Growing up in Lowell, Jacob Tucker always knew he wanted to wrestle for the hometown Red Devils. It's what most boys from the rural community want and dream about.
Then, two years ago when Tucker had a chance to check out Mount Carmel, all it took was half an hour, and Tucker knew he wanted to be a part of the Caravan.
"I was real skeptical at first because I was set on Lowell," Tucker said. "I visited a half hour, 45 minutes, and when I came out, I knew I was going to go there. It's just such a great school."
In those two seasons, Tucker has developed into one of the Caravan's top and most consistent wrestlers. A sophomore, Tucker finished fifth at the Class 3A meet at 132 pounds, and Kading credits Tucker's acceptance of the year-round commitment to wrestling as the foundation for his success.
"There's no doubt he's doing a fantastic job," Kading said. "Every time he steps on the mat, he's learning a valuable lesson. His willingness to devote himself to the practice room has been the difference. When they really make the commitment and the sacrifice, that's how any young kid learns to develop."
The Caravan will wrestle Marmion Academy at 6 p.m. today at the Class 3A Marist Team Sectional. The winner advances to Saturday's finals at the U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington.
Tucker's daily schedule isn't for the faint of heart. He's up at 5:30 a.m. to catch a bus in St. John that takes him to Mount Carmel. Then class all day followed by wrestling practice, before the long trek home to Lowell where he arrives home every night around 7:30. It's a grueling schedule for anyone, let alone a high school sophomore. But Tucker is the last person in the world that is going to complain.
"It's all worth it," Tucker said. "I'm finishing up my second trimester and just trying to get my grades up."
Tucker placed second at the Class 3A Hinsdale Central Sectional, when he was defeated 1-0 by Marist's Ameen Hamdan. Late in 2013, Tucker recorded a first-period pin against Hamdan at the Al Dvorak Memorial Invitational and will look for a similar result if he happens to meet Hamdan again at state.
"He's a good competitor," Tucker said of Hamdan. "I'm hoping to run into him this weekend. I think next time it will be a little different."
Tucker wrestles in the offseason at Region Wrestling Academy at Calumet High School, but the first day of high school wrestling practice, Tucker is back with his Caravan teammates.
"After the season ends I do a lot of work with freestyle," Tucker said. "I work out in Indiana too. I feel like if I stay on the mat every month, every day of the year, it'll benefit me later on. I feel a big difference in the beginning of the season and here at the end of the season."