It is only appropriate that our first wrestler to be featured on the “Pennsylvania Modern Legends of Wrestling” series is a wrestler who has the opportunity to greatly enhance his resume, not that it needs any help, at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Jake Herbert won more NCAA Divisions I Championships than PIAA Class AAA Championships and placed all four years in both. While that in itself duly qualifies the Wexford, PA native, Herbert cemented his Pennsylvania Wrestling legacy when he became an Olympian in April 2012.
Jake got a taste of success early, like most accomplished Pennsylvania wrestlers, at the PA Junior Wrestling Championships where he won two PJW State Titles, once in 1996 and again in 1998. Entering North Allegheny High School in 1999 Jake was a touted freshman in a wrestling program with a history of success in both the WPIAL and PIAA. His freshman year Jake competed at 135 lbs. for the Tigers and had a remarkable season which included Championships at the Eastern Area Invitational, the Warren Tournament, the Section 3 Tournament and South West Regional Tournament, as well as placing third at the POWERade Christmas Tournament, 4th at the Fred Bell Memorial, and ending his freshman campaign by finishing in 6th place at the Class AAA State Championships.
Moving up to 145 lbs. his sophomore season, Jake once again compiled an outstanding year that was capped with a 3rd place finish at the PIAA Class AAA State Tournament. Despite being a returning WPIAL Champion, Herbert was seeded 2nd to senior Ryan Powell of Trinity, also a returning PIAA medalist. Herbert dropped a close (3-2) match to Powell in the finals but rebounded the following week at the PIAA State Tournament by defeating Powell (3-1) in overtime during the 3rd place match.
Up two weight classes his junior season, Herbert captured his first POWERade Championship by downing Jeremy Hart of State College (3-0) in the finals at 160 lbs. At the South West Regional tournament Herbert was the top seed for the first time in his career and proved it when he recorded three falls, including in the finals, and a regular decision en route to his 2nd career WPIAL Championship. Entering the PIAA State Tournament, Jake Herbert only had one defeat, which he suffered in the finals of the Beast of the East against Blair Academy’s Matt Palmer by a score of (10-3). In his third trip to Hershey, Herbert advanced to the Championship Finals for the first time but the North Allegheny junior fell short losing to North Penn’s Zac Fryling (9-3) in the 160 lbs. finals. Fryling, also a junior, was a returning PIAA medalist who a year earlier lost his first match of the State Tournament and wrestled all the way back in the consolation round to take 3rd place at 152 lbs.
Despite having one of the most successful careers in his first 3 years at North Allegheny, Herbert had yet to earn an elusive PIAA State Title. Herbert made it clear early in the season that a State Championship would be his come March 2003. In December 2002 Herbert won the Walsh Ironman Championship at 171 lbs. defeating St. Paris Graham’s Joe Dennis (7-1) in the finals. At the POWERade Christmas Tournament Herbert captured his second straight title, winning (5-2) over Oxford’s Josh Weitzel in the finals at 171 lbs. Herbert then tore up the Allegheny County Tournament recording all falls en route to the Championship and Outstanding Wrestler Award at 171 lbs. During the post-season Herbert won his fourth straight Section 3 title before earning his third career WPIAL title. Herbert won the 171 lbs. WPIAL Championship by pinning all 4 of his opponents in under three minutes.
In his fourth and final time in Hershey, Jake Herbert was the clear favorite at 171 lbs. and for the second straight time the Tiger advanced to the Championship finals. Herbert went unchallenged into the finals racking up one fall and two major decisions. In the finals Herbert faced a familiar opponent in District 1’s talented senior Josh Weitzel of Oxford Area High School. Weitzel, like Herbert, was a PIAA State runner-up his junior year, falling (5-3) to Steve Borja in the 2002 State finals at 171 lbs. In his sophomore season Weitzel placed 5th at 145 lbs., falling to Trinity’s Ryan Powell while Herbert would end up defeating Powell finishing in 3rd place. For the second time that season Herbert defeated Weitzel in the finals, earning his first career PIAA State Championship with a (3-1) victory to cap an undefeated season.
