Gophers junior wrestler Jake Short comes from a long line of both Gophers and wrestlers — including his father, Will, who coached Jake during four state titles at suburban Simley High. But Jake Short’s path to where he is now was anything but predetermined. In advance of Sunday’s dual meet against Wisconsin at the Sports Pavilion, he chatted with the Star Tribune’s Michael Rand.
Q What is it like competing for a program that has such family ties?
A It’s pretty awesome, actually. All my uncles and my dad wrestled here. It’s nice to carry on the tradition. The best part is I had my dad, who is my biggest support system, and he’s been through everything. He understands exactly what I’m going through. … I had in mind that I was going to wrestle for a long time. But I did not know that I was going to go here. I wasn’t going to follow in footsteps, exactly. I wanted to make my own path, but it turned out the U was the best program and the best fit.
Q But you had quite the athletic background outside of wrestling, right?
A Tennis and football in high school. But in middle school I did baseball, tennis, football, wrestling and dance. I did that until seventh grade. I gave up dance because you pretty much have to be a one-sport athlete for that.
Q You learned dance from one of your uncles. Tell me more about that.
A Yeah, it was my uncle Wade. He wrestled [at the U] for two years, but he’s a dance teacher and owns a studio. I grew up my whole life dancing. … Some of my teammates are like, “You played tennis? You danced?” I was kind of a weird mix.
Q What kind of dance?
A Every kind. I love dance. I feel like my balance and coordination are off the charts and it helped with my flexibility. I did everything from hip-hop to tap, jazz and ballet. … I don’t know if I’d ever do any moves out on the mat, but maybe in the locker room after a dual.
Q There was a ton of turmoil and controversy with the program last year, which led to a coaching change from J Robinson to Brandon Eggum. What was it like to go through that and how do you feel like you’ve gotten from there to this point?
A It was a tough situation, but I also think it was a blessing. … You can either try to hide the fact that it happened, or you can man up and say, “Guess what, it happened. We’re going to move forward now.” The guys who are here want to be here, and that’s the biggest difference. … We had a great couple tournaments recently. In our minds, we’re not losing another dual this year. Everyone is going to be surprised at what this team does this year. These guys right now are willing to put in the work.
Q What was the low point and how did you come back up from it?
A There were a lot of ups and downs. Guys were making bad decisions, there was peer pressure. … You can’t put blame one place. It was the whole team’s fault. But it was spiraling down. When you’re doing bad things and making bad decisions, you’re not getting better. … This year we figured it out. This is the program I want to be with. If you asked me that a year ago, it’s hard to say. We were just in a bad spot. Now we’re where we want to be.