This is Just the Beginning – The Jace Luchau Story: Q&A Interview with Al Fontes

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Al Fontes – Editor

Located in the “Hot Bed” of wrestling in the Central Valley between the cities of Clovis and Bakersfield, Selma High School (Pop. ~25,000) has established itself among the top programs in the state of California and the country. Since the early beginnings of the CIF State Championships in the 1970s, Selma has produced several state champions, state medalist, and All-Americans at many of the national level competitions, such as, Fargo, the NHSCA, and FLO Nationals. The first Selma wrestler to place the school on the state map was Ram Pereschica, who in 1976 placed 4th in the 95-pound weight group. He was followed thereafter by several outstanding wrestlers, which include the school’s first CIF State Champion Robert Zapata (1988), Nick and Gary Quintana (State Champ – 1991), Nick Pena (2x State Champ – 2010 – ’11), Alex Cisneros (3x State Champ/4x finalist – 2009 – ’12), and more recently the nation’s number one lightweight in Richard Figueroa (2x State Champion 2018 – ’19). A majority of the more recent success is due to the exceptional leadership of Head Coach Sammy Lopez. What he and all involved with the program has accomplished for a small-town environment is very impressive to say the least.

Winning an individual or team CIF State Championship is by far the toughest tasks to achieve among all 50 states. With just over 900 programs in a single-class system, the process to qualify, let alone stand tall on the top step is a large undertaking. Many great collegiate and world level wrestlers that competed in California never won the top billing during their prep careers. They include, Dan Henderson (2x Olympian), Townsend Saunders (Olympic Silver), Jamill Kelly (Olympic Silver), Adam Wheeler (Olympic Bronze), Quincy Clark (Olympian), Robby Smith (Olympian), and Mark Fuller (4x Olympian) to name a few. This past summer, Selma was placed on the national radar again when Fresno State incoming freshman Jace Luchau took the Fargo Dome by storm and dominated the 152-pound weight group, earning the “Outstanding Wrestler” award in the process. He joins fellow Californians Roger Roberts (Jr. FS – 1974) and Joe Gonzales (Jr. FS – 1975), Elijah Davis (Cadet GR – 2011), and Aaron Pico (Cadet GR – 2012) with this great honor.

Fresno State

Ranked nationally by several of the national publications, Jace had an exceptional senior season, but fell just short of his goal of winning a prestigious CIF State title, but ended on a strong note by placing a solid third place in a highly competitive weight group. Despite this setback, Jace persevered and proved on the mat why he is among the top prep wrestlers in the country by winning the FLO Nationals, Fargo in Freestyle (double All-American ’19), earning “OW” at the ORCA Duals, and earning All-American honors at the USAW Junior Folkstyle Nationals. Overall, Jace has earned over nine national level All-American honors at the prep level, which is among the top 1% to achieve this great feat. His credentials are impressive. Period!

I was never the best kid in the room…I was never the number one kid in the nation, not even the state. But what separated me from the rest was I had heart and believed in the people around me. I trusted the process and that’s all it takes…that one moment to believe, that one moment to imagine it.” – Jace Luchau

I personally believe we’re just witnessing the beginning of Jace’s great potential at the next level and beyond. His work ethic and mental fortitude on the mat has been the recipe for his success thus far and is paramount in his next journey at the collegiate level. Currently attending Fresno State University, I had the distinct opportunity to do a Q&A Interview with Jace about his wrestling career thus far and in his future on the mat. Below is a list of Jace’s impressive accomplishments and Q&A Interview.