Jake Herbert would end his North Allegheny career with a record of 138-18 including being a 4x Section 3 Champion, a 3x South West Regional Champion, a 4x PIAA Class AAA Medal Winner, and a 1x PIAA Class AAA State Champion. Additionally, Herbert racked up two straight POWERade Championships and was named to both the Dapper Dan Classic Pennsylvania Team and the Wrestling USA Dream Team his senior year.
Evanston, Illinois would be where Jake Herbert called home for the next 6 years. Following an outstanding high school career at North Allegheny, Jake entered Northwestern University as a Communication Studies major in Fall 2003. In his true freshman season Herbert received a redshirt and went 14-0 while wrestling unattached, including winning the Michigan State University Open at 174 lbs. Following a year of training and adjusting to college wrestling, Herbert picked up right where he left off, starting the 2004-2005 season at 174 lbs. and winning 22 straight matches to begin his career at Northwestern. The redshirt freshman became Northwestern’s first Midland’s Champion since 1974 when he captured the prestigious tournament’s 174 lbs. Championship. Herbert went on to be a runner-up at the Big Ten Championships and qualified for his first NCAA Division I National Tournament during his freshman campaign. After dropping his first match at the NCAA’s Herbert rattled off seven straight wins in the consolation bracket and finished an outstanding 3rd place at 174 lbs. Herbert ended the season with a 33-3 record. During the off-season Jake entered the FILA Junior National Championships at 84 kg/185 lbs. in April 2005 and went on to win the title over Iowa State’s Jake Varner. The following month however, at the 2005 Junior World Team Trials, Varner rebounded and defeated Herbert in a best-of-three series to earn a spot on the 2005 Junior National Team.
Following a stellar redshirt freshman year Jake Herbert returned to action his sophomore season at 174 lbs. for the Wildcats. He won championships at the Michigan State University Open, the Reno Tournament of Champions, and earned his 2nd straight Midlands Championship in addition to being named the tournament’s “Champion of Champions.” During the post-season Herbert captured his first ever Big Ten Championship and once again qualified for the NCAA National Tournament. Herbert entered the NCAA Tournament undefeated and received the 2nd seed at 174 lbs. behind Missouri’s Ben Askren.
The redshirt sophomore advanced to his first ever NCAA National Tournament finals where he faced fellow undefeated wrestler Ben Askren. The funky Askren made short work of Herbert, piling up a 14-2 major decision for his first of what would be two National Championships. Despite falling short of a National title, Herbert ended the season with a 36-1 record, moving his career mark to 69-4, and earning his second straight NCAA All-American honors. In addition Herbert was invited to, and participated in, the NWCA Marines All-Star Classic early in the season and by the conclusion of the year he was named an Academic All-Big Ten and member of the NWCA All-Academic Team. During the off-season Herbert entered the 2006 University National Freestyle Tournament, winning the championship at 84 kg/185 lbs. over Roger Kish and named the tournaments “Most Outstanding Wrestler.” Herbert earned a spot on the World University Freestyle team that competed in the 7th annual World University Championships held in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. At the World Championships in Mongolia Herbert earned a bronze medal in the 84 kg/185 lbs. weight class for team USA.
As a redshirt junior in 2006, Herbert already accomplished what many college wrestlers strive for their entire careers, placing 3rd and 2nd at the NCAA National Tournament in his first two seasons of competition. One obvious aspect of Jake Herbert is his ability to improve and advance his wrestling year in and out. That is why it came as no surprise when Herbert moved up a weight to 184 lbs. his junior season and made the jump look effortless by capturing his first NCAA National Championship. Herbert’s season began with a second straight victory at the NWCA Marines All-Star Classic, a championship at the Eastern Michigan Open, and recorded a 5-0 mark at the Cliff Keen National Duals earning him the Tournament’s “Most Outstanding Wrestler” award. During the post-season Herbert captured his second straight Big Ten Championship and was named the tournaments “Most Outstanding Wrestler” for his performance at 184 lbs. In his third trip to the NCAA Div. I National Tournament, Herbert received the #1 seed and recorded four straight majors en route to his second straight finals appearance. In the finals Herbert faced freshman Jake Varner from Iowa State, oddly enough a current teammate of Herbert on the 2012 Olympic Freestyle Team, defeating the Cyclone 6-1 to capture his first NCAA Division I Championship and his third straight All-American Honors. Herbert ended his redshirt junior season a perfect 32-0 bringing his career record to 101-4.
