Some people believe that success can be accomplished by working and specializing in one sport year-round, but for former Mizzou Defensive Tackle and current Oak Park Head Wrestling Coach, being a multi-sport athlete is something that shaped him into the man and person he is today. In a recent discussion, Coach Vincent noted, “Kids need to be multi-sport athletes, coaches need to share athletes. One of the big things in my interview process we were talking about was how football and wrestling, they need to be married and they go hand in hand.”
Vincent grew up in the Kansas City metro area in Olathe, Kansas. During his time in high school, Vincent was a successful wrestler. He was a three-time State Qualifier and capped off his career by recording an individual title in the heavyweight division.
“I wrestled for three and a quarter years” Vincent stated. “I had originally planned to graduate during the semester break, my senior year, and enroll at Mizzou so I didn’t go out and I didn’t start the season. Then about a week before it was time to go and I was like, I don’t think I’m ready (for college ball). I think I’m going to stay in high school and finish up my senior year. So I went back out after winter break and then KSHSAA (Kansas State High School Activities Association) did not allow me to wrestle post-season my senior year due to not being seen from the beginning of the year, so I’ve been beefing with KSHSAA since. I’m very glad to get out of Kansas coaching and head to Missouri.”
Lucas Vincent’s wrestling blood runs deep from when he first stepped foot on the mat at the age of nine. Being introduced to the sport through a former coach’s son, Vincent said, “He really got me more into it to help me with football, then after that, I just kind of fell in love with the sport.”
Following up on his early found love of the sport, Vincent continued to explain how essential wrestling was for him and his football career. “Wrestling has helped me tremendously,” he said. “It really helps with your hips and finding leverage for body position, especially if you are a lineman. I actually learned my best pass-rush move from wrestling. It was a big part of the reason I got two sacks in the SEC Championship game my senior year.”
Not only was he an accomplished wrestler, but Vincent was also one of the top-recruited football prospects in the state of Kansas. Per MUTigers.com, “Scout.com ranked him as the nation’s No. 23 defensive tackle prospect and Rivals.com ranked him as the No. 6 overall prospect at any position coming out of the state of Kansas.” He was a four-year player for the University of Missouri from 2011-2014. During his time with the Tigers, he collected 90 total tackles, forcing 16.5 for loss and a total of 6.5 sacks.
After a little digging of my own, a common trend occurred in a few guys on the roster during Vincent’s time with the Mizzou. Guys like Evan Boehm, Justin Britt, and even Aldon Smith were high-profile athletes that have been successful, and all of which have a wrestling background beyond the gridiron.
Luckily for Coach Vincent, his knowledge of the sport was brought to use after an impromptu match against former teammate Aldon Smith. Vincent said that during his first couple weeks in Columbia, “I’m getting to know everybody, and Aldon was kind of one of those guys that took me under, took care of me, taught me the playbook, and things along those lines. He was like, ‘Hey, I heard you were a pretty good wrestler, you want to wrestle me?’ and so I’m like Alright! And tossed him in a headlock!”
Which progressed straight into the next topic of discussion: whether he ever had the opportunity to step inside the wrestling room. Did the option or chance of lacing up the wrestling shoes ever come across his mind during his time with Mizzou or did he ever have a discussion with Coach Brian Smith?
“No, I didn’t really,” Vincent responded. “I knew a lot of the guys (on the team), just because I did a lot of the Kansas national teams in high school, so I knew a bunch of those guys from around those tournaments and the bigger tournaments and things of that kind. I was pretty good friends with J’den Cox, we would tie up in the hallways of the MATC (the athletics building/dining hall across from the stadium) and everything. But no, looking back now, I should have. You know, my senior year, I think I would have liked to try to wrestle rather than training for Pro Day and everything like that. Kind of like Andrew Jones did with basketball back his senior year.” (Andrew Jones was a four-year tight end for the Tigers during the 2008-2011 seasons who eventually traded in his cleats for basketball shoes in the later portion of his collegiate career.)
