Wrestler's run of success could go global

Updated: April 30, 2009, 6:56 PM ET
Associated Press

Look out, world, Jake Herbert is on quite a roll.

In a three-week span, Herbert finished off an undefeated season with his second NCAA title, won the Hodge Award as the nation's top collegiate wrestler and claimed his first title at the U.S. championships.

Later this month he'll go to the world team trials, where he'll need to win only one match in his 185-pound class to qualify for his first world championships, Sept. 21-27 in Herning, Denmark.

"Why not go out there and establish dominance and let everyone know I'm the guy, I'm the top dog?" Herbert said. "I want to establish myself as the guy to beat."

Herbert was 135-4 at Northwestern, finishing with a 66-match winning streak. His .971 winning percentage is fifth-best among all college wrestlers since 1975.

But there are differences in the scoring and technique between folkstyle wrestling, done in college, and freestyle, done at the Olympics and world championships. That Herbert won a national title without much freestyle training is an indication of his talent.

And how much better he can become.

"I think Jake could be exceptional," said Sean Bormet, one of Herbert's coaches. "If you look through all his matches at nationals, he demonstrated a very successful balanced attack on his feet. He scored from a lot of different positions on his feet. If he continues to build off that and develops a few turns off the top position, he can be very dangerous.

"He can be a great international wrestler because he does have good scoring power."

Herbert also could be the first American wrestler to have commercial appeal since Rulon Gardner.

Personable and engaging, Herbert treats people as if they're longtime friends the minute he meets them. He's always smiling and loves to talk, no matter where he is. He's got no problem poking fun at himself, either. He turned one interview with Flowrestling, a wrestling Web site, into a personal ad, proclaiming his newly single status.

"I'm always having fun," Herbert said. "The American people need to see us as people, not just see us as the monsters we are on the mat. Off the mat we're a little goofy, a little crazy."

Asked what he does that qualifies, Herbert deadpanned, "Everything I do is normal. It's everybody else that's goofy and crazy."

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WELCOME BACK: American sprinter Dee Dee Trotter returned to training Wednesday after a long layoff following knee surgery to repair damage caused by a freak accident before last year's Olympics.

Shortly before the Olympic trials last year, a car door slammed up against Trotter's leg and caused a bone chip around her knee. She gutted through trials and made the Olympics in the 400 meters, but didn't get out of preliminaries in Beijing.

"That knee trauma took me out of competing the way I wanted to compete," said Trotter, the national champion at 400 meters in 2007 who also has an Olympic gold medal from the 1,600 relay in Athens.

Trotter is a breath of fresh air -- well-spoken, entertaining, founder of the 'Test Me I'm Clean' charity to promote anti-doping efforts. In other words, just the kind of person the struggling sport of track needs on the front lines.

Will she get there? Still to be seen.

She's 26, and has some tough days ahead to get back to world-class form. Contacted on Wednesday, her first day back at the track, she said she was shocked to be remembered.

"I thought I'd kind of fallen off the radar," she conceded.

She's hoping to get back into competition later this year, though making it to nationals in June may be too big a push.

"My first time out was today," she said. "It was just more cardio, trying to get back in shape. Then, we go from there and see where it goes."

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TEEN SENSATION: When Katelyn Bouyssou told her father she was going to win "that tournament with the five rings," he didn't think much of it. She was, after all, just 6.

Eight years later, Bouyssou is the youngest U.S. judo athlete to qualify for the senior world championships. The 14-year-old won the U.S. title in the 48-kilogram class last month, defeating reigning national champion Natalie Lafon, then beat Lafon again to earn a spot on the world team.

"I didn't know if she'd win it, but I knew she'd do well," said her father and coach, Serge Bouyssou. "She has so much desire, I think it's going to be hard for most people to keep up to her."

The world championships are Aug. 26-29 in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Bouyssou has also qualified for the cadet world championships, and could make the junior world team, as well.

A natural talent, Katelyn started judo when she was 6. (It would have been 4 had she had her way, but Serge, owner of the Mayo Quanchi Judo Club in West Warwick, R.I., made her wait.)

But it's her drive that really sets Katelyn apart. She was doing 1,000 push-ups a day when she was 9 -- she's since cut back so she doesn't damage her joints -- and her schedule is exhausting just listening to it. She goes to school until 3 p.m., does homework for an hour and then heads to the dojo for a two-hour workout.

Oh, she was a semifinalist in the Rhode Island state high school wrestling tournament, too, so throw in a two-hour practice for that sport, as well.

When someone suggests he's pushing his daughter, Serge Bouyssou just laughs. He's encouraged Katelyn to go to the movies or do other "kid" stuff, and she's not interested. When Serge told Katelyn she had to take two weeks off after wrestling season, she told her father he was ruining her life.

"I've always wanted to do judo. There's never a point and time where I wanted to stop. Ever," Katelyn said. "I've never heard people say, 'Oh, I wish I didn't practice that much,' or 'I wish I didn't do as much homework.'

"But I have heard people say, 'I wish I'd studied more, I wish I'd practiced more,' and I don't want to be wishing that when I'm older. I want to be happy with what I've done."

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OLYMPIC RINGS: World figure skating champion Kim Yu-na has another new title. The South Korean star was named public relations ambassador for Pyeongchang's bid for the 2018 Winter Olympics. ... Juliana Felisberta Silva's return to international beach volleyball was a triumphant one. The Brazilian, a medal favorite at the Beijing Games until a knee injury forced her out, won the Kia Open last weekend with Larissa Franca. It was a big weekend for the Brazilian men, too, as they swept the medals podium. ... Olympic gold medal gymnast Shannon Miller is expecting her first child in November. ... Brian Joubert made a coaching switch after his disappointing third-place finish at the World Figure Skating Championships. The Frenchman dumped Jean-Christophe Simond and had former coach Laurent Depouilly with him at the World Team Trophy.

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AP National Writer Eddie Pells contributed to this report.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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