Jake Herbert is going to change the game. Currently, small part time wrestling clubs can’t keep up with the 24/7 nature and elite coaching of the super clubs. Jake Herbert aims to correct that.
He’s come up with a System called BASE Wrestling that is a long term curriculum combining athleticism, drilling, flexibility, live wrestling, and world class technique to set up wrestling clubs and wrestlers with the foundation to be incredibly successful on and off the mat. If anyone can do it, Jake can. Check out a small sample of his resume:
- 2012 Olympian (84kg/185 lbs)
- 2009 World silver medalist (84kg/185 lbs)
- 2009 NCAA champion (184 pounds)
- 2007 NCAA champion (184 pounds)
- 2006 NCAA All-American (2nd, 174 pounds)
- 2005 NCAA All-American (3rd, 174 pounds)
- Three-time Big Ten champion (2006, ’07, ’09)
- Career Collegiate Record: 149-4 (5th in NCAA all-time win%)
- 2009 Dan Hodge Trophy recipient
- Top 10 wrestler of the 2000’s
Jake was kind enough to allow SW to catch up with him and shared his thoughts on the state of youth wrestling, athletic development, weight cutting, his new wrestling club, and what his BASE program is all about. Check it out.
SW:Tell us about your new club: Barwis Methods Elite Wrestling Club powered by the BASE Wrestling System?
JH: It’s a big facility in Plymouth, MI. We partnered with Mike Barwis, one of the premier Strength and Conditioning Coaches in the world to bring a world class wrestling experience to wrestlers in the area. It’s been a great experience so far and we had a great showing for our first week.
Me coaching at the Barwis Method is great, but at maximum I can coach 200 kids a year which I believe is wasting my talent. If I can coach 200 COACHES who coach 200 kids each, that’s 40,000 kids. That’s what BASE is all about.
We’ll look at a kid, see where he’s deficient, work on those weaknesses and make them a strength.
SW: Tell us a little about BASE Wrestling? What is it and why should a club team use it?
JH: Because it works! It’s similar to the Russian National Training System. We know it works, because Russia’s won the most medals out of like 50 out of the last 51 world championships. If you ask all those medalists from Russia what their training was like for the past 8 months, you’ll get the exact same answer. One guy may have been working on a low single more vs another with a high crotch, but for the most part it will be the same. It’s a system that’s built to work.
If you ask Jordan Burroughs or Tervel Dlagnev what their training was for the last 8 months, you’ll get two completely different answers.
Wrestling is wrestling. It’s not rocket science. You get a person, you make them an athlete, once they’re a great athlete you put them in the most common positions on both offense and defense. You don’t just drill it, you make them go live so they can learn what works best for them and what doesn’t. And if you start that when you’re 8, 10 years old by the time they’re 18, they’ve worked “X” amount of hours on the single leg, on the headlock, etc and they’re gonna be proficient. If they’re not, it’s because they don’t like the sport. You know, they’re not keep coming and getting your head smashed in and not figure out how to finish on a single leg. If you have 10,000 single leg starts you’re gonna figure out how to hold that lock, be strong enough to hold that lock, and then how to finish. And, we’re gonna teach you what works best for your body type: whether you’re tall, short, skinny, fat, quick, slow, etc.
SW: I really like what you said there. In my experience with MMA and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, there are a lot of different coaches who teach JUST their style. Whether they’re tall, short, etc. That’s not how it should be, so I love what you’re doing because I believe that gets lost a lot not just in wrestling, but in all sports.
JH: It does. I ask kids hey, “what’s the proper way to finish a single leg”? And the say, run the pipe, or do a crackdown, etc. I say “well you guys are just naming ways that work”. So what’s the correct way? The correct way to finish a single leg is when the referee gives you two points! It doesn’t matter how you do.
If you can get a single leg, cup a fart, throw it in your opponents face and you can knock everyone out with your powerful gas and you win a state championship that way, then great job. But what happens if you run up against a kid who can’t smell? Your takedown worked against 99.9% of people, but now you need a different way. And that’s what I found out against that Cuban. I have the best single leg in the world, and it works on almost everyone but I ran into the one guy who had better single leg defense.So, you need a couple other things cause you’ll finish differently on a 5’5″ guys vs a 6’2″ guy.
Andy Hrovat says this all the time. To be a great wrestler, you need to be:
Strong Enough, Fast Enough, Flexible Enough, Athletic Enough, and Balanced Enough (check out the top 5 most athletic WNO wrestlers here). You need that and you also need world class technique.
Everyone has a different combination of those things, but you need to be ENOUGH of everything.
SW: In my interview with Steve Borja, we spoke on that subject as well. How important it is to be strong enough to not get bullied, but you don’t have to be the absolute strongest on the mat. A guy like Jordan Burroughs has been successful with that. He’s not the strongest out there but he’s strong enough to not get bullied, and then he’s the fastest out there.
Furthermore, speaking on being strong enough, fast enough, etc; It blows my mind that we test our athletes in the NHL, NBA, MLB, and NFL but we don’t test our wrestlers. In fact, I truly believe that with the data I’ve put together here in the past 5 years at my facility, I can put a wrestler through nothing wrestling specific, but test about 7 things, and I can tell you within 90% whether they’re a good wrestler or not.
JH: Absolutely, I completely agree. I was doing that same thing with our athletic BASE warmup. I can watch these kids move around just do athletic things and I can pick out the best 5 athletes in a room of 100.
That’s one of problems with youth wrestling. We start skipping all that stuff. Parents ask, well, why are you making them walk on their hands, why are they doing cartwheels? How is that gonna make them a better wrestler? Well think about this: if you have a kid who can do a backflip 3 times in a row and who’s never wrestled, and then you have a kid who’s wrestled 6 years but can’t do a cartwheel and you grab a single leg on each one…who’s gonna go down first? That’s wrestling.
So, there HAS TO BE a big emphasis on athleticism and strength testing. I don’t understand why we don’t do it. Well, I do…It’s because it’s not as lucrative a sport as the NBA/NFL. We’ll get there though.
SW: That’s so true. Everyone is so concerned with winning Tulsa at 8 years old, that they skip that stuff. Obviously if you spend all your time at that age just wrestling and not working on your athleticism (playing other sports, working with a strength coach, doing gymnastics, etc) then you’re gonna be better than the kids who are at that age. But the problem is, the athletic kids will catch you eventually, and they’ll do it when it counts because no one gets scholarships for winning at 8 years old.
JH: Yeah, exactly. I 100% agree with that. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. And if you go ask Tom Brands, Drew Pariano, Sean Bormet they’re not going and asking kids, “Hey, how’d you do at Tulsa Nationals”? No, they look at Sophomore, Junior, Senior year of high school. And I tell kids this: If you win state as a Freshman, take 2nd as a Sophomore, 3rd as a Junior, and don’t place as a Senior you know, what do think will happen?
But, if you go he opposite way and win state your senior year and they see you improving then you’re gonna get a better scholarship. Too many kids think that if they can’t win at 8 years old they’re not gonna be good at the sport, and that’s just not true. I mean, Jordan Burroughs is a perfect example of that. That guy didn’t hit his potential until his junior year of college, and then BOOM he’s on a rampage now.
Talk about peaking at the right time, you wanna peak at Jordan Burroughs age, not when you’re Steve-O’s age.
SW: So, I always ask this questions in our interviews. Who’s the Strongest Wrestler you’ve ever faced?
JH: Man, strongest wrestler…There’s a lot of them. Andy Hrovat, who’s sitting next to me is VERY strong in the chest lock position. Mike Tamilo from Northwesrern was like GOON STRONG, so strong it’s like he has an extra chromosome in his body. There are a lot of guys like that. I like the guys who have the big muscles though cause they get tired fast.
SW: Good point. Too often we see high school kids focus on hypertrophy (muscle size) in lifting. They think big muscles=strong muscles which is not true. It’s important to have dense, strong muscles (neural strength) as opposed to bigger, weaker muscles or putting the emphasis on the wrong movements for wrestling.
JH: Yeah, there are a lot of Eastern Europeans like that. A guy who doesn’t look like he is strong, but when he gets his hands on you, you’re like shit, this guys strong.
That’s my goal too…I don’t lift to look good. I lift to be STRONG.
SW: Good point. Speaking of strength, tell us a little about your High School, Collegiate, and Olympic Strength and Conditioning Experience.
JH: So, my Strength and Conditioning coach in high School was my dad. He was good at it. He was a state champion and knew a lot about wrestling.
Then I got to college and my strength coach there was awesome. The great thing about him, is he would come to practice and watch us, and make us do wrestling specific stuff in the weight room. I was really fortunate to have him in college.
And then for the 2012 Olympics I went with Mike Favre who’s a great guy and a fantastic coach. He’s the Strength and Conditioning coach at the University of Michigan. I needed to put some size on and Mike really helped me out. I put on 10 pounds of solid muscle. One of the things he really helped me out with too was my footwork, speed, and agility. Those things really helped me take it to the next level.
Now, I work with Mike Barwis who’s just above and beyond. I think I’ve gotten to learn what works for me and what I respond to best and as I’ve worked with Mike I know I’m gonna be wrestling at 100% and I’m gonna be the strongest wrestler I’ve ever been.
One thing I really liked about Mike Favre too was he was really good at pushing when I needed to push and backing off when we needed to. If there was something that might have hurt me or I didn’t need to do, he would tell me to back off. Because getting stronger is a marathon not a sprint. That’s hard for us as wrestler’s sometime because we always want to go 110% every day.
SW: That’s a good point. I speak on that a lot. Strength and Conditioning is a tool. The weight room is not the end all be all. It should never affect your athletic goals in a negative manner. The ultimate goal is to use it as a tool to make you better at wrestling. I always tell my athletes I could care less what their weight numbers are. As long as their athletic skills improve and the work they do translates to better performance on the court, field, ice, or mat that’s the most important thing.