Breaking away from the wrestling aspects of things, Vincent played a large role in one of the most successful teams to come through the Mizzou Football program. Playing alongside the likes of Shane Ray, Aldon Smith, and Markus Golden, among many other top players for the Tigers, Vincent was a part of the program that was welcomed into the SEC. A team that stepped in and went to back-to-back championship games in 2013 and 2014, taking on both Alabama and Auburn so I asked what it was like going from Big 12 action to taking on a powerhouse Southeastern Conference.
“That it was a really cool experience,” Vincent reflected. “I was in that group that bridged over from the Big 12 to the SEC. Going from places like, you know, Oklahoma, A&M, but you know, they went to the SEC as well. Going from playing those Big 12 teams to those SEC teams was a cool experience. Especially getting to see a lot of those historical stadiums like Tennessee and Florida, and just playing in some of those places and playing against some of the country’s top players was a really great experience.” One of those top players was Derrick Henry, the current starting running back for the Tennessee Titans. Vincent noted, “He was the only player I have ever tackled and got up thinking I should have gone lower.”
While playing football at the University of Missouri may not be a dream destination for recruits, it’s a place that takes a visit to grow interest. As for Coach Vincent, that statement goes a long way, as I had to ask, “Why Mizzou?”
“Just the family atmosphere,” he said. “It was a big change from just any other place I’d seen. The place that I really wanted to go to was Oklahoma but I went there a couple of weeks prior to Mizzou and it was just so impersonal, just a different player. And then I’m walking in (to Columbia), I’m walking into my official visit at The Zou and Sean Wetherspoon comes up and gives my mom respect. And everybody knows who you are and the coaches care that you’re there. And it just felt like a place that you want to be a part of.”
Prior to landing the Head Coaching job at Oak Park, Lucas Vincent’s coaching career started out at Blue Valley North where he was an assistant for two years. He then got his first head coaching job at Shawnee Mission East for a year, eventually leaving due to teaching positions being filled. Following his time as a Lancer, Vincent landed a teaching position at Olathe West where he was an assistant for two years. Eventually taking over the start-up of the women’s program, Vincent has thrived in the head coaching role for the past three years growing the numbers from 9 to 42.
Once learning of the opening at Oak Park, Vincent saw himself as a great fit for the position. “I was happy with my spot over at Olathe West,” Vincent said. “I had a lot of success there, but, you know, it’s Oak Park. There’s a lot of talent, and there’s a huge wrestling tradition. I thought it was too good of an opportunity to pass up. I’m really happy with the choice I’ve made. They love wrestling and the community support is huge, which is kind of something that you don’t always get from a wrestling standpoint when there are many different high schools in the area.” Vincent continued to express his gratitude toward his new position and the excitement he has to work with the community and the athletes in the school ultimately stating “Oak Park, They love their wrestling!”
With the new job, come new faces and names to learn inside the building. The opportunity to meet some of the student-athletes has already taken place. Vincent noted, “Yeah, we’ve been (in the room). We’ve been going in freestyle for a couple of weeks now and actually got a practice coming up. It’s a really good turnout. I have a lot of kids. I got about thirty kids on average that show up between the boys and the girls. It’s good. You know, just really kind of set a precedent there that hey, if we want to be successful, we got to put in the work consistently.”
We summed up our chat about what his message is to his incoming athletes and what he wants to accomplish. “I let them know what I’m all about. I like to work hard, I like to have fun, and I like to win,” he said. “My goal here is to win state championships. That’s what I want to do. That’s what I was brought here to do. Yeah. So let’s get to work!”
Through the eyes of an outsider, it seems as if Oak Park has nailed their hire. Coach Vincent comes from a solid background with plenty of knowledge and wisdom to share among both students and athletes. His early career has taken programs to new heights and we can expect no difference in the coming years! Best of Luck to Coach Vincent in the coming season and as always,