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Lucero knows upsets: Frazee wrestler has knack for knocking big names out of tournament

FRAZEE - Mike Lucero has made a living at state wrestling tournaments by knocking off some of the top-ranked wrestlers in his weight class.

That changes this year. Now the Frazee senior is near the top of the mountain.

Lucero enters this weekend's state wrestling tournament ranked second at 140 pounds in Class 1A.

"I've always found myself in a match against one of the big guns," Lucero said. "But I guess I'm up there now."

In each of his previous three trips to the state tournament, Lucero has knocked off either the No. 1 or No. 2 ranked wrestler in his weight class.

The senior has always been a pretty good wrestler at big meets. He won the Bismarck Rotary this year, beating Bismarck's Trevor Johnson - North Dakota's Class A 145-pound champ - along the way.

"He beat Johnson and the kid who won a state title this year in Montana at the Rotary, so he gets up for those big matches," Frazee coach John Barlund said. "He's always had his sights set on the finals, but he's lost to the eventual state champion the last two years."

This is Lucero's fourth trip to state, and he has improved each trip. He took sixth as a freshman, fifth as a sophomore and fourth last year as a junior. Does that mean he will finish third this year?

"No," Lucero said with a laugh. "I definitely don't want to go down there and take third."

Lucero does most of his damage on his feet, and his quickness is one of his main assets, Barlund said. The experience of wrestling varsity in a program like Frazee is also invaluable, too.

"He's quick like a cat, and always ends up on his feet and in good position," Barlund said. "He's been wrestling varsity for five years, and he's learned not to push a situation. He's been Steady Eddie for us the last couple of years."

And he's done plenty of work to build up to this senior season. This summer, he took part in the grueling 28-day J Robinson camp.

The intensive camp features four practices a day, and they're tough. For example, the camp featured 2 1/2-mile runs -while carrying another wrestler on your back.

"Oh, it was tough, but it was worth it," Lucero said. "You're practicing four times a day for 28 days, so it's like getting a whole other season in.

"It really helped me get ready for this year."

The state tournament begins today at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., with the first round of individuals.

Frazee will also be in the team tournament, which starts on Thursday.

Lucero's own success at previous state meets show him that rankings are just numbers.

"He's always been a hard-nosed kid, and he's wrestling with a lot of confidence," Barlund said. "But he knows he can't take anybody lightly. He's shown that you can't take anybody lightly down there."