London Bound: Local Athletes on the US Olympic Team - Jake Herbert

Part Four of our Series Features Former North Allegheny Tigers Wrestler
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Jake Herbert, a 2003 North Allegheny graduate has been named to the 2012 Olympic wrestling team in the 185 pound weight class. He is one of two Western Pennsylvanians to make the team, the other being Coleman Scott from Waynesburg. Herbert is also a 2009 graduate of Northwestern University and lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He is a two time NCAA champion winning titles in 2007 and 2009, and four time All American. He compiled a 135-4 record in college with two undefeated seasons. In High school he won the 2003 PIAA state championship and placed all four years. He compiled a 141-18 record in his four years at North Allegheny.

In Herbert's decorated career he has accomplished many things. In High school at North Allegheny he was a two time Powerade Tournament winner, A three time section champion, a two time Allegheny County Champion, winning most falls award. He participated in the Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic, and Dream Team Classic. Herbert was also an honor roll student as a senior and won the Concept of Physics Student of the Year award.

At Northwestern in his Freshman year, he compiled a 33-3 record and finished 3rd in the NCAA championships. As a Sophomore Herbert went 36-1 and finished second in the NCAA Championships. He was invited to the Marines ALL-Star Classic, and was named to the Academic All Big Ten Team as well as the NWCA ALL American Team. During his Junior year he produced a 32-0 record, and was named the BigElevenWrestling.net Wrestler of the year, and during his run to the 184 pound NCAA title did not give up a fall the whole tournament. He finished up his collegiate career with another perfect record of 34-0 and another NCAA title to finish 66-0 in his last two years. He won the 2009 Hodge Trophy given to colleges's best wrestler, and was named 2009 Big Ten Wrestler of the Year. In addition he was honored as the Jesse Owens Award winner as most outstanding male athlete of the year in the big ten for 2008/2009.

MSA Sports had a chance to talk to Jake's father Jim and get his reaction to his making the Olympic team. Asked if he was incredibly proud of his son, Jim said, "We certainly are, Jake was always within reach of this goal. I have to wake up each morning and pinch myself to believe its real" MSA also asked if he ever believed his son could do this. "I held him out of wrestling until he was 10 years old. He bugged me and bugged me. I had him in Judo first, when we let him start, right away we realized how good he was. My coach in high school Gus DeAugustino worked with him and said he never saw anyone do what he could at his age." In talking about the dedication and hard work his son put in he said, "Every kid dreams of making it to the majors so to speak, well this is his majors, this is the peak for wrestling, he's living his dream." The family plans on making it to London to see him wrestle as well. "We have 60 tickets so far and are very excited to get there."

Training in Colorado Springs Colorado Herbert took the time to answer a few questions in this exclusive interview given to MSA Sports.

MSA:  Congratulations Jake. What was your reaction to making the Olympic team?

Herbert: I wasn't going to let this opportunity slip thru my fingers. My goal is to win a gold medal, its all about getting that medal

MSA:  You have been wrestling since age ten. Did you ever dream about being an Olympic athlete at a young age?

Herbert:  I was always focused at the task at hand .I think in my Sophomore year of high school I realized I could go on and earn a scholarship to college due to my wrestling ability. Once I started having success in college I thought it was possible.

MSA: Tell us about your influences in your life, the people who helped you be who you are today.

Herbert: Its a combination of everyone to be honest. I have great parents obviously that have always been there for me. All of the coaches thru out the years that have helped me at every level, and of course the Angry Fish Wrestling program I am part of has really helped.

MSA: Your father told us he wouldn't let you wrestle until your were ten years old and you  had to really bug him to start.

Herbert: Yes he started me in Judo cause at a young age your body isn't ready for wrestling. Judo taught me balance. When he thought I was ready he let me get on the mat.

MSA: In high school you placed all 4 years in the PIAA state tournament, and finally won it in 2003. What was that experience like?

Herbert: Its the toughest competition out there, the toughest to win. In my senior year my weight class was loaded with talent. It felt great to win it.

MSA: Lets talk about why you chose to continue your academic and wrestling at Northwestern.

Herbert: I wanted the best wrestling possible, and the Big Ten undoubtedly is the toughest conference. More importantly I wanted the best academics possible. To get an education from a place like that was the best thing for my future.

MSA: You moved to Ann Arbor Michigan a few years back. Why Ann Arbor?