2019 Junior Freestyle National Champion & Outstanding Wrestler


Junior Freestyle National Champion/*OW 2019

FLO National Champion – Junior Freestyle 2019

USAW Junior Folkstyle All-American – 3rd Place 2019

Junior Greco-Roman All-American – 6th Place 2019

ORCA West Classic Duals – *OW 2019

3rd CIF State Championships 2019

Walsh Ironman Invitational Finalist 2018

4th CIF State Championships 2018

Junior Freestyle All-American – 5th Place 2018

Junior Greco-Roman All-American – 7th Place 2018

FLO “Who’s #1” Dual Meet Representative 2018

UWW Cadet GR Team Trials All-American – 2nd Place 2018

UWW Cadet FS World Team Trials All-American – 3rd Place 2018

Cadet Freestyle All-American – 3rd Place 2017

Cadet Greco-Roman All-American – 6th Place 2017

USAW Cadet Folkstyle All-American – 2nd Place 2017

3x CIF Central Section Champion 2017 – ’19

US Open Freestyle Champion

2x Junior State Freestyle Champion

Senior Folkstyle State Champion

Junior Greco-Roman State Champion

2x Cadet State Champion – Folkstyle

Western Regional Cadet Folkstyle Champion

Western Regional Cadet Greco-Roman Champion

4x Assoc. Dual Team titles – Cadet/Junior Levels (Team Captain)

2x California State Medalist

2019 Junior Freestyle National Champions – Jace Luchau *OW


How did you first get involved in the sport of wrestling?

I first got involved with the sport of wrestling when I was about six years old. My father was a Sports Reporter for the Hanford Sentinel and was doing an article on the Lemoore wrestling team and decided to put me in it. For me, I was a football guy myself, so I wasn’t so sure about wrestling, but I gave it a shot and it’s kind of came naturally to me.

Who was your biggest influence in the sport?

That would have to be a hard question to answer. I can’t really say I have one person who has influenced me the most because everyone that has been part of my journey really has influenced me, I wouldn’t want to single anyone out like that. So, whoever was part of my journey and has been there for me mentored me, loved me through the ups and downs, I thank you.

When in your wrestling career did you realize that you were at the right level, both mentally and physically, to place at a national level competition, such as the Cadet & Junior Nationals in Fargo?

I would probably say going into my sophomore year after my first Fargo I met a really good coach who kind of put everything together for me and everything came into play. I had a lot of backtracks of course, but eventually I knew I was headed in the right direction in wrestling and also as a man in life.

Having earned prior All-American honors at the Cadet, Junior, FLO, and Folkstyle Nationals, how did you prepare for this year’s Junior National Championships? What did you do different?

If I’m being honest, I freed my mind a lot, I had a really fun summer…one of the funniest I had since I was a kid. Freshman year through junior year was strictly wrestling every single day and this last summer I kind of just went with the flow…I worked hard but wrestling wasn’t on my mind 24/7. I feel that’s what changed it for me, I wasn’t thinking “oh I did all this work, thus I should have this outcome.” I went in there free minded and was like, “let’s have some fun.”

What did it feel like to be on the national stage in the Championship finals of the Junior Freestyle Nationals in Fargo?

It was surreal for three different Fargo’s. I sat there and watched the finals, as well as people I had wrestled win it and I knew I could possibly be there one day, but to actually be on that stage was ridiculous hearing “Sandy” call my name out…It was a real dream come true for me. When I was younger, I would attend the state championship and recall hearing her call out the announcements and I always wanted her to say my name, so for her to finally do it my senior year for my first ever Fargo title was amazing. 

What went through your mind when you realized that you were a National Champion?

Honestly, it did not hit me until later. In the beginning  I was happy, but it didn’t really hit until later when I saw my phone and observed over 300-400 notifications saying, “congrats”…I knew I had done something really amazing in my life. 

Having won the prestigious Junior Freestyle Nationals in Fargo, what are your short and long term goals?

Short term goals are to just get in the room, get better every day, and wake up to the best Jace possible. I have trouble with the small things in life, so focusing on those things will really be key for me. Long terms goal wise, it just depends on how my year goes, if I’m going to red shirt. I am focused on making a junior world team and winning a junior world championship, but if I don’t and I know I have the capability to start this year and be in the lineup, then it is to win a national championship. Connor McGregor said it best, “we aren’t here to take part we are here to take over.”

This year you earned the Outstanding Wrestler Award for your performance in Junior Freestyle. Since 1974, only three (3) California wrestlers have earned this prestigious honor. The first two being Robert Roberts (1974) and 1984 Olympian Joe Gonzales in 1975. What does it feel like to be part of a distinguished group of wrestlers?

I’m trying to be the best I can be and to be a part of a group like that is just the start of what I think I can do. I realized a long time ago that I’m barely reaching to my peak. Like Lil Wayne said, “why does my peak look like it’s out of my reach.” That’s how I really feel…I can’t even come to imagine how good I can be and have realized that I’m barely scratching the surface of my potential. But all in all, it feels good to just represent California in the best way possible.

