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Luke Uliano strives to be the next great Mountaineer wrestler

Sam Fleming
174lb redshirt sophomore Luke Uliano gains control over NC State’s Alex Faison in their match Nov. 4. Uliano earned SoCon Wrestler of the Week honors for all competition from Jan. 24-30.

In the past, App State’s wrestling program has produced some great wrestlers, such as Jon Jon Millner and Austin Trotman. New redshirt sophomore starter Luke Uliano is aiming to add his name to that illustrious list.

He began wrestling at a young age and had a successful high school career, placing four times at state championships, including a third-place finish as a freshman, seventh as a junior and fifth as a senior.

“My dad put me into wrestling when I was like 5-years-old back in Pennsylvania, back when I lived there,” Uliano said.

 After graduating from Olentangy Liberty, a high school in Powell, Ohio, Uliano enrolled at The Citadel. While in South Carolina, Uliano received a message from one of App State’s coaches.

“I wound up at App State because one of the coaches reached out to me online,” Uliano said. “I came down here for a visit, and watched the App State vs. Coastal Carolina game two years ago, where we beat them and stormed the field and I kind of fell in love with the school then and haven’t looked back since.”

Redshirting as a true freshman, he went 5-4 at 174 pounds, including three wins at the 2022 Appalachian Open and twice at the Edinboro Open in Edinboro, Pennsylvania.

The next year as a redshirt freshman, Uliano moved up to 184 pounds and went 15-14 in that weight class. He went 6-7 in duals and 5-3 in SoCon duals. He finished out the year by placing fourth at the SoCon Championships in Boone.

Luke Uliano muscles Duke’s Luke Chakonis’ arms behind his head during the 11-1 win. Jan. 24, 2023. (Ashton Woodruff )

This year, Uliano moved back down to 174 and has shown substantial improvement.

“He’s come a long, long way,” said head coach JohnMark Bentley. “I mean he came here and kind of got his feet wet, he was wrestling up a weight class at 184 for us last year cause that’s kind of where we really needed him. It was probably a great move for him to bring him down to 174, which is a more natural weight for him.”

The coaching staff aren’t the only ones who have noticed Uliano’s improvement. His teammates have too.

“He’s grown a lot,” said 165-pound junior Will Miller. “He’s gotten a lot tougher, he’s really started to work a lot harder, one thing that he’s done a lot is he’s become more offensive, which is good for him it helps out his style cause he can get on top.”

 This year, he has gone 17-10 overall, 6-5 in duals and 4-2 in SoCon duals with wins over wrestlers from Air Force and Cornell and dual wins over wrestlers from UNC and The Citadel.

 The highlight of the year so far was the 174-pound championship at the Appalachian Open, where he beat wrestlers from Virginia Tech and NC State to take the title and that week’s SoCon Wrestler of the Week.

 “This year’s been cool, I moved down from 184-pounds to 174 this year. I feel healthier at that weight class, I feel a lot stronger at that weight class,” Uliano said.  “I’ve had some really cool matches this year, the UNC match for example, I got a big pin and the crowd went crazy. I think that’s kind of the moment’s everybody looks forward to when they’re thinking about coming to college.”

All of this success and effort has led to him earning a lot of respect from his teammates.

“He’s a good teammate, he’s always there to support you,” Miller said. “He’s always been around and a guy that you can count on when it comes to winning a match and helping out the team.”

Bentley thinks this newfound success could signal a bright future for their young starter.

“He’s having a tremendous amount of success,” Bentley said. “I think that if he can wrestle the way he’s capable of this last month and a half I think there’s a good chance he could qualify a bid for the NCAA Championships, and I think he’s right there on the cusp of being in the national rankings.”

Although he’s gained praise and success he’s aiming for more in the future.

“The goal is to be on that podium in March and be an NCAA All-American, that’s been my goal since I was a kid,” Uliano said. “When I first started wrestling, that’s what I could remember. Watching the national tournament in March and imagining being on that podium, so that’s been the goal and still is the goal.”

If he achieves this goal, he could put himself up there with Millner and Trotman in the list of all-time App State greats. But until then, he’s looking forward to the next match.

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About the Contributors
Clay Durban, Reporter
Clay Durban (he/him) is a junior digital journalism major from Asheville, NC. This is his first year with The Appalachian.
Sam Fleming, Photographer
Sam Fleming (he/him) is a freshman Computer Science Major, from Greensboro, NC. This is his first year with The Appalachian.
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