Time is winding down on Jacob Naig’s wrestling career. That explains why the Wartburg College senior is trying to cram as many wins as possible into his final semester of eligibility.
After Naig won the NCAA Division III 149-pound national championship last season, he was down to one half of a season of eligibility. Beginning with the Desert Duals in Las Vegas last month, that clock started running.
“I’ve got to take advantage of every day, every practice,” Naig said. “I still love practicing every day, being with all of the guys, being a part of the team and going to tournaments and winning.”
He can still put on a show.
Naig won his weight in the Matman Invitational at Cornell College Sunday. He was named outstanding wrestler after scoring three pins and a technical fall among his five victories.
Naig takes a 44-match winning streak and a No. 1 ranking into the National Duals beginning Saturday at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls.
Wartburg coach Jim Miller said he’ll miss not watching Naig at work.
“It’s sure nice as a coach to sit in the corner and think, ‘Oh boy, what are we going to see right now?’ ” Miller said. “He’s an all-out guy trying to pin you all the time. Not only the coaches, the crowd likes it, everybody likes it.”
That unrelenting offensive style was likely groomed in the Naig family’s living room, backyard, basement or any other space that facilitated two bobcats wanting to whip each other. Older brother J.D. Naig won three NCAA Division II championships at Nebraska-Omaha.
Jacob Naig said that style was favored by high school coach Bob Kenny, who led Emmetsburg/Armstrong-Ringsted to four Class 2-A traditional team championships and two dual-meet state titles when Naig was in high school.
“After four years of Bob Kenny, that just becomes a part of you,” Naig said. “You don’t have to think about it, you just do it.”
He still has the well-worn knees. A brace surrounds his right knee.
“They’re both not great, always popping and clicking,” Naig said. “I’m sure that’s natural with a lot of wrestlers.”
There will be no lack of intensity as he seeks a national championship March 6-7 in Cedar Rapids, but there won’t be as much weight on his shoulders as last season.
“I feel almost a little more relaxed this year because I don’t have to worry about getting that one,” Naig said. “Now I can have fun and help the team out, be a part of the team.”
By: Des Moines Register (Original here)