Continuing with our Olympic Profile series as we count down the 100 days until the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
Today, we talk wrestling and spend some time with Olympian Jake Herbert.
Jake grew up in Wexford, PA and understandably, he’s a big Steelers fan – for that reason alone, our Editor-in-chief, James Hicks loves this guy…
Jake wrestled for North Allegheny High School and was a state champion in 2003. He also wrestled for Northwestern University, where he was a four time All American and an NCAA champion in 2007 and 2009.
We caught up with Jake to learn more about his preparations and plans going into London.
Jake Herbert is considered by many to be the best wrestler from Northwestern University; however, Jake denies this and humbly refers to himself as merely “the best-dressed wrestler from Northwestern.”
We talked Big Ten wrestling and when asked if he likes my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin, he responded, “Of course, I like all the schools where I was undefeated!” – PRICELESS
When asked about how he made the transition from the collegiate ranks to global competition he credited his college coaches and the winning environment both in Pennsylvania and at Northwestern. He was ready to make the jump and explode onto the international scene.
Jake’s road to the Olympics pitted him against the dangerous Travis Paulson in the Olympic Trials Finals. The finals are a best-of-three competition requiring wrestlers to wrestle, then sit for six matches, reload, and then go again. After losing the first match after a controversial third period out of bounds penalty, Jake came back and won two consecutive matches including a dominating first period in the third match in which he won 3-0. As a result, in London, Jake will represent Team USA in freestyle wrestling in the 84 kg/185 lb weight class. He credits his win to his overall drive and passion for the sport.
That being said, we asked him about wrestling as a sport and what it means to him. For his vision quest for Olympic gold it means putting his career and life on hold. Armed with a Northwestern degree, Jake has solid career potential. Instead, he’s sacrificed the money, his time, and his body to pursue the gold.
Jake is a wrestling advocate as well, highlighting its ability to let kids release energy and get out hyperactivity. As wrestlers get older, the focus, hard work and discipline are tantamount to success in learning, education, and life. Jake wants to give back to the sport as a coach some day.
On the world class circuit, Jake had lost to one of America’s best wrestlers Cael Sanderson in 2011. Leading up to the trails, Sanderson planned to wrestle in the 84kg weight class, so Jake had to prepare to face him again. Training with the looming prospect of facing Sanderson again, we asked how Sanderson’s withdrawal affected Jake’s preparation. “It didn’t affect the preparations. Going into the trials, he had beaten me in 2011. I had to refocus, get ready and train to face him. By the time he made the announcement the hard work was already put in.”
We asked Jake, “You’ve been an Olympian for less than a week, has it sunk in?” “(Laughing) Not really. A lot of people are congratulating me. When I went into the wrestling room for the first time, my teammates congratulated me. My coach said you are an Olympian.”
We asked Jake about the 30 minutes before a match, what’s going through his mind and what’s his routine. By this point, he has warmed up and got his lungs and heart rate up to speed. He works up a sweat, hydrates and fuels, relaxes, then warms up right before stepping onto the mat.
The best part of the interview was when Jake described his mindset immediately before a match; when walking onto the mat. I cannot adequately describe this in writing. When asked, Jake stood up and pointed the camera at himself and showed us verbally what he goes through to psyche up for competition. I am not joking when I say, you have to see this! (watch the full video interview below):
Lastly, we asked him to imagine himself on the top step of the podium. The American flag is being raised and the Star Spangled Banner is playing to commemorate his gold medal. Jake’s eyes misted briefly, and he said, “I don’t cry after matches. I’ve cried in anger in losing, but I never cry when I win. I think of all the sacrifice and this time I will cry.”
We hope you get the cry, Jake. In a weight class without a dominant presence, three difference people were world champs in the last three years; Jake has an incredible shot at bringing home gold.
Go get ‘em Jake!
Also, for those in Pittsburgh area, there will be a fundraiser to help with some of the expenses of getting Jake to London
When: Friday, May 18, 2012 | 4-8 p.m.
Where: Oxford Athletic Club | 100 Village Club Drive | Wexford, PA 15090 | 724-933-1911
There will be food, drinks, music, a live and silent auction, autograph signing with Jake, and memorabilia for sale.
Image via wrestling2012.com