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St. Michael-Albertville wrestler Jake Allar pushes himself hard to be the best

02/11/2017, 5:23pm CST
By Jim Paulsen, Star Tribune

Jake Allar of St. Michael-Albertville is among the state’s elite wrestlers.

St. Michael- Albertville wrestler Jake Allar poses before practice. ] MATT WEBER ï

He’s won national championships in Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling, is ranked No. 4 nationally at 170 pounds and likely will reach 250 career victories if, as expected, he wins the Class 3A title at his weight at the state meet.

So why isn’t St. Michael-Albertville’s Jake Allar a household name in wrestling circles? Sure, hard-core fans are well aware of Allar and his reputation, but with a résumé chock full of success, it’s time Allar gets the recognition he deserves.

It’s not that Allar hasn’t done all he can to make sure his name is right there alongside the top wrestlers in the state, guys such as Kasson-Mantorville senior 160-pounder Brady Berge and Apple Valley junior heavyweight Gable Steveson.

Allar won the 160-pound freestyle championship at the U.S. Junior Nationals in Fargo last summer.

This year, Allar has twice dropped from 170 pounds to get the chance to wrestle Berge, who is No. 1 in the nation at 160.

He came close to winning both times, losing in the last 15 seconds of the match at the Minnesota Christmas tournament and by just two points in the Cheesehead Invitational in Wisconsin in early January.

He could have remained at his weight and cruised through the season undefeated (he’s currently 32-2), but Allar refuses to take the easy way out.

“You don’t get better by staying undefeated,” he said. “You improve by seeking out the best. Brady is the best, and I wanted that chance. I was close, and I think I surprised some people. Everybody knows how good Brady Berge is. Not a lot of people know how good Jake Allar is.”

For as long as he can remember, wrestling has been Allar’s passion. His father, Larry, wrestled in college at South Dakota State and got Jake started at a young age.

“I was thinking about that the other day,” Jake said. “I’m going to turn 18 and I’ve been wrestling for two-thirds of my life, since kindergarten. It’s been a part of my life forever.”

His first foray into youth wrestling came in the Cooper youth organization and turned serious when he joined the St. Michael-Albertville High Flyers in fourth grade after his family moved farther west.

His first varsity action came as a seventh-grader at Benilde-St. Margaret’s, for whom he wrestled through ninth grade while Larry was the head coach.

When Larry was dismissed after violating a MSHSL rule governing the distribution of state tournament passes, the family of six purchased a two-bedroom condo in the St. Michael-Albertville district and lived there for a year so Jake could return to the program that had helped him develop.

“I slept on a futon in the living room. My three sisters had to share a bedroom,” he said. “I can’t thank my family enough for the sacrifices they’ve made for me.”

So far, those sacrifices have paid off. Allar won his first high school state championship at 152 pounds last year and is expected to add another at 170 this year. St. Michael-Albertville coach Dan Lefebvre said it would take a major upset to deny Allar the championship.

“He’s really developed the mentality that he wants to get better,” LeFebvre said. “And he’s a phenomenal athlete. He’s so strong in the upper body. Put it this way: Guys are fearful of wrestling him because he’s just so tough.”

His successful season has been a welcome distraction for Allar, whose once-solid collegiate future is suddenly up in the air.

He signed with Iowa State in November, but has recently asked for his release from the program in light of the resignation of Cyclones coach Kevin Jackson.

“There are a lot of things I saw over there that they didn’t tell me, like that Coach Jackson’s job was in jeopardy,” Allar said. “When it comes right down to it, my heart’s not with Iowa State. So I plan on opening up the recruiting process again.”

For the near future, however, Allar is determined to show that he belongs with the best in the state.

“My goals are to win another state championship and also win one with the team,” he said.

“This is my sport of choice. I want to be the best I can be.”

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