Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay wrestler goes for gold at Senior Wrestling World Championship in Budapest

A Thunder Bay man will be representing Canada at this fall's Wrestling World Championship in Budapest, Hungary, and hoping to find community support to help him prepare to take to the mat against some of the world's best.

Jacob Luczak raising funds to cover travel, training

Thunder Bay wrestler Jacob Luczak will travel to Budapest in October to compete in the Senior Wrestling World Championship. (Kris Ketonen/CBC News)

A Thunder Bay man will be representing Canada at this fall's Wrestling World Championship in Budapest, Hungary, and hoping to find community support to help him prepare to take to the mat against some of the world's best.

Jacob Luczak, 24, will be making the trek overseas in October.

"I want to represent Thunder Bay," he said Wednesday. "I want to represent all the people from here. I want to show kids, and the little kid inside myself, that things like this are possible if you just aim high and you put the work in, things will happen."

Second-place finish

Luczak almost didn't get the opportunity.

He placed second in the 92 kilogram class at the Canadian world team trials earlier this summer, but last week was notified that the first-place finisher had declined to compete in the world championships.

Luczak was offered the chance to take the spot, and he accepted.

It's one example of why this last year has been such an emotional one for the wrestler.

"A year ago, I was sitting in Regina," he said. "I had been off wrestling for two years rehabilitating a concussion. I had intended to come back, but I wasn't sure when, or if that was really going to happen."

Then he found out his father, Jacek, had stomach cancer, and Luczak returned to Thunder Bay, training with the Lakehead University wrestling team and winning gold medals at the Brock Open, the Western Open, and the McMaster Open, and silver at the USports national championship.

​"I told my father the day before he died — he died in May — that I was going to the world championships and I asked him if he was going to be there," Luczak said. "He said he'd be there."

"At that point, I hadn't even thought about doing the trials for the world team until one of my teammates [said] 'hey, why don't you do that?'" he said. "I said 'for sure,' and me and him started training, and here we are. It's extraordinary — I wish I could make it up, but you can't write this sort of stuff."

He says the whole situation can be overwhelming at times. But wrestling has helped.

"I try and use that emotion in my training," he said. "Wrestling's helped me cope with a lot of the emotions that this last year, and these last few months especially, have put in front of me."

Less than 60 days to prepare

Now, Luczak has less than 60 days to prepare for the championships, and he's reaching out to the community for help doing that.

Luczak has started an online fundraising campaign to help cover training and travel costs, and is also looking for sponsors.

"It's completely self-funded, unfortunately," he said. "$15,000 is our goal to cover all of my training, my travelling, my nutrition, everything."

The campaign was launched Wednesday, and was at just under $1,800 as of late Wednesday afternoon.

Luczak is aiming for gold in Budapest, but regardless of what happens, he's ready to move on to the next phase of his wrestling career after that.

"I have a year of eligibility, and I'll be competing for Lakehead University," he said. "I plan on winning the national championships this year, in university and club."

"If I win the nationals at the senior level, that puts me in a good spot for the Olympic trials next December."