Sept. 8, 2009
Since completing his career at Northwestern in March as a two-time NCAA champion, Jake Herbert has been on a mission to meet the next challenge in his life: becoming a world champion freestyle wrestler. It began in April with his U.S. National Championship and continued when he came away victorious at the USA World Team Trials in the 84-kg weight class. Herbert earned a spot on the World Team and the right to compete at the World Championships Sept. 21-27 in Denmark.
Before departing on his quest to become a world champ, Herbert chatted with NUsports.com to explain his expectations for the trip and what his training regimen has consisted of since qualifying for the USA World Team in June:
I can't believe the calendar has already hit September and I'm less than 20 days away from wrestling for my first world title. The closest comparison I can make is that it's like Christmas day--you wait and wait for it and then all of a sudden it's here before you know it. I plan on taking advantage of the moment and enjoying everything that goes along with it. I've been working my whole life for this and even though I know it won't be my last chance to prove that I am the best in the world, I still don't want to let this one slip away.
Being at the Olympic training center with a full-time focus on freestyle wrestling has improved my technique and comfort level with freestyle more quickly than I ever imagined. Every training session we have an Olympic gold medalist from '84, '88, '92, '96 and 2000 working with our team. Just when you think you have one aspect of wrestling mastered, bam, you move into something totally different and work with your heroes like John Smith, Mark Schultz, Zeke Jones, Brandon Slay and Mike Zadic. They can offer just the littlest pieces of advice that make such huge difference in your wrestling and those are the things that make the diffidence between winning gold at the World Championships and not placing.
Most importantly I know I am ready to wrestle harder and better than I ever have because I know I'm peaking at the right time physically and mentally. I've been in constant contact with my coaches at Northwestern and they've been phenomenal in supporting me throughout the process. Honestly I need to thank every single person that has helped me along the way, from my first wrestling coach, my family, everybody at Northwestern, the Overtime School of Wrestling and the Olympic Training Center that has taken time to just help me even if it's just offering a "good job" or showing me a new technique to try. Every little bit helps and we all hope the end result will be me standing in the middle of the mat exhausted but with a World Championship medal around my neck.
Wildcat fans have a chance to be on hand when Northwestern recognizes Herbert for his historic collegiate wrestling career--which included the 2009 Hodge Trophy and Big Ten Male Athlete of the Year award--during the NU-Penn State football game at Ryan Field on Saturday, Oct. 31.
Herbert will also be on hand as a featured clinician at the Northwestern Wrestling Coaches Clinic at Conant High School in Hoffman Estates, Ill., on Sunday, Nov. 1. For more information or to register for the coaches clinic, contact Tim Cysewski at 847-491-4799.