Carol Stream's Cortez ready for Penn State wrestling season after sitting out last year
Jered Cortez found it hard not being able to compete alongside his teammates last season.
Cortez, a Carol Stream native and graduate of Glenbrook North High School, was in his first year at the current capital of college wrestling, Penn State University, which has claimed five of the last six NCAA team championships, according to the school's athletic website. Since Cortez had just transferred from the University of Illinois, a fellow Big Ten Conference college, the rules said he would be ineligible to compete for the varsity team.
But Cortez said he was grateful for the year away from varsity competition.
“I competed in open tournaments and focused on getting lots of matches in,” Cortez, who wrestles at 133 pounds, said. “I also focused on my schoolwork a lot while I tried to look at this year as just another redshirt year. Aside from what I concentrated on, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to compete for Penn State last year, but I could help the lightweights accomplish their goals.”
Cortez made his name known during high school by winning four consecutive state titles, according to GoPSUSports.com, with championships coming at 112, 120, 126 and 132 pounds. His national honors include being the 2009 Cadet Freestyle national champion and the 2013 Junior National freestyle champ.
Cortez redshirted in the 2014-15 season at Illinois and went 6-2 in open tournaments, according to GoPSUSports.com. He said, however, that the school was not the right fit for him.
“I wanted to surround myself with people of like morals and goals,” Cortez said. “Being around great people only rubs off on you, because I believe you become who you surround yourself with.”
Looking for a place to help him achieve his goals, he went to Penn State, which had recruited him in high school. Cortez said he has had an amazing experience so far at PSU.
“I am happy with the man and wrestler I am becoming through the guidance of Coach Cael (Sanderson), Coach Cody (Sanderson), Coach Casey (Cunningham) and Coach Frank (Molinaro),” he said. “The culture here is unlike anywhere else in the country.”
Even with the lack of varsity competition in his two years away from high school, Cortez said he's improved since then.
“I’ve gotten a lot better on the mat and on my feet,” he said. “My hand fighting has improved the most as it was something the coaches here focused on a lot with me. I have always liked to wrestle on the mat, so with the tools and tricks the coaches have provided with me I am able to turn good guys and that's really important in the college level. Getting out on bottom is another area I have improved in the last year.”
This summer, Cortez has been at school and working on sparring and figuring out positions. He also has been practicing with Olympic-level athletes and works at camps with his teammates.
Cortez said he's looking forward to running out in front of thousands of fans in PSU's Rec Hall and fighting for a national title for himself and the team.
“It will be fun to challenge myself and try to dominate all of my opponents,” he said.
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