A U.S. College Wrestler Sees a World of Possibility
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Look out, world, Jake Herbert is on quite a roll.
In a three-week span, Herbert finished an undefeated season with his second N.C.A.A. title, won the Hodge Award as the nation's top college wrestler and claimed his first title at the United States championships.
Later this month, he will go to the world team trials in Iowa, where he will need to win only one match in his 185-pound class to qualify for his first world championships, set for September in Denmark.
"Why not go out there and establish dominance and let everyone know I'm the guy, I'm the top dog?" Herbert said. "I want to establish myself as the guy to beat."
Herbert was 135-4 at Northwestern, finishing with a 66-match winning streak. His .971 winning percentage is fifth best among all college wrestlers since 1975.
But there are differences in the scoring and technique between the folkstyle wrestling in college, and the freestyle at the Olympics and the world championships. That Herbert won a national title without much freestyle training is an indication of his talent.
And how much better he can become.
"I think Jake could be exceptional," said Sean Bormet, one of Herbert's coaches. "If you look through all his matches at nationals, he demonstrated a very successful balanced attack on his feet. He scored from a lot of different positions on his feet. If he continues to build off that and develops a few turns off the top position, he can be very dangerous.
"He can be a great international wrestler because he does have good scoring power."
Herbert also could be the first American wrestler to have commercial appeal since Rulon Gardner.
Personable and engaging, Herbert treats people as if they are longtime friends the minute he meets them. He is always smiling and loves to talk, no matter where he is. He has no problem poking fun at himself, either. He turned one interview with Flowrestling.org, a wrestling Web site, into a personal ad, proclaiming his newly single status.
"I'm always having fun," Herbert said. "The American people need to see us as people, not just see us as the monsters we are on the mat. Off the mat we're a little goofy, a little crazy."
Asked what he does that qualifies, Herbert, deadpan, said: "Everything I do is normal. It's everybody else that's goofy and crazy."