Jake Wentzel has made trips to Virginia Beach and Kissammee, Fla., in the past two months, but neither was for a family vacation -- he was participating in two national dual wrestling tournaments.
Wentzel, who recently completed his sophomore year at South Park High School, wrestled for Team Griffin's "B" squad at the National High School Coaches Association Duals, which took place May 23-26 at the Virginia Beach Convention Center.
Although a "business trip," Wentzel enjoyed the experience: "We had a hotel right on the beach and we had great weather."
He posted a 6-2 record for the tournament.
"It was the second time in three years that I wrestled at the NHSCA Duals," Wentzel said. "We won when I was in eighth grade. This year, I fell one win short of placing.
"I wrestled at 145, with a 3-pound weight allowance."
Wentzel wrestled for the Keystone Brawlers at the AAU Scholastic Duals, also referred to as the Disney Duals, which took place June 26-July 1 at Kissimmee, Fla.
"We came within one win of placing," Wentzel said. "I wrestled in the 138-pound weight class, since they had a 5-pound weight allowance. I wrestled 12 matches, including two exhibitions, and won them all.
"All wrestlers who went undefeated were considered a national champion. I got a medal and an All-American patch."
Wentzel took a week off from his training after returning from Florida, but it wasn't by his choice.
"I had a cauliflower ear, so I had to take a week off," Wentzel said. "Now I'm back to my normal training routine. I'm a firm believer in the adage 'Champions are made in the offseason.'"
South Park coach Walt Karrenbauer is amazed by Wentzel's workout schedule.
"Jake is a man on a mission," Karrenbauer said. "I haven't run across many kids who work out year-round like he does. Jake works out at least three or four times a week at various clubs."
Wentzel made his varsity debut at South Park as a 132-pound freshman and posted a 34-12 record. He placed second in Class AA Section 1, fifth in the WPIAL, fourth in the Southwest Region, and eighth in the PIAA.
"It's not often that you see a freshman placing at states in the 132-pound weight class," Karrenbauer said.
Wentzel moved up to 138 last season and posted an impressive 40-2 record. He won section, WPIAL, and Southwest Region titles, then placed fourth at Hershey at the state tournament.
His first loss last season was to Central Catholic's Vincenzo Joseph, in the finals of the Allegheny County Tournament. His second loss was to Southern Columbia's Kent Lane in the PIAA semifinals. Joseph went on to win a PIAA Class AAA title, while Lane placed second in Class AA.
"I had more losses my freshman year because I was getting adjusted to wrestling at the varsity level," Wentzel said. "Overall, I'm pleased with my first two years and looking forward to the next two."
Wentzel plans to compete at 145 and 152 during the upcoming season.
"I will probably start the season at 152 and hopefully move to 145 for the postseason tournaments," Wentzel said.
But prior to the season, Wentzel will make a return trip to the Super 32 Tournament, which will take place Nov. 1-2 at Greensboro Coloseum.
"I went 4-2 last year and fell one win short of placing," Wentzel said. "I'm expecting to do much better this year."