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ST. LOUIS—Talk about a tough act to follow.
After winning a National Championship and the NCAA tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler Award, the list of Jesse Jantzen’s accomplishments now seems longer than a 19th century Russian epic novel.
And while most would say that the pressure to live up to Jantzen’s legacy and perform at the highest level is going to fall more squarely on the very broad shoulders of freshman heavyweight Bode Ogunwole—considering his all-star performance this weekend in the Show Me State—they’d be overlooking someone much nearer and dearer to Jantzen’s heart.
The man who will be looked at the most to fill the very large shoes left behind by Jantzen isn’t even on the Crimson roster.
He’s actually a ninth grader who tips the scales at just over 100 lbs.—when he’s dripping wet.
That’s right, Jesse Jantzen has a little brother named Cory, and he’s also a wrestler, recently placing second in the state championships.
But he may have even bigger goals than just becoming an NCAA champion like his older bro.
“I think he was about nine-years old and we were driving in a car one time and he said to my wife, ‘I think I’m going to be a lawyer after I go to college,’” said Don Jantzen, the father of Jesse and Cory.
“So we said, ‘Well that’s good.’ But then he said, ‘But won’t that be the year that I’ll be in the Olympics?’ So we just kind of smiled and said, ‘Yes that might be the year that you’ll be in the Olympics,’” he said.
Of course, Cory may need to act soon upon those dreams if he wants to beat out Jesse to golden glory.
Next month Jesse will be traveling to Las Vegas for the Freestyle Nationals, where he hopes to qualify for the Olympic trials.
“I’m also aspiring to...maybe pursue Olympics and things like that,” Jesse said.
But international glory aside, Cory seems on the right track to follow Jesse into national glory. He too has Don as his high school coach—though that position hasn’t prevented dad from giving tips to his oldest son.
“He’s still coaching me from the sidelines,” Jesse said. “That has been a real big plus for me, being so supportive. Never negative no matter if I lost or whatever or didn’t wrestle as well as I could have.”
And like dad, Jesse is not one to shy away from giving a younger Jantzen a few pointers.
“There’s such a big age disparity that I’m kind of like a second father,” Jesse said. “I help him with wrestling when I can when I’m home.”
“He’s a tremendous role model,” Don said. “I think Cory looks up and sees that there are a lot of negative role models out there—whether its through the media or in high school—and he looks at his brother and he says, ‘Wow. You know you can kind of do all the right kinds of things, and can have a lot of success and notoriety.’”
While Harvard coach Jay Weiss eagerly awaits the possible arrival of another legendary Long Islander, he knows that what Jesse has done here has certainly been incredible for his own program—even if it’s not quite up to snuff for Shoreham, N.Y.
“He sets the bar very high,” Weiss said. “[It’s] probably too high for guys to aspire to in terms of work ethic.”
Even people a few decades and major world wars removed from the Crimson program realize that what Jesse has done has made it a difficult act to follow up on.
“I think it’s definitely going to help Harvard,” said John Harkness ’38—the original Crimson national champion. “Obviously Harvard’s doing pretty well now...with some of the other guys in the tournament.”
Even with the loss of Jantzen, the Crimson certainly won’t have to wait another 66 years for national glory to return to 02138. It may just have to wait another seven—that’s when Cory will be a senior.
—Staff writer Evan R. Johnson can be reached at email@example.com.
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