Following his redshirt junior season Herbert was granted an Olympic redshirt year which allowed him to train for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games while retaining one more year of NCAA eligibility. In February 2008 Herbert entered the Dave Schultz Memorial International tournament at 84 kg/185 lbs. and defeated Davyd Bichinashvili of Germany in the finals to earn his first championship in an International Freestyle event. On top of his continued training for the 2008 Olympic Team Trials Herbert again competed in the University National Freestyle Tournament in April 2008. For the second time in his career Herbert won the 84 kg/185 lbs. University National Freestyle Championship and was again named the tournament’s “Most Outstanding Wrestler.” At the 2008 University World Team Trials Herbert earned his spot on the United States’ World University Team by winning the 84 kg/185 lbs. weight-class. After capturing a bronze medal in his last trip to the World University Championships, Herbert set his sights on a gold medal for Team USA. Before Herbert competed in the World University Championships he first continued his quest to be an Olympian. At the 2008 Olympic Team Trials, Herbert posted a 1-2 record, failing to earn a spot on the 2008 United States Olympic Freestyle Team. Herbert quickly rebounded and prepared for his second stint at the World University Championships to be held in Thessaloniki, Greece. In Greece Herbert posted a 2-1 record and earned his second bronze medal for Team USA.
Jake Herbert returned to the Northwestern wrestling room in Fall of 2008 seeking to earn his second National Championship and cap one of the most decorated wrestling careers in Northwestern school history. Herbert made his return at 184 lbs. by winning the Michigan State University Open followed by his third career Midlands Championship title in December and being named the tournament’s Dan Gable “Outstanding Wrestler” award. During the post-season Herbert captured his third straight Big Ten Championship and was once again seeded 1st in his fourth trip to the NCAA Tournament. Herbert recorded one fall and three major decisions to appear in his third straight NCAA Tournament finals. He met 2008 National Champion Mike Pucillo of Ohio State in the finals at 184 lbs., reclaiming the NCAA title with a (6-3) victory, and earning his 2nd NCAA Division I National Championship. His efforts were rewarded when he was named the 2009 Hodge Trophy winner, RevWrestling.com Wrestler of the year, Big Ten Wrestler of the year, and the “Jesse Owens” award for the best male athlete in the Big Ten Conference. Additionally Herbert was named Academic All-Big Ten as well as a NWCA All-Academic team member. Herbert ended his redshirt senior season undefeated yet again with a 34-0 record capping his career record at 135-4. His win percentage of (.972) ranked Herbert #5 all-time in the NCAA Division I.
After six long and successful years at Northwestern University Jake Herbert was now free to continue his wrestling career as an international freestyle competitor. With the 2012 Olympic games only three years away, Herbert began to prepare for his second Olympic Team Trials and reaching his goal of becoming an Olympian. Less than a month after concluding his career at Northwestern University Herbert entered the U.S. Nationals Open Freestyle tournament in April 2009. Competing in the 84 kg/185 lbs. weight class, Herbert was seeded 6th, but captured the his first U.S. Nationals Open title and was named the tournament’s “Most Outstanding Wrestler” for his achievements. Herbert received an automatic berth into the World Team Trials Championship finals. At the World Team Trials in Iowa Herbert defeated 84 kg/185 lbs. challenge tournament winner Bryce Hasseman in a best-of-three series earning his first career spot on a USA World Team.
