day. I knew I wanted to be at a place where everyone was trying to do that too, and it got me excited to know what kind of mental, physical and moral gains I could get, both now and when I graduate.”
The fact that Lucerne was able to embrace concepts well beyond his age, both then and now, never ceased to blow Vivacqua away.
“Think about it,” Vivacqua said. “How many 9-year-olds are thinking about what they want to do when they are 18? He knew it by the time I met him. Luke had a plan in place. He wanted to serve in the military and wrestle for Navy, and to even understand that concept at that age is impressive. Even to know what it means as a 9-year-old.
“He’s not a gifted, freak athlete who happened to be good at wrestling; Luke is such a worker and is great because he cared and worked exceedingly hard at it. He is the poster child for the sport of wrestling and what you can achieve if you commit your mind.”
Lucerne, who described his wrestling style as tactically treating it like a mix between a fist fight and chess match, is leaning toward studying computer science or cybersecurity at Navy.
“I can’t think of a greater honor than serving as a naval officer,” he said. “I hope that I serve well and that I continue to do so in the community after my military service is over. My dad didn’t serve, and while my grandfather was a Marine, I just kind of recognized what kind of opportunities serving gives me, as well as how much of an honor it is to serve your country.”
Of course, Lucerne’s journey over the past four years at Council Rock North were invaluable in helping prepare him for the next step. Even though he’s known for a decade how much he wanted to wrestle at Navy, he wouldn’t have gotten there without all of the blood, sweat and tears he sacrificed along the way.
“I think I’ll be so much more adept at battling adversities and overcoming uncertainties that come my way because of Council Rock North,” he said. “Even this year, when things didn’t go my way or something unexpected happened, I was more than prepared to move past it or adapt on the fly. Things don’t always go the way you expect. It’s important not to predict when or how things will happen, but just be ready for the fact that they can and will happen. That’s what I’ll take with me the most from being a Council Rock North student and wrestler.”
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