Craig Luberts doesn't yearn for attention. It would suit him just fine if he could be anonymous.
Even though Luberts is just 5-foot-8 he stands out in any crowd because of his athletic ability. He recently completed one of the most prolific football seasons in central Minnesota history and will attempt to become a three-time state wrestling champion in March.
This fall, the Pierz Pioneers senior was named to The Associated Press all-state football first team, an almost unheard of feat for an outstate running back. He rushed for 2,103 yards on 248 carries (8.5 average) and scored 39 touchdowns, helping Pierz to the Class 2A semifinals.
He was named the St. Cloud Times Player of the Year and made The Brainerd Dispatch All-Area Team.
In his career, Luberts rushed 701 times, gained 4,852 yards (6.9 average) and scored 79 touchdowns. He ranks ninth in Minnesota State High School League history in rushing.
"I just can't say enough about his success. He's never arrogant, never boastful. He's mild-mannered. He's about as nice as he can be about his success. It's great to see a kid like that." -- Mark Jensen, Pioneers coach
"It's slowed down a little," the soft-spoken Luberts said of the media attention. "It's nice to get some attention but after a while it just kind of overwhelms you.
"It's been really exciting to get those awards. I'm honored. It was exciting for us and exciting for the community to advance that far in the state tournament."
Luberts entered this weekend's Paul Bunyan wrestling tournament at Brainerd High School with a 164-16 career record and eight pins. He was 9-0 this season, with eight wins by fall, and is ranked No. 1 in 1A at 145 pounds.
He is 10 victories shy of Chris Young's school record of 174.
"I'm hoping to go after an undefeated season," Luberts said. "Team-wise, I think we can place pretty high in the state tournament if everyone comes together and we all stay healthy."
As a freshman Luberts was state runner-up at 119. He won the state title at 135 as a sophomore and at 140 last season. He has helped the Pioneers, ranked second in 1A, to consecutive state team tournaments.
"He's the total package," said Pioneers coach Mark Jensen, a BHS graduate, who was an assistant with the Warriors in the 1980s. "He's got great balance, he has developed great strength, he has good speed. Technically, he's sound from all positions on the mat.
"He's kind of a once in a lifetime athlete. (Jim) Caughey was that same way when I was at Brainerd. I was fortunate to be along for that ride."
Jensen has coached Luberts' ride. He considers Luberts to be in a class with Young, a state champion at 160 in 2000. Young was also a runner-up and third-place finisher at state.
Jensen said Luberts does as much work outside practice as Young did to make himself No. 1. Luberts runs or lifts weights before school starts every morning.
"You find kids who are driven to excel but you don't come across athletes that often who have that kind of heart," Jensen said.
Luberts also puts his heart into academics. He maintains a 3.2 grade-point average.
"I just can't say enough about his success," Jensen said. "He's never arrogant, never boastful. He's mild-mannered. He's about as nice as he can be about his success. It's great to see a kid like that."
Luberts, who also starts in center field for the Pioneers' baseball team, will soon have to make the biggest decision of his life. Should he play football or wrestle in college?
Jensen believes Luberts will play football but ...
"I think if he accomplished his goals and comes away with another state title, maybe his line of thinking will change somewhat," Jensen said. "I think he would like to attend a college where he could play football and wrestle, which would have to be a Division III school.
"His wrestling talent is unlimited. Whether he wants to do that is his choice."
Luberts agrees his preference in college may be to play football. He has been contacted by nearly every MIAC school.
"I've kind of always wanted to play (college) football," he said. "This year has made that a more realistic goal."
Whatever Luberts decides, he's having a senior year to remember.
"It's not going to be one I'm going to forget, that's for sure," he said. "I'm just looking to improve on it."
That might be difficult for anyone other than Luberts to do.
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