CARLINVILLE — Carlinville wrestling coach Robert Scott was somewhat worried about Jake Schwartz going into the season.
His star wrestler took the mat for the first time all year at the Litchfield Super Duals on Saturday, Dec. 4. He missed the previous season over the summer due to a wrist injury and shot up to 145 pounds in a relatively short amount of time.
Worried, perhaps. But Scott wasn’t surprised by the results either.
“He's been able to dominate his competition,” Scott said.
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It was like riding a bike.
“We'd been practicing for about a month,” Schwartz said of the Litchfield meet. “I was getting back into the hang of it, and I went out there not really knowing what to expect.
“I was pretty low in the rankings at the time and so I'm like, 'I guess I'm going to try and prove these guys wrong.' I went out there and I tech falled and pinned everybody at that tournament — then I knew I was good for the season.”
Schwartz, a junior, subsequently won his bracket in the Rex Avery PORTA Invite with a 7-5 decision over Lincoln junior Isaac Decker and currently touts a 28-0 record.
“It's been good so far, I haven't lost,” Schwartz said.
But not complacent.
Schwartz said he needs to improve his stamina following Tuesday’s home meet.
“I felt like I was tired,” Schwartz said. “In the first period, I was running out of energy already. I need to get conditioned and I need to get stronger.”
Schwartz is aiming for the podium at the State Farm Center in Champaign after reaching the Illinois High School Association state finals as a freshman at 113 pounds. He posted a 39-6 overall record but a 4-3 loss in the wrestlebacks thwarted his chances for a medal.
“That's just fuel if you think about it and think, 'I'm not going to lose by one again. I'm going to get on the podium this time,’” Schwartz said. “I mean, it was fun wrestling at state. It's a big arena. A lot of fans and a lot of people there. It's a fun place to be. I'm looking forward to going back this year.”
When Scott summoned his wrestlers to present goals for the season, that was exactly what Schwartz declared. It was both tangible and realistic, Scott said.
“You have to have something that's measurable because how can you dictate whether you achieve your goals or not if there's nothing to measure it by,” Scott said. “They were exactly what I expected.”
Schwartz certainly has the ability and experience to get it done.
He started wrestling in kindergarten after a group of friends piqued his interest.
“I was like, ‘OK, I guess I'll wrestle too,’ and most of them ended up quitting along the way, and I just stayed with it and I've always been good at it ever since I was 5,” Schwartz said. “I was kind of natural and have been working at it since then.”
Schwartz credited coaches David Daugherty, Tim Dixon and Tim Johnson for prodding him along the way. He additionally learned fundamentals through the Purler Wrestling Academy in Missouri beginning in sixth grade.
In addition to wrestling, Schwartz participates in football, baseball and band.
“I guess I can't really describe it,” Schwartz said of becoming a devoted wrestler. “I went out there when I was 5 and my record was like 30-10. I just had a feel and now I've obviously been practicing it for 10 years. I've been getting stronger going in the gym and all of that. It's just, I'm good at it.”
Schwartz constantly combs through videos for something new, Scott said.
“Jake is one of those well-rounded wrestlers where he's good at every position,” Scott said. “He can ride legs, he's good on top, he's good on bottom. He has a good arsenal of weapons across the board and in every position just because of his determination.”
Missing last season flustered Schwartz even more so because he couldn’t share one last season with that 2021 senior class, including Dustin Roberts, Chase Michaelis and Evan Bethard.
Schwartz now practices with another kids wrestling program product: 138-pound freshman Mason Gilpin. Schwartz lauded his new partner.
“He's got a good chance to make it to state when he gets older and he's even got a slight chance this year if he works hard,” Schwartz said of Gilpin. “But next year when I'm a senior and he's a sophomore, we can both be really good.”
Scott, a 1992 Carlinville graduate and former wrestler himself, also takes to the mat and wrestles against Schwartz.
Scott cited his extensive military experience for his coaching philosophy. He served four years in the Navy before undertaking 20 years in the Army, including 27 months deployed in Iraq.
Scott said it’s all about leading from the front.
“To me that's a critical part of leadership is showing what right looks like and emulating what right looks like upfront and hopefully they'll pick up on the attribute and they'll carry it with them,” Scott said.
Schwartz joked he likes to beat up on his coach a little bit.
“He's good,” Schwartz said of Scott. “He's fun to wrestle with. He likes to teach me stuff and yeah, he's a good partner.”
Contact Bill Welt: email@example.com, Twitter.com/BillWelt
This article originally appeared on State Journal-Register: IHSA wrestling: Jake Schwartz aims for state podium for Carlinville