Top wrestlers from around the state spent time Saturday fine-tuning their skills for this weekend - the official start of the high school wrestling season.

Roy Lucas was not one of them.

Lucas was busy.

The St. Joseph High School senior was busy after Thanksgiving for the start of the preseason and again for each and every wrestling practice since.

And it's not because Lucas didn't want to be there.

Lucas wasn't able to make it because he was too busy helping the Wildcats' football team win the Cape-Atlantic League American Conference crown as well as the state Non-Public I title.

The two-way lineman excelled on both sides of the ball and finished the season with 49 tackles and four sacks from his defensive tackle position.

"Being on a state championship football team - that's two weeks I don't have," Lucas said. "The main frustrating thing coming from football is that there are some kids that are year-round wrestlers and I only have three months a year to wrestle."

That hasn't stopped Lucas from becoming one of the best upperweights in the state and beyond.

Lucas finished third in the state last season at 220 pounds. He wrestled briefly for a couple of showcase teams during the season and apparently did enough for InterMat to rank him 13th in the country at 220.

The 18-year-old Deptford resident, who prefers to keep things low-key, had mixed feelings about the national rankings.

"I was excited," Lucas said. "But I feel like it's a lot of extra pressure I sort of didn't need."

The football state title was St. Joseph's fourth in a row, so Lucas has been here before.

That's one reason why St. Joseph coach Joe Henshaw doesn't seem worried about Lucas' time off.

"By the time it's going to really matter, he should be in shape," Henshaw said. "I don't think it hurt him too bad. A week or two off or not, I'm not worried."

The time off is not the only issue with Lucas' late start.

Lucas weighs close to 250 pounds during football season and obviously can't shed 30 pounds overnight (Lucas will spend the first two or three weeks of the season at heavyweight until he cuts the weight).

Lucas is also an asthmatic - something that hindered him during his overtime loss to Lacey Township's Lex Knapp (now at Rutgers) in the semifinals of the state tournament last season.

None of this helps an athlete get into wrestling shape.

But Henshaw is confident in his team captain.

"He's ready," Henshaw said. "He's ready. He knows what he has to do. If he wants (the state title) he's right there. He's got to work hard, come to practice and have his head screwed on right. He's got to be himself basically."

Lucas joked that he typically hits his stride physically for wrestling "probably about a week before districts."

But he doesn't want to leave any doubts this time around and has already intensified his cardio workout.

"I look at last year and It was frustrating because I should have been in better shape," Lucas said. "I'm going to take that experience and either go out there and get in shape or have a lifetime of regrets."

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