The 2009 World Championships took place in Herning, Denmark and Jake Herbert made the most of his first ever USA World Team appearance. Herbert won four straight matches and was the only United States wrestler to advance to the gold medal match. In the finals Herbert fell (1-0, 1-0) to Zaurbek Sokhiev of Uzbekistan finishing the tournament as the World Silver Medalist. Herbert’s incredible run into the World Championship finals in his first ever appearance at the tournament earned him the 2009 Freestyle “Wrestler of the Year” award presented by USA Wrestling.
2009 may stand as the best year of Jake Herbert’s wrestling career. In just over a six month period the Pennsylvania native reached outstanding heights on both National and International stages.
- March 8, 2009: Jake Herbert wins his third straight Big Ten Championship
- March 8, 2009: Jake Herbert is named the Big Ten Wrestler of the Year
- March 21, 2009: Jake Herbert wins his second NCAA Division I National Championship
- March 27, 2009: Jake Herbert is named RevWrestling.com “Wrestler of the Year”
- March 31, 2009: Jake Herbert named Hodge Trophy winner
- April 11, 2009: Jake Herbert wins the U.S. Open Freestyle Championship at 84 kg/185 lbs.
- May 31, 2009: Jake Herbert wins the World Team Trials at 84 kg/185 lbs.
- June 19, 2009: Jake Herbert named “Big Ten Male Athlete of the Year”
- September 22, 2009: Jake Herbert wins a World Championship Silver Medal
In 2010 Jake Herbert returned from a long and eventful year. At the 2010 U.S. National Open Herbert won his second straight title at 84 kg/185 lbs. earning him an automatic spot into the World Team Trials championship match. In the 2010 World Team Trials championship finals Herbert faced challenge winner and Pennsylvania native Keith Gavin. Gavin, a former NCAA National Champion, pushed the 2009 World Silver medalist to the breaking point and nearly scored the upset victory over Herbert. Gavin opened the best-of-three-matches with a convincing win over Herbert to take a 1-0 match advantage and stood one win away from claiming the victory. Herbert showed composure and rallied back to win the second match and tie the series 1-1. In the third and deciding match Herbert scored a (1-0, 1-0) victory over Gavin and earned a second straight spot on the USA World Team. In his second trip to the Freestyle World Championships Herbert looked to improve on his Silver Medal earned a year earlier. At the 2010 World Championships held in Moscow, Russia Herbert was beat in his first match by Cuba’s Reineris Salas Perez and eliminated from the tournament.
In 2011 Herbert won his third straight U.S. Nationals Open Championship at 84 kg/185 lbs. and again earned a spot in the World Team Trials championship match. At the 2011 World Team Trials Herbert would face a daunting task. Olympic Gold Medalist Cael Sanderson made his return to international wrestling by qualifying for the World Team Trials Challenge Tournament. Sanderson breezed through the 84 kg/185 lbs. bracket to meet U.S. Open Champion Jake Herbert in the best-of-three championship match. In two straight wins Cael Sanderson won the 2011 World Team Trials over Jake Herbert ending his bid for a third straight appearance at the World Championships.
With the 2012 Olympic Team Trials a year away Herbert decided he needed a change if he was going to earn a spot on the USA team in London. Herbert moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan to join the Cliff Keen Wrestling Club at the University of Michigan where he would train with top competition. According to USAToday.com Herbert wanted to train with Overtime School of Wrestling founder and current Michigan University Assistant Coach Sean Bormet. The move to Michigan would pay off in April 2012 when Herbert won the Olympic Team Trials at 84 kg/185 lbs. and reached the highest achievement of his wrestling career. In the best-of-three championship series Herbert met Travis Paulson. Paulson, a past World Team member, current Iowa State Assistant Coach and former 3x All-American for the Cyclone’s. Paulson opened up the series by winning the first match and putting Herbert in a must win situation. Herbert rallied back from the deficit by winning two straight matches, taking the series 2-1, and earning the right to represent Team USA in London.
Jake Herbert is clearly one of the best wrestlers of the modern era to come from the Keystone State. The World Silver Medalist has the opportunity to cement his mark on USA Wrestling in July 2012. Regardless of his outcome in London, Herbert has achieved a multitude of achievements in his wrestling career that will be remembered for many years to come.
