Iowa Hawkeyes

Iowa's Jacob Warner ready to compete for World medal

Redshirt freshman will represent U.S. at Junior World Championships

Jacob Warner
Jacob Warner

IOWA CITY — Jacob Warner had never traveled overseas and certainly didn’t consider an international trip to train for wrestling.

The thought was, well, foreign, to the high school senior-to-be, but that all changed when his coach urged him to take a trek to North Ossetia in Russia near the Caucasus Mountains.

“After going once, I really liked it,” Warner said to a small media gathering last week at the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “I liked the training atmosphere over there and the different feels and different mentalities.

“Now, it’s how many more times can I go over before I’m done wrestling.”

Warner made his fifth international journey earlier this week, heading to Trnava, Slovakia, for the United World Wrestling Junior World Championships. The U.S. Junior World team member and University of Iowa redshirt freshman will compete at 202 pounds in men’s freestyle Saturday.

Warner, a 2016 Cadet World bronze medalist, has been training for this opportunity since his title at the U.S. World Team Trials in May.

“Just making myself feel good,” Warner said. “Just making sure my shots are crisp and everything is clicking.

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“The ax is sharpened. Time to cut down the tree. So, just making sure everything is in place.”

“It’s not like this is new to him, but it is a new level to him,” Iowa Coach Tom Brands said. “He’s a gamer and he’s the type of guy that’s going to be ready to go when you put his time on the mat.”

Warner recalled his first trip train, which was shortly followed by his first World medal performance in Tbilisi, Georgia. He was exposed to different techniques and approaches and tried to learn as much as possible.

“It was kind of scary but it was good,” said Warner, who joked that Google Translate helped break down any communication barriers although most his age spoke some English. “I enjoyed it. I just closed my mouth and opened my ears a little bit. Listen and learn. I wrestled with the best guys in the world, so it was a cool experience.”

Warner has trained abroad twice. He made his most recent trip in January, wrestling in the highly-regarded Yarygin Grand Prix — considered one of the toughest tournaments in the world.

In his first year in the Hawkeye room, Warner took on some of the world’s top freestyle wrestlers in Krasnoyarsk, Russia. Not a typical move for an 18-year-old, but Warner is not your typical competitor.

“When he was making his decisions, this was part of his decision,” Brands said. “International wrestling. Being able to do this.

“Remember, last winter we sent him to Krasnoyarsk. Freshmen in college don’t do that. Well, we committed to him when we recruited him. We followed through on that commitment, so this is exactly where he wants to be.”

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Warner posted a 1-1 record, winning his first match on criteria and losing to a Russian bronze medalist. It was a learning experience.

“Nobody I’m going to wrestle this week will be better than I wrestled at the Yarygin in my opinion,” Warner said. “Knowing I went and competed there and I did all right just kind of shows I can go to this World Championships and do the same.”

Warner is an explosive and dynamic wrestler. He beat All-Americans, wrestling unattached last season, and blanked John Borst, 10-0 and 11-0, in the best-of-3 series final for the World Team spot.

Warner has tussled with veteran freestyle wrestlers like Nathan Burak and Sam Brooks in the practice room. He has the ability to hand fight and pummel opponents, applying pressure and setting up his leg attacks.

“He’s got, by far, some of the heaviest hands, if you watch his wrestling,” Iowa assistant Bobby Telford said. “It’s some of the heaviest hands I’ve felt on a guy, especially that size. He really does feel like a heavyweight’s hands on you.”

Warner credited Telford for helping him adjust and learn how to train at the college level. Telford had a colorful way to describe Warner’s growth since arriving on campus.

“From high school until now, the difference is he had a big 454 motor in it but a little carburetor and little air filter so the gas would go quick,” Telford said. “Now, he’s got upgraded air filters, upgraded fuel injectors, everything. He’s ready to rock ‘n’ roll. He still has that big-time horsepower.”

Brands and Telford said Warner is accountable and works hard. He would have preferred wrestling last season, joining classmate Spencer Lee in the lineup as a true freshman. Expectations are sky high for his official debut at 197. A good showing on the international stage could provide a spark heading into his first Hawkeye campaign.

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“Momentum is good,” Brands said. “He already has some momentum. There is a buzz about him. He’s trained well. He’s done great things, while here so far.”

Warner could become the first Hawkeye to earn a World medal while on the current roster since Thomas Gilman won a Junior bronze in 2014.

“It’s just continuing the tradition of excellence here at Iowa,” Warner said. “I just want to be another guy they say, 'he came in, he did the work and he had the accomplishments he wanted because he put in the work.'”

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