Brandon Luckett starting wrestling partially because his older brother was already involved. Finding a niche in a sport he could call his own is what kept the Catholic High senior involved and motivated.

“I was always a small guy,” Luckett said. “I was too small to play most positions in football, and I couldn’t catch real well.

“Being able to compete in a weight class against guys who were my size was good for me.”

In turn, Luckett has been very good for Catholic High wrestling. He has a 40-3 record in the 160-pound weight class and is expected to be among the leaders as the Bears help host the Louisiana Classic tournament Friday and Saturday at Baton Rouge’s ExerFit.

The 54-team tournament is Louisiana’s largest showcase and features the top teams from all three of the state’s wrestling divisions. A year ago, Luckett finished as the runner-up at 152 to Nick Michael of Division II Holy Cross-New Orleans.

Luckett took that Louisiana Classic loss and turned it into a positive, earning City and Division I individual state titles weeks later. He was also an All-Metro selection and compiled a 45-6 record.

“As a defending state champion, he (Luckett) is one of the guys we put pressure on,” Catholic coach Tommy Prochaska said. “We want those guys to step up and be leaders for our team, and Brandon has done that.

“He’s really come into his own. Over the years his body type has changed, and now he’s a lean, mean wrestling machine. He’s adjusted to those changes and really works hard every day to improve.”

To say that Luckett’s body type has changed is an understatement. He wrestled in the 119-pound class as a freshman and was at 130 as a sophomore before moving up to 152 as a junior. He now is 6-foot 1/2 inch in height. It’s a contrast to his older brother J.P. Luckett, a football linebacker and the 189-pound champion and one of the meet’s outstanding performers when Catholic won the Division I title in 2010.

“That year was the best example of what a team should be,” Luckett said of 2010. “I always looked up to my brother and the older guys to show me how things should be done. You have to be like a family and that group was. We’re coming together and working to be that way.”

Though the Louisiana Classic is a regular-season meet, Luckett said its importance cannot be overstated.

“This meet is important. It’s a big meet, and it gives you the chance to see all the other people you’re going to see at state,” Luckett said. “It’s a grind because you may have wrestle five times in two days. But it gets you ready, and it helps set up how you’ll be seeded for state.”

Years of experience and discipine have prepared Luckett for the grind. It should come as no surprise that he’s a student with a 3.8 grade-point average who plans a pre-med college major. Prochaska said Luckett’s strength and technique for wrestling on top has improved, allowing him to garner more pins.

“I’m focused on my technique and conditioning,” Luckett said. “I work after practice to try and get my shots and takedowns quicker.”

As a freshmen, Luckett also ran cross country. The Bears’ new training regimen that included swimming last fall led to a second sport.

“After we were out there a few days, coach (Doug) Logsdon (Catholic’s swim coach) came up and asked me why he (Luckett) wasn’t swimming for him,” Prochaska saidd. “He joined the team and did really well. He came close to qualifying for state.”

The state meet Luckett is primed for now is the LHSAA’s State Wrestling Tournament set for Feb. 15-16 at Kenner’s Pontchatrain Center.

The chance to compete against defending Division I champion Brother Martin and other top challengers like Jesuit and Archbishop Rummel at the Louisiana Classic is the next stepping stone.

“The goal is to win state,” Luckett said. “That’s the ultimate.”