Hastings grad qualifies for NCAA wrestling tourneyOne of the best wrestlers in Hastings High School history is making his mark in college athletics. Luke Vaith is a red-shirt sophomore at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N. Y., and a 2009 graduate of HHS. On March 3, he won his first individual Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) championship and earned his spot in the Division I NCAA wrestling tournament, and he’s only the second Hastings wrestler to do so.
By: Katrina Styx, The Hastings Star-Gazette
One of the best wrestlers in Hastings High School history is making his mark in college athletics. Luke Vaith is a red-shirt sophomore at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N. Y., and a 2009 graduate of HHS. On March 3, he won his first individual Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) championship and earned his spot in the Division I NCAA wrestling tournament, and he’s only the second Hastings wrestler to do so.
Vaith is the son of Paul Vaith, former wrestling coach at HHS, so it’s no surprise that wrestling has always been a big part of his life.
“I pretty much was born into it,” he said.
Once he got to high school, he set his goals high: he wanted to win a state championship – which he did his senior year – and go on to wrestle with a Division I team.
Hofstra University started recruiting him his senior year of high school. Vaith said he liked the coaches, liked the program and thought it was a good fit for him. In his first year he posted a 16-18 overall record at 141 and 133 pounds and was selected for the All-CAA Rookie Team. Last year he went 15-8 at 141 and 149 pounds.
Now in his third year with the team, Vaith was the top-ranked wrestler at 141 pounds in the 2011-2012 CAA preseason poll, but the start of the season was a rocky one. In his first tournament of the season he hurt his ankle, and it didn’t help his matches.
“I still had some good wins, but I had some losses,” he said.
He struggled a bit through the middle of January, but since then he’s been able to turn his season around. The first half of the season he went 10-7, but in the last half he went 13-1, including wins over a nationally ranked University of Pennsylvania wrestler and an All-American two days later.
The difference, Vaith said, was confidence.
“I just started having more confidence after I started beating ranked kids,” he said.
“I was believing in myself a little more.”
On March 3, Vaith posted three wins – 6-3, 8-3 and 3-1 – to claim his first individual conference championship. His next stop is the NCAA tournament March 15 to 17 in St. Louis, Mo., and he’s just trying to keep on doing what he’s been doing, since it’s been working so well.
“I don’t really want to change up much,” he said.
“I just continue thinking about trying to win. My goal isn’t just to make it, I obviously want to place.”
Vaith will wrestle at 141 pounds and will face freshman Tanner Hough (22-12) from Duke University in the first round.
Vaith is following in the footsteps of the Hastings Raiders’ current wrestling coach Josh McLay, who wrestled in the NCAA tournament for the University of Minnesota in 2004. The two aren’t strangers.
“I’ve known Josh pretty much my entire life,” Vaith said.
Having grown up watching McLay wrestle, Vaith considered McLay a role model, he said.
“He was the person I really modeled my wrestling career after,” he said.
The two have shared a handful of wrestling achievements now – both have held the record for the most career high school wins at Hastings, both have won state championships and now both made it to the NCAA mat.
Vaith’s biggest supporter, and the person who has made the biggest impact on his wrestling career, is his father, Paul.
“My dad still coaches me to this day,” Vaith said.
Although Vaith wrestles on the east coast, his father still tries to make it to all his matches, and helps him review each meet to find the areas he can improve.
“He knows my wrestling style probably better than anyone,” Vaith said.
“He’s my biggest supporter as well as my role model,” he said.
In his wrestling career, Vaith has a couple goals. He’d like to be a three-time All-American he said, and beyond that, he’d love to capture a national championship. Once he graduates college, he said he plans to move back to Hastings. He’s thankful for all the support he’s gotten from the Hastings wrestling family, and hopes to coach – possibly under McLay, if he can. No matter what, Vaith expects wrestling is a permanent fixture in his life.
“I’ll always be around the sport,” he said.