NORTH CANTON  When you’re a lifer, your senior season matters that much more.

A high school athlete’s senior campaign in any sport they play tends to be an emotional time, one full of doing so many different activities - practice, season opener, home game, road game against a bitter rival and so on - for the last time.

But when that athlete has grown up in a school district and competed wearing its colors since kindergarten, then that final lap as a senior is especially meaningful.

Hoover senior wrestler Luke Reicosky is one of multiple members of the program who have wrestled for the Vikings since their youth days. He knows how strong that connection is and is eager to make his senior year one worth remembering.

"I started wrestling when my brother was in first grade and the youth program allowed kids who were pre-school age to wrestle," Reicosky said. "It’s a good feeling knowing I was able to stick with it and what I enjoy most is the competition."

Reicosky said that despite the bumps and bruises and tough moments along the way, there was never a time when he ever considered quitting wrestling. He has seen a lot of teammates come and go since his youth wrestling days and theorized that those who didn’t stick with it either didn’t enjoy the sport enough or walked away for another reason, but he appreciates the ones who have continued to compete alongside him year after year.

"The ones that stick around, you kind of knew they would stick around from the beginning because they were always the tougher guys in the group," Reicosky said.

He pointed to two fellow seniors as examples of those who have stuck with the sport through good and bad times and enjoys wrestling alongside Jonah Wakser and Tyler Hugill. They are three of the seniors on the roster and are enjoying their chance to be leaders for the younger wrestlers. Reicosky prefers to lead by example, but knows there are times he’ll need to speak up in the wrestling room.

He, Hugill and Wakser often reflect on their youth wrestling days, remembering fun moments and big matches along the way. According to Reicosky, he doesn’t remember the Vikings losing any dual matches from the time he was in kindergarten through sixth grade and recapturing some of that success this season would be a dream come true.

Playing both football and wrestling has helped Riecosky as well. He has seen how the principles that help him succeed on the mat can help him as a running back on the gridiron, from having good balance to keeping a low center of gravity and using his strength to explode through contact when needed.

Those traits propelled him to a seventh-place finish at the state wrestling tournament last season and the goal for this year is even higher.

"Wrestling definitely made me a lot tougher. I’m not afraid to go for the big hits, so wrestling correlates into football," he said. "I want to repeat as a state placer and get into the top four this year."

Given the emotions of a senior season and the knowledge that if he does reach the podium at the state tournament, it will come immediately after his final match ever in a Hoover uniform, it’s clear that this season matters a little bit more.

Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB