Jerod Novak’s biggest battle this season has been with himself.
Or his understanding of when to be aggressive and when to be patient.
The Aitkin Gobblers’ 152-pounder has been aggressively picking up wins this season like he did Jan. 4 at the Mora Invite.
Novak pinned Albany’s Mitchell Kotschevar, decisioned Annandale/Maple Lake’s Hunter Hicks and then scored a 12-3 decision over Owen Hemze of Waconia to win the individual title and improve his season mark to 11-2.
“He wrestled really well,” said Aitkin head coach Kevin Lamke. “In his semifinal match he started getting a little frustrated because things weren’t working the way he wanted them to. We talked to him and told him to relax and just told him that it was OK to win by decision. But he’s really wrestling well right now.”
Novak’s main focus this season has been to wrestle aggressively or as he puts it aggressively confident. He’s still working it out, but he’s seeing benefits.
“It’s especially against the better kids I wrestle against, I need to be aggressive, but at the same time wrestle smart,” said Novak. “I still need to be patient, so it’s kind of a selective thing. I need to know when I need to be aggressive and when I need to be patient.
“I used to be aggressive without being smart. This year, I need to be confident, while being aggressive. My coach wants me to know I can step on that mat and win.”
Novak wasn’t aggressive in his last loss, a 6-5 decision to Class 2A’s fourth-ranked 152 pounder Parker Jackson of Detroit Lakes. It was the championship match in the Big Bear tournament at Blackduck.
Novak had just topped Nick Gravdahl of Pequot Lakes/Pine River-Backus with a 3-1 overtime decision in the semifinals, Willmar’s Travis Deegan 4-1 in overtime in the quarters, Roseau’s Jayfen Sikorski 13-4 and pinned Jake Ubert of Fosston-Bagley in 2:48 in his opener.
“To me, I did not open the first period like I should have,” said Novak. “I wasn’t aggressive at all during that first period. I felt slow and sluggish and nervous. If I would have opened up the way I should have, I probably wouldn’t have given up a takedown and was even less likely to have two takedowns on me.”
Said Lamke: “He’s pretty much dictated the action in every match. He is in control on his feet and on the bottom. He’s moving really well. Right now he’s a complete wrestler top to bottom.”
As a seventh-grader, Novak qualified for state at 112 pounds. He lost his only match that year but he improved to sixth place last season at 145. He won his opening round match over Breckenridge’s Josh Stuehrenberg 11-3 and topped Kyle Baker of Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg 4-3 in the championship quarters. He lost his next three matches to finish the season with 27-9 record.
“My motivation right now — I remember what it felt like, and honestly, I remember wondering what I could have done to do better,” said Novak. “I kept that in my mind all summer. I was in the weight training room working just to get better and do better.
“I want to get back and be in that top four. That’s my drive. That and knowing I could have done better.”
Novak, is Class 1A’s fourth-ranked 145-pounder and owns a career record of 93-28. His career goal is to knock off Jordan Chouanard’s school record of 153 wins.
“My main goal is to get the school record and stay healthy,” he said. “Chouanard has it with 153. That’s still my overall goal. I want to get something like 171 wins.”
Other notable performances:
Basketball: Aaron Weber, Pierz, scored 20 points against Holdingford.
Nathan Ehnstrom, Aitkin, scored 26 points against Rush City.
Aaron Jacobson, Pillager, finished with 24 points and 14 rebounds against Northland.
Eric Blaha, Verndale, scored 28 points against New York Mills.
Hockey: Michael Behl, Wadena-Deer Creek, finished with four goals and six assists in his last three games.
Wrestling: Anthony Kern, Andrew Bounds, Dillon Card and Dalton Baker, Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale, won individual titles at the Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa Invite.
Axel Lange and Tyler Gastecki, Little Falls, won individual titles in the Bluejacket Invite.