March 14, 2013
Encore for top-seed Myhrberg
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
SUNY Cortland senior Jared Myhrberg, handling Ithaca’s Shane Bartrum here, is the top-seeded wrestler at 197 pounds heading into the NCAA Division III Championships that start Friday in Iowa.
When SUNY Cortland wrestler Jared Myhrberg came oh so close to winning national title a year ago, it was not a crushing moment.
Even though an overtime loss in the semifinal round spoiled what had been an undefeated campaign and kept Myhrberg from having a chance to compete in the 197-pound finals at the 2012 NCAA Division III Championships, he was content with his eventual third place showing.
“To be honest, when I finished last year I didn’t have a bitter taste in my mouth,” was how Myhrberg recalled the occasion. “I was pretty happy with how I wrestled, so I wasn’t too disappointed.”
He would go on to add: “But a loss like that leaves a chip on your shoulder.”
Last year’s third place finish at nationals, capping a season in which he won 33 of 34 matches, could have closed out Myhrberg’s Cortland career. Though he could have graduated even with a year of eligibility remaining, he decided to return and now will be one of six Red Dragons competing when NCAAs get underway on Friday morning in the Iowa burgh of Cedar Rapids.
Last year’s third place finish at nationals is why most folks figured Myhrberg decided to go for an encore performance. He could have graduated from Cortland this past December after fulfilling his student teaching requirement in the fall starting with a stint in his hometown of Queensbury.
“Coming so close last year, with a semifinal loss in overtime, it spurred him to come back and take that one more step and win an individual title,” was the viewpoint from Red Dragons’ head coach Brad Bruhn.
That was just one part of the reason why Myhrberg — along with classmate Corey James, who also decided to return to school and was rewarded by earning a trip to nationals at 285 pounds — continued his career, however.
“I got convinced by just about everyone to come back,” he said.
“I CAME BACK TO really be part of the team. Everyone on the team as a whole, we had a chance to do something special,” Myhrberg added. “To come back and help lead the team, and to help the young guys out, was a chance to do something special here.
“And I think we did, so it was worth it.”
In this special season, Cortland set a school record with an 18-2 dual meet record. These deep and talented Red Dragons were ranked third nationally among Division III programs. “The talent level in the (practice) room is off the roof,” says Myhrberg.
This season also started out with Myhrberg ranked No. 1 in the country at 197 pounds, a pre-season billing he has lived up to heading into the NCAA Championships as the top seed.
With that prestige comes pressure, which Myhrberg has been able to handle while going 33-1 with 14 pins this season. He has not lost a match since Nov. 17 when Nicholas Mills from Columbia — a Division I school — took a 6-3 decision at the New York State Championships held in Ithaca.
“It’s pressure,” admitted Myhrberg of his No. 1 status. “People see your ranking and see you’re number one and say you should be doing this or you should be doing that. But no one puts more pressure on me than myself, so it really doesn’t matter what other people say.”
He had no trouble handling the pressure at the NCAA Division III Northeast Regional in Worcester, Mass., two weekends ago. As the top seed, he pinned three foes before winning a 3-1 decision over Springfield’s Jeremy Burns in the title match.
SO NOW MYHRBERG is focused on this second chance, on closing out a college career that has produced 111 wins against just 19 losses so far. Only Paul LaBlanc has more wins as a Red Dragon, having had his hand raised 128 times from 2005-09.
“He’s a very mature young man,” said Coach Bruhn of Myhrberg. “I noticed that about him since he’s been here. He’s just a lot more focused in accomplishing his goals. He’s pretty determined.”
That should help, along with the experience gained a year ago when his national title bid was denied with that 4-2 overtime loss to Dustin Baker from Minnesota’s St. John’s in the semifinals.
This quest for redemption starts Friday with a first round match-up with Andrew Lovins (19-4) from Heidelberg.
“Last year when I went in I had this calmness,” said Myhrberg. “I went in with a very cool head, thinking it was going to be my last year. The pressure comes off you then and you aren’t worried, and when you aren’t worried you can stay focused. You take it in stride and you don’t get too worked up, and you can keep that alertness about you.
“You just try to take it in stride and try to be as calm as you can be,” he added.
When this weekend is over Myhrberg can concentrate on going on to get his Masters at Cortland and then moving on to a doctoral program somewhere else in hopes of becoming a college professor.
For now, he’s closing his Cortland career on a national stage.
“It’s been memorable for sure. I’ve grown a lot,” said Myhrberg of his Cortland days. “If I had to do it all over again, I’d do it all the same way.”
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