Jakob Campbell had mixed feelings about his final season of high-school wrestling.
On the one hand, the Boyertown senior’s farewell tour didn’t finish with a high-enough medal to suit his competitive nature. On the other hand, it provided him enough achievements to be memorable — among them selection as The Mercury’s Wrestler of the Year.
“I wanted to be sure I went out with no regrets. I didn’t put out any expectations … I wanted to have a lot of fun.”
In a Boyertown program where “fourpeats” were a familiar accomplishment, Campbell became well acquainted with that number through the recent post-season.
He won his fourth Pioneer Athletic Conference and District 1-AAA West championships. Claiming a 126-pound Southeast AAA Regional title this winter made him a four-time medalist at that level, and he achieved a first for the program in qualifying for the PIAA Class AAA tournament.
Campbell’s fourth-place finish at states was the highest of any wrestler from The Mercury’s coverage area. In a weight class headed by such high-caliber talent as Exeter’s Austin DeSanto and Franklin Regional’s Spencer Lee, Jakob came back from an overtime loss in the first championship round with four victories in wrestlebacks.
That put him in the medal round, where a 5-2 loss to Bethlehem Catholic’s Ryan Anderson consigned him to fourth place.
“I was happy to go out and compete,” he said. “I didn’t look at the bracket until the tournament was over. I focused on the wrestler I had.”
Campbell’s credits in a 39-6 senior season included the Outstanding Wrestler award at districts — a first for his career — and topping the 150-win mark. Finishing his career with a record of 156-32, he became just the 13th area grappler to surpass the 150 milestone; he ranks third in the Boyertown program between Alex Pellicciotti (Class of 2010, 170) and former teammate Gregg Harvey (Class of 2016, 168), and ninth overall.
“I definitely think I wrestled my best,” he said. “I worked to improve.
“I have no complaints with how the season went. I’m thankful for how the season went.”
He also medaled in a fourth trip to the King of the Mountain Tournament, and a second time at the Escape the Rock competition. Ironically, Campbell’s experience at the Escape the Rock tourney produced his biggest downer of the season.
Injured in his 132 third-place bout with Lou Raimo of Hanover Park, N.J., Jakob won by Raino’s disqualification. But he ended up on the sidelines with a concussion that kept him out of five dual matches, among them a 37-33 loss to Owen J. Roberts that snapped the Bears’ 33-match win streak in the Pioneer Athletic Conference.
“It was hard to come to practice and watch my teammates bust their butts,” he recalled. “I was like a warrior who can’t fight. But it fueled my hunger and fire for end of year.”
There was no putting it in the back of his mind, either.
“I tried to,” he said, “but the only thing I could think about was wrestling. It was hard to get away a bit. I just watched, picked up some things and helped the other kids.
“College guys will tell you if you have a setback like that, to work to improve every day. I worked to figure my tendencies and mistakes.”
That work included participation in volunteer workouts Pete Ventresca and his coaching staff ran at 5:45 a.m. To make those workouts, Jakob and twin brother David would rise at 4:45 a.m.
He revealed an eye-opening cup of coffee, and a travel mug full of the brew, helped him perform at a peak level.
“That was the goal I set in my mind, to work out,” he said. “I wanted to get another state medal.
“I always feel you can improve on anything. Pick up little things, evaluate every match. On Monday, come in and pick up from where we left off.”
Ventresca saw, in the drive shown by the Campbells, an example of how other wrestlers in the Bear program operated.
“They were intrinsically motivated,” he said. “It’s great they had the desire to go out and do things in workouts they know will make them better.”
After winning his first state medal as a sophomore, Campbell found himself in a leadership role with the team’s other medalists his junior year. That role became more pronounced this year with the stellar Class of 2016 — headed by the likes of Jordan Wood, Tommy Killoran and Gregg Harvey — going the graduation route.
“The coaches look for seniors to lead the team,” he said. “We had a young team with everyone learning the ropes.”
So that left the Campbells and classmates like Chris Berry, J.T. Cooley, Hunter Vogels and Matt Wilde to show the way.
“We had a very talented group of seniors with a lot of great potential,” Ventresca said. “Combined with the previous class, it was unbelievable. Steel sharpens steel.”
The end result was a 21-5 overall dual-match record, second place in the District 1-AAA Duals Tournament, a repeat District 1-AAA West team championship, second place in the Southeast AAA Regional and 10th place at states. The Campbells were among the six Bears to qualify for states, and Jakob was joined on the medal podium by Wilde (113) and junior Elijah Jones (182).
From the 113-pound weight class he manned his junior season, Jakob went up three slots to 132 this winter. He also wrestled a handful of bouts at 138 and 145 before making the drop to 126 for the post-season.
“It helped me,” he said of the weight increase. “I wasn’t cutting weight as much. I had more energy to compete.
“It gave me an edge. Bumping up helped a lot.”
Jakob often credited Dave, his workout partner in the Boyertown wrestling room, with helping him develop into the star grappler he became.
“I can’t thank him enough for what he did,” Jakob said. “He pushed me every day. I can’t be more thankful.”
Dave will be joining Jakob at Bucknell University next year. He expects to wrestle in the 125-pound weight class his first year in the Bison’s Division I program, and major in finance and accounting in the classroom.
Between now and then … more work.
“I’ll be in the room practicing to get better. I’m working to get ready for the next jump.”
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