Luke Lambert punches ticket to Class B semifinals after making return from major football injury

1 month ago Fremont Tribune

Luke Lambert needed the OK from his future football coaches, his parents, and his doctors before he could wrestle this season.

Two out of three isn’t bad.

The Ashland-Greenwood senior and his surgically-repaired knee went the distance in a pair of one-point decisions Thursday in the opening rounds of the boys state wrestling tournament at the CHI Health Center.

They were the first matches this season that went past the first period for the second-ranked Lambert.

“I’m not going to lie,” the heavyweight said, “towards the end it wore on my gas tank a little bit. It’s hard to simulate that.”

A torn ACL in the early stages of the football season initially had Lambert thinking that his senior season of wrestling was lost, too.

But rehab started going well, and that voice in his head kept pushing. He got the go-ahead from his parents — Lambert said dad was actually a tougher sell than mom — and the Wayne State football coaches, who will get him as a defensive tackle in the fall.

Doctors though?

“Well,” Lambert said, dragging out his answer.

It became more of a reality in early January, and Lambert returned to practice late that month.

Light bike work and mat time in the room have been the only things he’s been able to do to increase conditioning. The knee, he said, is feeling “upper 80%”.

“Wrestling is kind of all he’s done, but wrestling is a great way to get in shape,” Bluejays coach Jake Nichelson said. “One of his best aspects is that he’s wrestled since he was three, and he’s a wrestler first, not just a 275-pound dude that’s really strong. So he’s kind of got all the components.”

He needed every bit of it on Thursday.

A 2-1 opening-round win over Plattsmouth’s Orion Parker got the day going. Lambert would score a takedown midway through the first period and hang on late for a 4-3 victory in the quarterfinals against Owen Rowell of Auburn.

“Early takedowns are what wins these heavyweight matches,” Nichelson said. “And then top/bottom if you can not get turned, that’s going to put you in a pretty good place. That’s what it’s all about here.”

Now comes an even bigger challenge in top-ranked Jack Allen of Aurora in Friday night’s semifinals. Allen may be 46-1 on the season, but he’s getting a wrestler in Lambert that is riding high.

“We’ve gone three periods twice now, we know what we’ve got,” Nichelson said. “I think he looks really good on his feet, his offense looks great.”

Lambert agreed, but admitted he was going to sleep well Thursday night.

“That kind of gives me some confidence going into tomorrow,” Lambert said. “But if I can finish it, I’m going to go for that.”

Photos: Check out the scenes from Day 1 of the state wrestling championships

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