Prior to High School
Pennsylvania Junior Wrestling Championships:
1996: 10 and Under Champion at 85 lbs.
1998: 11 and 12 Champion at 105 lbs.
At North Allegheny High School
POWERade Christmas Tournament:
1999: Tournament 3rd Place at 135 lbs. as a freshman
2000: Tournament 6th Place at 145 lbs. as a sophomore
2001: Tournament Champion at 160 lbs. as a junior
2002: Tournament Champion at 171 lbs. as a senior
PIAA South West Regional & Class AAA State Tournament:
2000: (34-8) South West Regional Champion & State 6th at 135 lbs. as a freshman
2001: (32-8) South West Regional 2nd & State 3rd at 145 lb. as a sophomore
2002: (37-2) South West Regional Champion & State 2nd at 160 lbs. as a junior
2003: (35-0) South West Regional Champion & State Champion at 171 lbs. as a senior
2003: Dapper Dan Classic Team Pennsylvania Representative at 189 lbs.
2003: Dream Team Classic Team USA Representative at 171 lbs.
High School Career Record at North Allegheny of (138-18)
At Northwestern University
2004: Midlands Champion at 174 lbs. as a freshman
2005: Midlands Champion at 174 lbs. as a sophomore
2008: Midlands Champion at 184 lbs. as a senior
Big Ten Tournament & Division I NCAA Tournament:
2004: Redshirted and went 14-0 at 174 lbs. wrestling unattached
2005: (33-3) Big Ten Tournament 2nd Place & NCAA 3rd Place at 174 lbs. as a freshman
2006: (36-1) Big Ten Tournament Champion & NCAA 2nd Place at 174 lbs. as a sophomore
2007: (32-0) Big Ten Tournament Champion & NCAA Champion at 184 lb. as a junior
2008: Olympic Redshirt Season
2009: (34-0) Big Ten Tournament Champion & NCAA Champion at 184 lbs. as a senior
2005: Named Midlands Tournament “Champion of Champions”
2006: NWCA Marines All-Star Classic Member
2006: Named Academic All-Big Ten & NWCA All-Academic Team
2007: Named Cliff Keen National Duals “Outstanding Wrestler”
2007: Named Big Ten Tournament’s “Most Outstanding Wrestler”
2007: NWCA Marines All-Star Classic Member
2008: Named Midlands “Dan Gable Award Winner” (Most Outstanding Wrestler)
2009: Named Big Ten Conference “Wrester of the Year”
2009: Named the Big Ten Conference’s “Most Outstanding Male Athlete”
2009: Named Academic All-Big Ten & NWCA All-Academic Team
2009: Named RevWrestling.com “Wrestler of the Year”
2009: Hodge Trophy Winner
Career Record at Northwestern University of (135-4)
National & International Freestyle Career
2005: FILA Junior National Champion at 84 kg/185 lbs.
2006: University National Champion & “Outstanding Wrestler” at 84 kg/185 lbs.
2006: World University Bronze Medalist at 84 kg/185 lbs.
2008: Dave Schultz Memorial Champion at 84kg/185 lb.
2008: University National Champion & “Outstanding Wrestler” at 84 kg/185 lbs.
2008: World University Bronze Medalist at 84 kg/185 lbs.
2009: U.S. Open Champion & “Outstanding Wrestler” at 84 kg/185 lbs.
2009: United States World Team Championship Member at 84 kg/185 lbs.
2009: World Silver Medalist at 84 kg/185 lbs.
2009: Named USA Wrestling Freestyle “Wrestler of the Year”
2010: U.S. Open Champion at 84 kg/185 lbs.
2010: United States World Team Championship Member at 84 kg/185 lbs.
2011: U.S. Open Champion at 84 kg/185 lbs.
2012: United States Olympic Team Member at 84 kg/185 lbs.
2015: U.S. Open Champion 84 kg/158 lbs.