JH: 100%. And that reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:
I’m not trying to be the best at exercising, I play real sports
I’m not lifting weights to get better at lifting weights, I’m lifting weights to get STRONGER, to get FASTER.
SW: What would you tell wrestlers who are hoping to reach levels you have, what would you recommend to them?
JH: Freestyle and Greco. You need to wrestle. You don’t need to be in the room EVERY day .If you do freestyle and greco, and it’s 2 practices a week for 6 weeks, that’s an extra 12 practices you wouldn’t have had if you don’t do FS/GR. That’s 12 extra times you worked on finishing a single leg. It’s the little things that add up over time, especially if you’re young.
It’s like a deposit. Every pullup (and everyone should have a pullup bar at a young age), every single leg, every defense is like a deposit. It’s the little things. You may not withdraw it for another 5 years, but they add up over time and they’ll be there when you need to withdraw.
SW: That’s what I tell all my wrestlers as soon as they walk into my facility. Get a pullup bar, put it in your room, and pay the toll. Every time you walk under it you have to do pullups.
JH: Absolutely. We’re currently doing a challenge at the University of Michigan with Rope Climbs. The ropes are about 22′ long, and we take off 5′ because you start 5′ up. So, each climb is worth 17′. What were doing is tracking each wrestler and seeing who can climb the height of Mt. Everest the fastest. (Note: who’s gonna try this as a club/team? What a great idea!)
SW: That’s a great idea! Keep me updated. Moving on…Unfortunately a lot of athletes cut weight improperly due to no/wrong information. When did you learn how to properly cut weight and clean up your nutrition?
JH: My Sophomore year in college. When I was in high school, I took 6th my freshman year at 135, and then the next year I beat the guy ranked #1 at 135 at a tournament. So I thought I should go down to 135 again. But, I grew. I was about 150 some pounds and I didn’t know how to cut weight properly. I was at the point where I said “Ok, an apple weighs a pound, and 3 cookies weight 4 oz, so I’m gonna eat the cookies”. I had NO idea about nutrition.
I got down to 140lbs and I went 1-5. I ended up going 145 and taking 3rd at State.
In college it was a little different. My freshman year I was a big 174, but my sophomore year I was a HUGE 174. So I wanted to cut weight right. It got to the point I was writing down everything I put in my body. If I took a sip of water, I’d write it down. Everything. I took it to a nutritionist to see how I could adjust. And it was great for managing my weight, but I still ballooned a little bit. It was a tough year cutting all that weight. I took 2nd in the nation that year but the weight cut sucked.
The next year I wrestled at 184 and cut from 190 and it was great. I didn’t worry about my weight, I went to practice in t-shirt and shorts, and I felt great being able to focus on my wrestling and not my weight cutting. I was strong enough, fast enough, and good enough.
I don’t encourage kids to cut a lot of weight. I certainly encourage dieting and good nutrition but cutting weight can really stunt your growth. If you took all that extra time to run and cut weight, and instead used it to drill and get better, you’ll be fine going up a weight class. And, you’ll be better in the long run.
SW: I see that often. High school guys who choose the lower weight at the beginning of the season tend to grow, and when state rolls around all they’re worried about is making weight. They’re not drilling, not wrestling live, not getting better, they just focus on cutting. And that’s not making you better.
JH: 100%. I’m a big fan of not cutting weight especially if you’re younger. I mean, if you cut weight at a youth national championship and you win because you’re way bigger than everyone is that really worth it? If that youth championship is the highlight of your career, that’s not what we’re aiming for. We want bigger.
SW: I recently did an interview with Dr. Ralph Cornwell and the importance of neck strength in wrestling. What’s been your experience with the importance of a strong neck?
JH: It’s huge. My neck is ridiculously strong. My dad had me do tons of bridges and used weight and it really helped me get stronger. It’s very important.
SW: I recently saw the awesome new product you developed called Attack Bandz. Can you tell us a little more about them?
JH: What we’re getting at with those is it’s awesome to almost have an introduction to wrestling program. It’s great for athleticism, and you don’t have to worry about riding or anything like that. The kids look at it as a game, not as wrestling. It’s really fun and competitive.
Two Turkish Wrestlers using Attack Bandz
SW: Thanks so much for your time Jake. Any closing thoughts?
I’m really easy to find. Check me out on twitter, or https://www.DoubleLegNinja.com.
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Programs still try to teach everyone every wrestling move in a year and that’s not the right way. We want to make sure you drill the right things and get GOOD at them. It’s like a suntan. You don’t sit out in the sun for 5 hours a day, you do it gradually and it becomes perfect.
If you reach out I’ll get back to you. I don’t look at people I don’t know in the wrestling community as strangers, I look at them as friends I haven’t met yet. The wrestling community is the greatest out there.