Within the past year, Jake Kettler has represented the University of Minnesota and the United States in a high level wrestling camp and competition in Finland, qualified for the Olympic trials and transferred to Mason.
While abroad, he wrestled against this year’s silver medalist in Greco Roman wrestling. Greco Roman wrestling is different from regular wrestling in that you do not use your legs for holds or pins. Kettler was in Finland along with wrestlers from Egypt, Russia, Italy and Estonia.
“The Russians really are some of the best wrestlers in the world and to have their coach come and teach us for a practice was incredible,” Kettler said.
Kettler’s time in Finland was first spent catching up on jet lag, but also in numerous clinics, camps, practicing and competing in tournaments. Kettler explained how the schedule was busy, how fantastic the food was, and how everyone made you feel dumb because they could all speak English.
“If an Itallian wanted to talk to a Russian, instead of trying the other’s language, they both just spoke English. It was such a common second language there,” Kettler said.
Unbeknownst to him, while Kettler was competing at this tournament, he qualified for the Olympic trials. Those were later held at the University of Iowa at Iowa Hawkeye Arena. Over 13,000 Americans qualified and for several days, they all competed and showed their mettle to try to earn a spot to compete.
“I was like sixth or eighth in my group, but in my mind, I could be anybody,” Kettler said.
Kettler ended up being knocked out of main pool contention by a wrestler he had beaten before. Though disheartening, he still made a good showing at the event and says it was an experience that really helped to improve his game.
What Kettler wants is to bring the National title to Mason. He originally left Minnesota because the team already had a defending national champion in his weight class, and Kettler was looking for a chance to compete and prove himself.
Kettler is originally from Minnesota, but his parents moved to Ashburn, Va. a few years ago.
When some of his coaching staff left the University of Minnesota to come here, Kettler knew he would be making the move as well. He is extremely excited to be at Mason and is loving the group of guys on the team. With the Olympic trials behind him and the next set of games not until 2016, Kettler is focusing solely on the NCAA for these next three years.
“I want to be Coach Russell’s first NCAA AllAmerican Champion,” Kettler said.
While he does bring a lot of talent to the Mason team with some incredible once-in-a-lifetime experiences and opportunities under his belt, Kettler is very humble about his success and wants to keep it that way.
When I compete, I give all glory to God. I want to be a Christian athlete, not an athlete who is Christian,” Kettler said.
Kettler explained that as an athlete, he does not want to be known strictly for his abilities, but also for his character and work ethic.
Kettler has also been selected to compete in the National Collegiate Wrestling Association All Star Classic this November at American University. The event does not count towards any NCAA ranking but is a showcase for the sport and some of the top competitors in the country. Kettler will be going up against Matt Meuleners, a three time All American and two time defending national champion. They have wrestled a few times in the past and even trained together for some time over the summer. Kettler says that their relationship is competitive but friendly.
Kettler is very excited for the time he still has here at Mason. After redshirting for a second time due to the Olympic trials, he still has three years of eligibility.
“Well you see, my career, it really has not happened yet. I was a backup mostly and to sum it up in one word, unfulfilled. I have a lot to prove,” Kettler said.
With a lot of time ahead of him, Kettler is looking at serious contention for the Olympic trials in 2016 and beyond. Wrestling is a sport that can be taxing on the body but is different for everyone: some retire after one trip to the Olympics while others still compete for several years.
Kettler spoke of a wrestler at the camp in Finland who was 32 years old. The whole trip provided eye-opening experience insight into other cultures and showed how even though they all competed in the same sport, their individual lifestyles could be very different.
“It was humbling to see some of the best athletes in the world and how they do not have anywhere near the same training possibilities and facilities as we do,” Kettler said.
With his humble attitude, incredible talent, a strong and familiar coaching staff and the desire to do great things, Kettler is someone that Mason students will definitely be hearing more about with the coming season.