Is there an Olympian or collegiate level wrestler or someone outside the sport of wrestling that you want to aspire to be someday?

I don’t aspire to be anyone, but the best of myself every day. I put all glory to God and know that he has a plan for me and I just stick to it. And I know that one day I’ll be the best in whatever I set my mind and hear out to be.

Jace’s college signing with Coach Sammy Lopez and teammate Christian Rodriguez

What are your fondest memories of wrestling at Selma High School under Coach Sam Lopez?

Oh man, don’t even get me started with little Sammy. Greatest coach, friend, father, man I know. Always there for me, not only in wrestling, but in life. When I’m down about a girl, I’m messing up in school and need help, I got stuff going on at home, whatever, regardless, he is there for me. The thing I love about coach Sam is he doesn’t treat any wrestler the same. He knows his athletes and accommodates to what they feel, what they are good at, how they react to certain things. He knew how I felt about certain things, how I needed to be coached. In short, he knew exactly how to win with me. I love that man and will do anything for him. But aside from that, the best memory I can give you is one time we had two separate cars and we recorded a video and sent it to the other car. We were having “diss rap” battles and coach Sammy was in on it…it was awesome. 

What life lessons have you learned in wrestling that applies in your day-to-day life?

Biggest life lesson I have learned is “It’s up to you.” What that means to me is no one can do this thing for me, no one goes out on the mat with me, no one is there to help me on my midterms, no one is there to help me ask out the girl I really like. It’s up to me. If I want to win, I have to work at it…I got to go to practice, perfect my craft, and be the best me possible. If I want to pass my midterm, I have to study…I have to focus on nothing but that subject for an hour a day…I have to lock down and focus. It’s all up to you, it’s all up to me. 

Whom were your role models growing up? How did they inspire your to be the person you are today?

I didn’t really have any role models, if I’m being honest. I didn’t aspire to be anyone…I didn’t look up to a person, I just believed in the people who were trying to make me better and trusted the process. 

What is your wrestling and academic goals entering your first year at Fresno State University?

To become a national champion. I doesn’t matter whether I am a freshman or not…that’s what separates me from the people that are taking second and third…I really believe I can do it. I have no doubt in my mind about accomplishing this goal. I just need to be pushed in the right direction, work at it and strive to achieve it…imagine it every day. There’s no doubt in my mind that I can do it. I’ve never really been the 4.0 student, the guy to get valedictorian, so honestly, I’m just going to focus and do the absolute best I can. Not fall behind, stay on task, and get my study hall hours in…ha-ha. 

Jace with Selma’s Kids Club – The Next Generation

What advice would you give a young wrestler wanting to be successful in the sport of wrestling?

I was never the best kid in the room…I was never the number one kid in the nation, not even the state. But what separated me from the rest was I had heart and believed in the people around me. I trusted the process and that’s all it takes…that one moment to believe, that one moment to imagine it. And then it’s all yours, go work for it. It’s not going to be handed to you, I promise you that. If you have heart and the desire to beat a person with greater skills, it will happen. Also, you’re bound to take losses…pick your head up continue to wrestle…use it as a learning experience when you get knocked down. The only way is to get up and grind harder than what anyone expected. The best thing in life is showing people what’s up, proving people wrong, and beating people you aren’t supposed to beat and trust me, I have a lot of those. Last thing, dig deep down and find the reason why you do what you do. My father told me this. Don’t think about what you feel now, not yesterday or tomorrow. Dig deep and find the reason why you do what you do. And use that to motivate yourself. I promise, no one will stop you from getting to your goal. No dream is too big… go after it and its yours for the taking. 

2019 Junior National Champion – Freestyle

Outstanding Wrestler – Jace Luchau (Selma) with 1984 Olympic Champion Mark Schultz
2019 Junior National Champion/OW
Fargo Nationals 2019
2019 Team California – Oregon/California/Washington Duals (ORCA)
Jace with Selma teammate, Richard Figueroa – 2018 FLO Who’s #1 Dual
FLO National Champion
Jace at 2019 CIF State Championships – Selma High School (CS)
Fargo Nationals
Earning the California “Bear” trophy
3x CIF Central Section Champion