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Anoka’s Jake Waste: He became only the sixth national Triple Crown wrestling champion in history

Jake-wasteby Troy Misko – Sportsweek – Original here

Already, Jake Waste has accomplished a lot during his young wrestling career.

He was a two-time school boys’ folkstyle national champion, a five-time state freestyle and Greco Roman champion and a fourth-place finisher at the Minnesota State High School League’s state individual tournament as a freshman.

Things were about to get even better this year, in the middle of his sophomore year at Anoka.

Or so he thought.

Waste’s 2009 indeed will be memorable. Just not exactly as he expected. He never expected to be a national triple crown winner — champion of folkstyle, Greco Roman and freestyle national tournaments — this year. But then again, he never expected to have his high school season end as miserably as it did either.

Waste spent much of the high school season ranked either first or second at 145 pounds among the state’s class AAA wrestlers. He won the prestigious Rochester Christmas Tournament. He posted a 32-1 record and won a second straight Section 7AAA individual title to qualify for the state tournament for a second consecutive season.

Then, the unthinkable happened. He failed to make weight at the state tournament.

Waste came in above the MSHSL limit for 145 pounders. He doesn’t even know by how much. He says he was so disappointed he couldn’t bring himself to look at the scale when it happened.

What Waste does know is that after a season of routinely cutting and making weight, he took in too much fluid the night before the weigh-in. Too much to shed, anyway.

“I couldn’t work it off the next day,” Waste said. “I made a mistake. I missed weight.”

Missing weight and being forced to forfeit his state tournament match wasn’t the end of his nightmare. What followed in the coming days was just as painful.

“I got trashed on by pretty much everybody in the state of Minnesota,” he said. “I felt like I was the biggest piece of poop ever. I was just absolutely down. It was a mistake that I made. The first couple of weeks after, I didn’t want to be seen by anybody. I was just thinking, Damn, does everybody hate me.”

Gradually, thanks to relentless encouragement from his closest friends, Waste began to shake off the disappointment that tormented him. He rededicated himself to wrestling.

In early April, he faced his biggest test since missing weight at state: the ASICS USA Wrestling Folkstyle National Championships in Cedar Falls.

“After the mishap at state, obviously I wanted to get after it, to prove that I still was the best even though I didn’t make weight for state,” Waste said.

It turned out to be not such a big challenge. Waste easily won his third folkstyle national championship, this one in the cadet (16-and-under) 160-pound division. More important, the gloom that followed him less than two months earlier was steadily dissipating.

“I wasn’t totally satisfied because I knew not all of the best guys were there,” he said. “I think I got like four points scored on me the entire tournament, and that was me letting things go. I wanted to win really bad, but I wasn’t totally back to my normal self yet. I was still a little more lackadaisical.”

That would change. Waste says it was a conversation with his father, Jason, that put him on track again.

“After winning folkstyle (nationals), my dad said, ‘This is your year to do it, to win the triple crown,’ ” Waste recalled.

“He said, ‘I believe in you. I know you can do it.’ Since then, that was my goal – to win the national triple crown.”

Waste was only one-third of the way to his triple crown. The biggest challenges — the Greco Roman and freestyle disciplines at the ASICS/Vaughan Cadet Nationals in Fargo from July 17-25 — were still months away.

He used that time to sharpen his focus and hone his skills in both disciplines.

“I kept training as hard as I could,” he said. “I wanted to prove that I was the best in the country.”

Waste did just that, winning the cadet 160-pound Greco Roman national title on July 20 and the freestyle national title on July 24 to become sixth wrestler to capture national championships in all three styles in the same year.

He defeated Sam Brooks of Illinois in the finals of both the Greco Roman and freestyle competitions.

Waste practically cruised through his Greco Roman bracket. He won seven matches and earned two byes to reach the final. In the Greco Roman championship, Waste had a veritable Who’s Who of U.S. Olympic wrestlers in his corner, with former Anoka wrestlers Dan Chandler (1976 and 1984 Olympic Games), Jake Deitchler (2008) and Brandon Paulson (1996) backing him.

None of that rattled Brooks, who won the first period 1-0. Waste battled back to narrowly win the second and third periods, 1-0 and 3-2, and move a step closer to his triple crown.

“I knew in my head that I was going to win (the Greco-Roman final),” Waste said. “You have to know in your head that you’re going to win. If you think you’re going to lose, you’re not going to win. I was mentally strong going into that match.

“After I won that match, I wanted the triple crown, but I was dead tired. I was so tired. This was all in a seven-day period, freestyle and Greco. I was pretty tired in freestyle. But all my teammates were there for me. ‘You have a chance to win this. You can’t give up now.’ That actually did it for me. I came after it.”

Waste wouldn’t go undefeated in the freestyle competition, however. Oklahoma’s Kyle Crutchmer scored a decision over him to put Waste in a position in which he would need a pin his next opponent to qualify for the final. He did just that, scoring a fall over Jeff Koepke of Illinois at 97 sec onds of the second round of their match.

“At that point, it’s not, What if I lose?” Waste said. “It’s, I’m going to win. I’m going to be the sixth person in the country ever to do this.”

Brooks again stood in his way. Again, Brooks took the first period against Waste, winning 3-0 on a score with only seconds to go in the period.

Waste says he wasn’t moving enough against Brooks in the first period of the freestyle final. He wasn’t doing enough to dictate the match’s flow. That quickly changed.

“I knew I had to keep my feet moving, keep (Brooks) moving to win this match, and that’s what I did,” Waste said. “I think I broke him mentally because if you see the second and third period scores, it was 5-0, 6-0.”

And it was Jake Waste, national triple crown winner.

Waste might not have achieved his feat had he not experienced the disappointment that surrounded his failure to make weight at the state high school tournament. It forced him to rethink some things, It forced him to change his style. It forced him to rededicate himself to the sport he loves.

Paulson, for one, noticed the difference.

“I think I saw a change in his wrestling at the nationals,” says Paulson, USA Wrestling’s 2008 Greco Roman Coach of the Year. “He was pretty hard-nosed and down to business when he wrestled. He was a lot more aggressive, in-your-face kind of a brawler style to compare to how he was wrestling. I think it’s a style that will work better for him. I think it’s more of the Anoka style that I’ve tried to coach. His style of wrestling kind of shows what his attitude is now. So I think is attitude has changed. I’m sure he has something to prove. He wants to prove to everybody that he still is one of the best wrestlers in the state.

“I think he has always had the confidence. Hopefully now he can vault to a new level. I was telling him afterwards, he has accomplished big things, but now it’s time to move it up a level. I mean, he has talent to move it up another level.

Next year he’ll be going into the junior division instead of cadets. It’s a whole new ballgame. Now he’s got to pick up his training and his seriousness for wrestling if he’s going to stay at that elite national level.”

Waste is well aware of that. He intends to do everything he can to augment his position as one of the state’s — and one of the nation’s — best wrestlers in his division. He’ll take what he learned and the confidence he gained from his triple crown experience and put it into his work for what’s next for him to accomplish.

“I realized that I can do anything with my total attention,” he said. “I can do it. If I work hard, it’s going to pay off. Before I worked hard, but I was kind of doubtful because of what happened at state.

“After I got up out of my slump, after I won the Triple Crown nationals, I’m going back to being a state champ — a two-time state champ. It’s not going to stop me. I’m not stopping…”

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