Fruita's Seely driven to become a state wrestling champion
Jacob Seely is a couple of days away from the anniversary of the worst feeling of his life.
It was in Denver, at the Pepsi Center, the Class 5A state wrestling tournament, 170 pounds.
It was fifth place.
“You train all year to be a state champion,” the Fruita Monument junior said Tuesday night. “You don’t train to be fifth.”
His third-grade dream was to win a state wrestling championship. His 10th-grade nightmare was fifth place at 170 pounds.
So, he returns to the Pepsi Center for the 5A state tourney today to vanquish the empty feeling that has driven him since he left Denver last February, the recipient of a medal four levels lower than the one he thought should have been placed around his neck.
Seely intends to leave Saturday with nothing less than a state title at 195 pounds, because he’s done something about it. He left the Pepsi Center last year with a sole focus. He dedicated himself to wrestling and becoming a state champion.
For starters, he gave up football. And he loved football. He was good at it. He was one of Fruita Monument’s leading tacklers as a sophomore.
“He was a kid that came in at 15-16 years old, and he was ready to play,” Wildcats football coach Sean Mulvey said. “We put him in at the end (of the season), and he held it down.”
Mulvey spoke of Seely’s toughness, dependability, dedication, work ethic and willingness to be coached, and he wished he’d gotten to coach him two more years.
Instead, Seely takes all of those traits to the mat, because that is what he had to do.
“Not playing football was probably the hardest decision of my life,” Seely said. “But I want to be a state champion in wrestling more than I love football.”
He has trained harder and smarter. He eats right. He gets his sleep. He gets his mat time year-round, thanks to a lot of offseason help from his dad, Justin Seely, a Fruita Monument assistant wrestling coach who was a three-time state place-winner at Meeker High School and a state runner-up in 1987.
He’s attended wrestling camps, and one in particular last summer changed his wrestling life.
It was in Pagosa Springs, where he met the University of Iowa wrestling program’s strength and conditioning coach, Luke Lofthouse, a 2011 All-American wrestler at Iowa. Seely approached him first and got little response. But, after Lofthouse saw Seely wrestle, he had the coach’s full attention.
“He came up to me after the match and said, ‘You and me, we’re drilling,’ ” Seely said.
Hence, Seely was introduced to Iowa Style wrestling, the aggressive, never-give-an-inch approach that made Iowa hallowed ground in college wrestling.
“I’ve never been beaten up so bad in my life,” Seely said of the time spent with Lofthouse.
And he’s never been more grateful for a wrestling lesson.
“He taught me so much stuff that I’m going to use the rest of my wrestling career,” Seely said. “I can’t thank him enough.”
Seely is not the wrestler he was a year ago, and that means something, because Seely was no slouch as a sophomore. He lost his quarterfinal 4-2 to the eventual state runner-up. He lost the consolation match that would have given him a shot at third place by a point because of a stalling call.
Since those losses, he’s asked himself regularly: How much harder would you go to be a state champion? Then, he worked harder.
The results have been on display all season. From the outset, he has been dominant. He’s a foreboding presence before he starts the match, looking every bit a man now that he’s 25 pounds heavier. His muscles are lean and ripped.
When his matches start, he’s the one dictating everything that is going to happen, driving forward relentlessly and intelligently, giving no inch
“He’s imposing his will upon whoever he’s wrestling,” Fruita Monument wrestling coach Dan Van Hoose said of the biggest difference he sees in Seely this year.
If Seely today could face the wrestler he was a year ago, he’d maul him like he has nearly all of his opponents this year on the way to a 42-0 record. Pins and technical falls are the norm in his matches. The closest anyone came to him was Cody Stevenson of Desert Hills, Utah, in the quarterfinals of the meat-grinder of a tournament they call The Rumble in Orem, Utah, in mid-January.
Seely then defeated Utah’s Class 5A state runner-up and third-place finisher by major decision and technical fall, respectively, to win The Rumble.
Stevenson won the state title in Utah’s Class 3A last week, and Seely said he was glad to hear Stevenson did it.
Now, it’s Seely’s turn. He knows he’s ready for Colorado’s state wrestling championships. He saw to that. And he’s confident he’ll get that championship medal this time.
“I’ve wanted to be a state champion since I was 8,” he said. “Now I can be. And I’m going to achieve it this weekend at the Pepsi Center.”