Jake Short wishes he could’ve wrestled against Oklahoma State.
The redshirt junior was planning all week on wrestling against the top-ranked team but found out his coaches had other plans.
On the day of the dual, Short’s coaches informed him he wouldn’t be competing, forcing him to sit out and watch the Gophers lose 34-3 on Nov. 27.
“[Being told the day of] angered me even more,” Short said. “I’m not mad at [the coaches], but it was definitely fuel. It got me pumped up.”
Short didn’t wallow. He spent the next week using the fuel to ensure he wouldn’t sit again.
That anger turned into a title on Saturday as Short defeated five wrestlers en route to a 157-pound title at the Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas.
The five wins lifted the wrestler into the 12th spot in the country.
“The secret for him is really going out there and being himself,” said interim head coach Brandon Eggum. “Going into Las Vegas, he had a chip on his shoulder, and he wrestled like that.”
Benching Short before the dual against Oklahoma State didn’t come from nowhere.
Short — ranked 18th at 157 at the time — lost 6-4 to unranked Colin Holler of South Dakota State the week before the Oklahoma State dual.
It was a tough loss for the redshirt junior to open Minnesota’s dual season.
Eggum said Short wasn’t wrestling like himself and wanted to try out redshirt freshman Carson Brolsma at his spot.
Sitting out meant Short would have to wait two weeks before he would wrestle in a competition, forcing him to reflect.
He stepped up his training in that week between Oklahoma State and the Invitational, aiming to build his confidence back up and improve his footwork.
Short said he took a big mental jump, teaching himself to tap into that anger and use it in competition.
“The guy stepping up across from me on the mat wants his hand raised at the end,” Short said. “That should piss you off a little bit, and that’s what I use as fuel.”
Brett Pfarr, the only undefeated wrestler for Minnesota this season, saw Short adjust his mental approach.
Short had a podium finish in the Big Ten Championships and was an NCAA qualifier last season — not much needed to change with his wrestling technique.
“Not a whole lot changed between those two weeks, physically. It was all mentality,” Pfarr said. “He had a little fire underneath him.”
Short’s season has been about ups and downs.
The confidence he exhibited in Las Vegas hasn’t always been there this season, but it’s there now, Eggum said.
Short was focusing on the things he couldn’t control, and the key to his success was learning to focus on the effort he puts into matches.
“It comes down to him as an individual,” Eggum said. “If he focuses on the right things and what he has control of, he’ll do well.”
The downs won’t happen again, Short said. His career has had its fair share of them, stemming from his losses.
As long as he competes for himself, which helps out the team, the low points won’t be there anymore.
“Even if I take a tough loss, as long as I have the right mentality and know I gave everything I have in that match, it’s not going to matter,” Short said. “There won’t be a down.”