PERU — Fresh off the podium, Northwestern senior wrestler Luke Akers chatted and posed for pictures while clutching the large piece of cardboard with the 160-pound bracket, given to the winner at Saturday’s Peru Regional.
“It’s just a piece of paper, but it’s more than that to me,” he said. “From losing last year in the championship to coming back this year and finally being able to come out on top feels good.”
Akers will take a perfect 43-0 record into this coming Saturday’s Fort Wayne Semistate after winning three matches this past Saturday in Peru for the regional title.
He wrestled at 170 pounds last season and lost in the regional final to Kokomo’s Keair Ross, who repeated as 170 champ this season. Akers was 44-5 last season and lost in the ticket round at the semistate.
This year, Akers moved down a weight and has seen his results step up a notch.
“I feel a lot stronger, healthier, not as much body fat,” he said.
“I feel like I can control the match no matter who I’m facing. Last year at 170, there were guys who were stronger than me or faster than me, and then I dropped to 160 and I feel like there’s guys about as strong as me, but none seems as fast or as strong. I think it was a good choice.”
Akers said his strength has always been in the neutral stance, where he can score takedowns. He attended camps over the summer with the express goal of getting better on top or bottom this season.
“He’s worked hard. He stays after practice, he does all the extra things, all the little things that a champion does, and you’re seeing it pay off on the mat,” Northwestern coach Byron Osborn said.