Late start doesn’t stop wrestler Dan Jacobs

For some athletes, success is the product of a lifetime of work honing their skills. Dan Jacobs ’03 never had this opportunity. The son of a rabbi, Jacobs was forbidden from playing sports until he reached high school.

In ninth grade, Jacobs first tried his hand at wrestling at Santa Monica High School in Santa Monica, CA. It was there that Jacobs met Mark Black, the high school’s wrestling coach and a man who was Jacobs’ greatest influence growing up.

“He’s like my second father,” Jacobs said of Black.

“I would spend most of the day with him, I worked out with him, we would go to away meets together. Most of my team really wasn’t good enough to go very far in competitions, so he would take me places on his own like nationals or regionals and he would pay for the hotels.”

Jacobs worked on his wrestling with Coach Black or on his own or at camps “365 days a year” so as to make up for the time he lost growing up.

“I wrestled every chance I got really – I wrestled three seasons a year and I went to Jay Robinson’s Intensive Wrestling Camp in Minnesota twice as a camper,” Jacobs said. Fortunately, the hard work paid off during Jacobs’ junior year of high school, when he accomplished spectacular feats both on and off the mats: not only did Jacobs come in third in the freestyle event at the California state wrestling tournament, but he also received his acceptance to Swarthmore.

When it came time for him to pick a college, Jacobs had his options open. Though he was recruited to and considered Stanford, Jacobs was less interested in going “gung-ho” with wrestling and more interested in getting “the full college experience.” Jacobs’ decision really came down to Williams and Swarthmore, and he initially chose the latter.

What Jacobs quickly learned upon his arrival at Swarthmore was that he had been the victim of a misleading pre-frosh visit. “What happened was that when I visited Williams as a pre-frosh it was a Sunday, so I had a decidedly okay time there – I didn’t really get a chance to get a sense of what the campus or community was really like,” he said.

“Conversely, when I visited Swarthmore I just so happened to stay with one of the handful of cool people on the campus, and we had a really good time and I didn’t really get a chance to see what the campus was really like there either,” Jacobs continued.

“When I got to the school, however, it really didn’t take very long for me to realize that its student body is basically a group of people who are very intellectually and socially motivated, the vast majority of whom hate sports and dislike people who aren’t like them – the problem being for me that many of them would wear capes and play dungeons and dragons all day and scorn people who weren’t into that sort of thing. That, and people probably study an average of 14 hours a day there. There isn’t much school unity there either – it’s a homogenous environment in one sense, but pretty much in every way that Williams is not, and that’s a good thing for Williams.”

When it came time for Jacobs to send his transfer applications off to schools, he knew that Williams was the place for him and received his acceptance into the class of 2003. After that point, he “never looked back.”

Jacobs’ career at Williams has been successful so far. Even though he was sidelined in December and most of January, Jacobs recently made his return to the mats after briefly considering retirement, much to the chagrin of teammates, coaches and fans alike.

“He’s a very talented wrestler,” said Mike Whalen, head coach of wrestling. “He’s got a lot of ability, and he’s regarded as one of the top wrestlers on the conference when he’s focused, but the fact is that he’s got a lot going in his life. He brings a lot to the table ability-wise; the question mark is how bad he wants to achieve. If his desire is there and his heart is in it, there’s nothing Jacobs can’t accomplish.”

Jacobs decided that his heart is firmly committed to wrestling and to leading the Ephs on the mats. Wrestling in the 149 lbs. weight class, Jacobs has scored an injury defeat over Montclair State’s Lou DeAngelis, a 13-2 victory over Hunter’s Joe Pedagno in the 141 lbs. weight class, an 11-1 triumph over an opponent from Wesleyan, a pin against a grappler from Plymouth State and yet another victory against competition from Southern Maine.

Though his recent sixth place finish at New England Collegiate Conference Wrestling Association (NECCWA) championship might appear to be a let-down from his second place finish last year, it was still enough to earn him all-NECCWA honors.

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