An interview by Logan Shanks
In a few short years, Lucas Byrd has proven himself to be one of the most talented wrestlers in not only the Big Ten, if not the entire NCAA Division I. The Ohio native has been making waves for the Fighting Illini placing fifth at the 2021 and 2022 NCAA Championships. In the 2021-2022 season, he posted an impressive 27-5 record and earned his second consecutive All-American nod. Here’s what the Chain Wrestling Signature Athlete had to say about his career so far.
Q: What made you want to work with Chain Wrestling?
A: After I earned All-American Chain, reached out to me. I feel like my wrestling style is like other athletes they have, and it was a way to help get my name out there. It gives people more of an opportunity to help support what we as athletes do for the sport of wrestling.
Q: What got you into wrestling and made you want to stick with it?
A: My dad wrestled growing up and wasn’t the greatest. My brother wrestled in high school and was a two-time state champ. So I would just follow them around to wrestling rooms, and one day I just said, “I’m gonna make wrestling pay for my college.” My teachers didn’t believe in me, and I just wanted to prove everyone wrong.
Q: What made you want to wrestle for Illinois?
A: Originally, I was committed to Maryland, but after their head coach was let go, I wanted to explore my opportunities. A lot was going on in my wrestling life that led me to many different schools that I could look at. I wanted to go out of state to feel the experience of living on my own. I visited Illinois and loved it. I bonded with the coaches, and it felt like home once I visited.
Q: What’s it like wrestling in the Big Ten?
A: It’s fun. I don’t look at it as super tough competition, but rather as it being fun. My whole life, I’ve chased the toughest competition. I wanted to prove myself and everything I said as a little kid.
Q: What matches have stuck out to you the most so far in your career?
A: My past two matches with (Austin) DeSanto. I've been able to learn a lot from both of them. And also my two blood round matches in the NCAAs. With everything on the line, with the team title for Michigan, it felt like a good time for me to get back at them. Also, my two fifth-place matches at the NCAAs.
Q: What is the wrestling atmosphere like in Illinois compared to Ohio?
A: There’s a lot of people that get into wrestling in both Illinois and Ohio. I think it only keeps growing because both have sanctioned with women’s wrestling. I think it’s really good for the sport.
Q: Who keeps you going after a match?
A: The fans. After I lost my first match at nationals, I was mentally in a bad place before the match, and after that, it just got worse. I wish I could find the guy. I don’t know who he was, but he just kept yelling, "Come back for third, come back for third.” Many people push me, like my girlfriend, my parents and my coaches. But outside of my family, that guy in the stands is someone I wish I could thank. And then, after my DeSanto match, I saw a kid in the stands with his parents, and he gave me a nod, and I gave him a nod back. At that point, I was like “I’m doing it for these guys now.” A lot of people have pushed me to accomplish what I have.
Q: Is there anyone you look forward to wrestling in the Big Ten?
A: I want to wrestle Roman Bravo-Young so bad. When I saw he was coming back, I was excited about that match. I feel like it will be entertaining. We are both open and free when we wrestle. I feel like many points can be scored for both sides in that match.
Q: What are your plans for this summer?
A: Unfortunately, I did something to my hamstring in my last match. The trainer said it’s not realistic for me to wrestle this summer if I want to be at 100 percent next season. So unfortunately, I won’t be competing this summer. I’ll take this time to do some stuff with family, go on some trips and do some camps to sharpen my skills for next season.
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About the author: Logan Shanks
Logan was part of the Ankeny High School wrestling team from 8th grade until he graduated in 2020. He's currently a sophomore majoring in Journalism and Mass Communications at Iowa State University. Logan hopes to one day write for a major league sports team and share with the world his thoughts and opinions on multiple sports.