After having his senior season ripped away from him when he was potentially a few weeks from NCAA gold, the University of Iowa’s Pat Lugo isn’t mad at the NCAA; he’s ready to make the MMA world feel it.
Just before the NCAA National Championship, Pat Lugo was told that the season would be cancelled and his final run at his first National title would be taken away from him. While everybody else would get an extra year of eligibility, he would, unfortunately, not be as lucky.
He was the favorite to win for the first time and it just didn’t matter.
“I was 100% confident at the Big Tens, especially when I avenged my only loss of the season in the Big Ten finals,” Lugo explained. “I was confident going into Nationals. We were like a week or two weeks out from the National tournament and, yeah, I was calm, confident and I was ready to go until the news hit me.”
Lugo had Sammy Sasso and Austin O’Connor in his crosshairs. Winning a National title would be validation enough, but a win over one of those two would strengthen his elite status even further.
Yet the news that hit Kollin Moore and Luke Pletcher like a ton of bricks sat confusingly well with Lugo.
“It wasn’t any anger, like, I wasn’t mad at the world because I’d been to the National tournament before. I had my chance before,” Lugo said. “I had three chances at the National tournament before and I only All-American-ed once, so, it wasn’t like I was pissed off. I was more just so disappointed and more sad than anything because of my teammates. I didn’t get to accomplish our team goal. A couple of the guys on the team didn’t accomplish their individual goals; I didn’t get to do it with them, so I kind of felt bad more for them than myself, if you ask me.”
Lugo knows that while nothing in life is guaranteed, he was the favorite and the Hawkeyes were the favorites. The NCAA Championship his senior year was likely to be one of the greatest weekends of his entire life.
“We were rolling, man,” Lugo said. “I think our last dual meet of the year was Oklahoma State and we dominated them. We had a good Big Ten tournament, all of us were on cloud nine. I think we were all feeling good going into the tournament. As a team you could just feel it in the room; there were just good vibes.”
Two years removed, Lugo is still at peace with the situation. Instead of using the injustice as a “what if,” Lugo looks at his 2020 season as a source of motivation.
Wrestling for the Hawkeye Wrestling Club, Lugo is gunning for Olympic gold. Very little matters outside of the thought of standing on the podium with a gold medal, but that doesn’t mean Lugo doesn’t have a plan when his Olympic run has reached its end.
“I definitely have interest in MMA after I wrestle,” Lugo said. “I don’t know when that is going to be, but I’ve been to Coconut Creek at American Top team and I rolled around with some of those guys like Dustin Poirier and a couple other guys here and there. It’s definitely something I might consider in the future. I talked to Frank Mir, one of the vets in the UFC, and he told me if I have dreams to be in the UFC then do what you want to do in wrestling first, then you can go to the UFC. That was his advice to me, so I’m taking it.”
Will we see Pat Lugo in the UFC in a handful of years? Who knows, but for the sake of the featherweight and/or lightweight division, hopefully he’s forgotten all about the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.
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