Finishing second at the NCAA Division III Wrestling Tournament left a bad taste in Wabash College senior Jack Heldt’s mouth.
“It was what drove me every single day in the offseason,” said Heldt, a 2019 Carmel High School graduate. “I had written on my mirror the words ‘national champion,’ so every day I would look at those words and know what I was working toward. Losing that finals match was something I did not want to feel again.”
Heldt captured the national title in the 285-pound division March 11 by beating Coe College’s Kaleb Reeves 6-1 at Roanoke, Va. Heldt was the national runner-up in the 197-pound class last year but decided to move up a class.
“Cutting weight is a huge aspect of our sport, and when you cut too much, it can definitely take a toll on your body and mind over the course of the season,” Heldt said. “This year, by not cutting weight it allowed me to stay focused entirely on just going out and dominating matches rather than weight management.”
Tom Heldt said his son bulked up to 265 pounds during the summer to compete against heavier wrestlers.
“But by the nationals, he was competing at around 245 pounds, giving up as much as 30 to 40 pounds against his opponents,” Tom said.
Wabash coach Brian Anderson said Heldt benefited from the 2022 tournament experience.
“That prior experience goes a long way in wrestling, especially on the high level,” Anderson said. “He had been there before and knew what to expect. You take it in a different stride that Jack wasn’t nervous. He knew what he wanted to do. It took him all of about 5 seconds to make the first attack in the match, which is a good sign. Overall, he definitely jumped levels over the summer. He put together a great season. He is a relentless worker. He lives a championship lifestyle. He’s doing the little things right every single day. The end result is the national championship.”
Heldt, who finished with a 40-0 record with 32 pins, also received the NCAA Division III Most Dominant Wrestler Award for the season, based on standings that are calculated by adding the total number of team points awarded through match results and dividing it by the total number of matches wrestled.
The national championship has always been Heldt’s goal at Wabash.
“To be honest, it was something that I wanted as a freshman but didn’t really think I could achieve it,” he said. “Year after year, though, I felt it was an increasingly attainable goal.”
The most improvement came during his freshman year.
“I got my butt kicked every day in practice and it was demoralizing, but I know I left that year a much better man and wrestler than when I entered the season,” he said.
Heldt started at 113 pounds as a CHS freshman. By the time he was a senior, Heldt was wrestling in the 195-pound class, losing in the quarterfinals at semistate.
“I grew in size, strength, skill, maturity,” said Heldt, who has a 3.95 GPA as a double major in biology and rhetoric. “Looking back over the past seven years, I am no longer the kid I was as a 113-pounder. This sport has taught me so much and I am forever grateful for the lessons learned. I am thankful to all of the coaches, friends and family who have invested in my growth.”