CEDAR FALLS — Every morning Jacob Holschlag wakes up it smacks him in the face.
Hanging above his bed in his room on the campus of the University of Northern Iowa is the credential Holschlag was issued last year at the NCAA Division I wrestling championships. It is like any other credential, it shows a picture of Holschlag, his name, weight division (197) and the host city, St. Louis.
Three-hundred and 30 wrestlers were issued the same credential. Except in Holschlag’s vision of his there is an extra line that reads, ‘0-2!’
“That stung a little bit,” Holschlag said of his NCAA performance last March. “That hurt a lot. I don’t know if I ever went 0-2 in my life. The fire was burning real hot afterwards.”
While motivated after going winless, just two months after making the switch from 184 to 197 and finishing third at the Mid-American Conference championships to earn the NCAA berth, Holschlag questioned himself on how he was going to keep his fire burning.
The solution was to hang his credentials above his bed and each day since, Holschlag has woke up motivated.
“The key is keeping the fire burning until the next NCAA’s,” Holschlag said. “You just can’t burn for a month and then be like, ‘whatever.’ It has to burn for months. So that credential is just a little reminder of how it felt having to sit there, watch, and not even wrestle on day two.”
By all means, when the 2017-18 season rolled around in November, Holschlag’s fire was burning strong. First of all, instead of walking around at 189 pounds like he was a year before, the sophomore biology major from La Porte City, now sits around 197.
After missing the first three Panther competitions of the season, Holschlag went 7-2 at the Las Vegas Cliff King Invitational, including five consecutive consolation match wins before losing in the third-place match.
“That was a really good tournament,” Holschlag said. “I hadn’t wrestled in so long I just wanted to scrap.”
At 14-7, Holschlag ranks 14th in the latest NCAA rankings at 197. Of his seven losses, six have come to ranked wrestlers, and the other was to Penn State’s Shakur Rasheed in the Southern Scuffle finals, a tournament where he beat Penn State’s Anthony Cassar in the semifinals, who in turn last Saturday beat top-ranked Kollin Moore of Ohio State.
“I’m pretty confident right now even though I’ve taken a few losses the last couple of weeks,” Holschlag said. “I’m pretty confident I can wrestle with anybody in the country, beat anybody in the country. It’s just consistency over time. Doug (Schwab) stresses that all the time. That is where I am right now.”
Holschlag said he will continue to get up every morning, see that credential and attack the day with a purpose. That he says will go a long way toward first, qualifying again for the NCAA Championships, set for March 15-17 in Cleveland, but secondly not watching the final two days of championship competition.
It is the consistency over time approach.
“Don’t get too caught up in the grind,” Holschlag said of another key to consistency. “I have to remember this is a sport I love to do. I think I wrestle my best when I’m enjoying myself, having fun.”
Having fun on a daily basis is why the former two-time state champion, answers to, ‘Hog!’
“I guess at first I was like come on let’s not do this,” Holschlag asked of his nickname. “Now, I don’t mind because that is my name. Everybody calls me Hog. You just accept it.”
And just how did Holschlag earn his nickname?
“It’s a little bit of everything. Somebody in seventh grade called me Hog Schlaug. Then Logan (Thomsen, Wartburg all-American wrestler and former prep teammate) started calling me Hog.
“I guess I smelled bad sometimes back then, too, so they called me Hog.”
The Hog can next be caught in action Saturday when UNI hosts Iowa State at 7 p.m. inside the West Gym.