Is there any sport tougher for a high school athlete to master than wrestling?
Jacob Hansen won his second straight CIF individual title and became the first wrestler in Royal High history to place at the state tournament when he took eighth at 145 pounds. (Photo: ANTHONY PLASCENCIA/THE STAR)
Not according to Jacob Hansen, and he makes a strong case.
“Where else do you go up against a guy trying to knock the crap out of you for six minutes?” says the Royal High senior. “I think it’s by far the toughest sport there is.”
That’s hard to argue with, even though it has been Hansen who’s been delivering the bulk of the knocking in his four-year high school career on the mats.
The premier 145-pounder crafted a sterling legacy as a Highlander, especially during a memorable senior campaign.
Among the weightiest of accomplishments was standing on the medals podium at the CIF-State Championships in Bakersfield after finishing eighth. He became the first wrestler in Royal’s rich history to place at state.
“I was happy, excited and relieved,” said Hansen. “If felt so good standing on that podium, like achieving a goal I had wanted my whole life. That was the tournament that meant the most to me this season.
“I couldn’t sleep the week before. It was the only time all season I’ve been nervous. I’m kept thinking about state and what was to come.”
Even for a wrestler who polished off back-to-back CIF-Southern Section individual championships and placed third this season at the prestigious Masters, the state championships mattered most.
Turns out, Hansen fulfilled a pact he made with his father upon entering high school and becoming a member of Royal’s wrestling team.
His father, Michael, was a talented wrestler in his own right who once qualified for the U.S. Nationals. He dad is the primary reason why Jacob took up the sport at age 5.
“When I started wrestling at Royal we talked about the future and what I wanted to do in high school,” said Jacob. “He told me the biggest thing I could do was medal at state. Nothing was bigger than that. I was thinking about that when I stood up there.
“It was emotional for me. I did it. I made it happen.”
Hansen, finely-honed by three previous years of high-level competition and boasting a newly polished mental approach, completed a series of uber-feats this winter. He is The Star’s Boys Wrestler of the Year for the second consecutive season.
As a senior, Hansen finished undefeated during the regular season and led his team to the Coastal Canyon League title. Then, even more significantly, he was as key cog as Royal won the CIF-SS Division 4 team championship on its home floor.
It was Royal’s first team crown since 2006, and the third in program history.
“That was so awesome, really exciting, what we had wanted to do as a team for my four years at Royal,” he said. “It felt so good because everybody played a role. It was a team victory.”
Thus began a memorable postseason.
Hansen powered through the CIF-SS Northern Division individual championships at Citrus Hill High, winning his second successive Southern Section crown at 145 pounds.
After three pins and a 6-0 verdict, he won the title with a decisive 9-2 verdict over Luis Ramirez of Fountain Valley.
“I was always completely confident,” he said. “I never had a doubt I would win CIF again.”
The Masters followed and Hansen wrestled to his No. 3 seeding. The only loss was a 7-2 decision in the semifinals to eventual winner Cael Valencia of St. John Bosco.
Then came the state finals at the Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield on Feb. 21-23, and the most tension-filled matches of the year.
Hansen, seeded No. 7 in line with his state rankings, won consecutive matches by pins to move into the round of eight. In the championship quarterfinals, he lost again to Valencia, 5-0.
The pressure was now on.
“It was crazy, nerve-racking,” said Hansen. “I knew I had to win the next match to get onto the podium. That had to be my focus. I had to find my zone.”
In a match as consequential as any he wrestled on season, Hansen scratched, clawed and survived.
He turned around a 1-0 deficit after two rounds to eke out a 2-1 victory over Brock Rogers of Corcoran. Hansen was on the stand. He would now medal.
The Royal standout wasn’t pleased with his final match, an 8-4 loss to Jeff Ramsthaler of Romona in the seventh-place match.
In the end, he savored his dream quest.
“It was upsetting,” said Hansen of his last match. “I had a chance to finish seventh. It was a match I should have won. But I knew I had given everything I had those three days, and I was happy with that. I got on the podium. That was my goal all year.”
Hansen credits his stellar season with an improved mental focus.
“There were matches last year where I wasn’t as focused as I needed to be,” he said. “I changed that this season. I think I wrestled up to my capabilities all season. That’s satisfying to me. I want to continue to reach my potential.”
He said wrestling has made him a stronger person.
“I know that if I can do well in a sport like this, I can accomplish anything I want in life,” he said. “I’m a wrestler. It doesn’t get any tougher than this. I feel like I’m ready for any challenge.”
Hansen intends to wrestle next for Moorpark College, then chase his dreams of securing a scholarship at a four-year college. He’ll compete next in the U.S. Junior Nationals set for Fargo, North Dakota, from July 12-19.
He’ll continue to have a rooting interest with the Royal wrestling team, especially with his brother Aidan set to be the next Hansen star. Aidan will be a sophomore next season.
“I’ll continue to work out with him and get him ready,” said Jacob. “He’s good, but I don’t let up on him. I feel like if he practices with me, he won see anybody better in competition.”
THE STAR’S ALL-COUNTY BOYS WRESTLING TEAM
- Josh Trujillo, Simi Valley
- Amin Jabalameli, Simi Valley
- Daniel Navarro, Santa Paula
- Gerry Fulgentes, Royal
- Osvaldo Pontoja, Channel Islands
- Marco Licea, Rio Mesa
- Bryan Perez, Rio Mesa
- Manuel Ponce, Fillmore
- Brando Harrah, Thousand Oaks
- Tyrone Irving, Hueneme
- Urias Merlo, Newbury Park
- Cage Bumbarger, Newbury Park
- Nick Stringer, Nordhoff
- Nick Cansler, Nordhoff