Herbert: I was involved with the Sean Bormet school of wrestling and he moved there. So me and some of the other top wrestlers moved there to train and be trained by the top coaches and focus on freestyle wrestling. That's the style guys all over the world use and that is used in the Olympics. Great coaching and wrestling was what I needed.

MSA: I read that you speak Russian and German, does that come in handy on the mat?

Herbert: Not on the mat so much, but when we travel the world, and especially Russia it helps when you want to communicate with the top guys over there. I learned enough to get by.

MSA: In 2008 you won the Dan Hodge award as the nations top wrestler. What went in to winning that.

Herbert: Only undefeated wrestlers were eligible. Then they track your, pins, major decisions, falls and all your stats. Its given to the most dominant wrestler of the year.

MSA: Your a two time NCAA champion and finished 66-0 in your last two years, and ended with a 135-4 career college record. You had one outstanding career, tell us about it.

Herbert: I really hit my stride there those last two years. With the help of my coaches Tim Cysewski and Drew Periano, they had me prepared.

MSA: Your father told me he has at least 60 tickets so far for the wrestling competition in London. That's a lot of support.

Herbert: Its gonna be all black and gold nation there, all Pittsburgh with some red white and blue as well.

MSA: What's the best thing, the thing you like the most about wrestling?

Herbert: Its the respect we get world wide. Being successful at the worlds hardest sport brings a ton of respect from everyone. When you walk around in some foreign countries your really looked up to.

MSA: What's the toughest thing about wrestling?

Herbert: Control your mind, pushing every day till you break, until you think you cant go anymore. Your mind controls your body, and your body controls your mind.You think you cant continue, but you have to train your mind to tell your body you can.

MSA: What advice would you give to younger wrestlers, kids on their way up?

Herbert: Happy are those that dream dreams. You have to be willing to give up everything. Its all worth it

MSA: You took a year off of college to train for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. You didn't make it but what did you learn?

Herbert: The travel the competition and wrestling the top guys in the world really taught me a lot. I knew how hard I would have to work to get there in the future.

MSA: Have you gotten any advice form anyone on how to handle the Olympic stage?

Herbert: You have to shut all the distractions, you have to be willing to do what it takes. These are the types of things I've heard.

MSA: Lets talk about your work ethic. Tell us what you had to go thru to get where your at?

Herbert: I've left it all out there on the mat. Every day I work hard. Its a lifestyle for me. I'm full in on this and have dedicated my life to it. The diet, the living right. I didn't go to parties in college, I worked hard and sacrificed everything for this, but to me its all worth it.

MSA: How do you deal with the pressure and mental aspect of the Olympics.

Herbert: To be honest its not pressure for me. Why did I work so hard and do all that I've done if I'm going to succumb to the pressure. If I think too much out there I would freeze up, and that's not what I work so hard for.

MSA: Along with Coleman Scott the both of you are the only wrestlers from the same geographical  area at the Olympics. That's pretty special.

Herbert: Yes we are both in the Angry Fish Wrestling Club, and former WPIAL wrestlers. We helped start that, and we are  both told by former WPIAL wrestler TY Moore that we could be Olympic athletes. For both of us to make it from Western PA, and Angry fish is pretty cool.

MSA: IS there another Olympics after this for you?

Herbert: I've been told by many people not to hang it up until after I'm mentally satisfied with my career. I'm not done yet. After London I'll take some time and see where my mind and body are first, and start training again. I can see myself doing this for a while yet.

MSA: How about after your done with wrestling altogether?

Herbert: I'd love to broadcast, maybe sports marketing. Obviously I would be involved in wrestling somehow. Id love to coach part time in youth leagues, high school or club teams.

MSA: After talking to you and hearing you, you seem so level headed, and from everyone we have talked to they all say your a great kid. How do you go from that to having the killer instinct on the mat. Some coaches have called you a natural or a freak because of what you can do.

Herbert: I work so hard, that I'm not going to let the other guy on the mat take that medal from me. It offends me to think they're trying. There is no better feeling than dominating another athlete on the mat and imposing my will on them. Wrestling is the toughest sport physically that there is. Our preparation is rivaled by no one in team sports. We don't take days off, we don't have a light day. I've said it before and I'll say it here what happens on the mat stays on the mat. When the match is over we shake hands. That's the way it is.

MSA: Jake good luck, everyone is looking forward to seeing you wrestle in London.

Herbert:  Thank you.

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