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|Jared Platt continues to show promise after winning Northeast Regional|
By Craig Sesker USA Wrestling
Spend a few minutes speaking with Jared Platt and you would never guess he's a senior in high school.
Spend a few minutes watching him wrestle and you might think the same thing.
Platt already is displaying abilities and a maturity far beyond his years. That was evident last weekend when Platt won USA Wrestling's Northeast Regional in freestyle wrestling at 96 kg/211.5 pounds to qualify for the U.S. World Team Trials.
Platt was named Outstanding Wrestler of the Senior freestyle division of the Northeast Regional after sweeping Michigan State freshman Nick Palmieri 7-0, 7-0 in the finals.
Not bad for a guy who still has a couple months of high school left.
The Blair Academy senior, who has signed with Penn State, holds down the No. 2 spot nationally in Wrestling International Newsmagazine's high-school rankings. He will shoot for another title in folkstyle this weekend at the Senior High School Nationals in Virginia Beach, Va.
"Jared is really dedicated and has a strong passion for the sport," Blair Academy coach Jeff Buxton said. "He's made huge jumps over the past two years. He really competes hard and every day he tries to get better. As a coach, you love to work with a kid like that.
"Jared loves to train and loves every aspect of the sport. He's a great student of the sport and is always talking to the coaches about improving. I definitely see him going to the next level and making another jump."
Platt, from Randolph, N.J., was 44-2 as a prep senior with both losses coming this season to top-ranked Cody Gardner of Christiansburg, Va. Gardner is headed to Virginia Tech. Platt also lost to Gardner in the finals of the 2006 Junior Nationals in Fargo, N.D.
"Right after I lost to Gardner in Fargo, I changed into my running shoes and went out and ran six miles," Platt said. "Those losses to him have really pushed me and made me work even harder. It's made me a better wrestler."
Platt was hoping for another shot at Gardner at Senior High School Nationals, but said he heard recently that Gardner may not compete in the event.
"I wish I could get another shot at him," Platt said.
Buxton said the losses to Gardner have lit a fire under Platt.
"He has kind of been on a mission to beat Cody," Buxton said. "He was really close to beating him and he has pushed himself to the next level."
Platt was a two-time National Prep Champion for Blair.
Platt is one of four Blair Academy wrestlers expected to contend for a title this weekend in Virginia. The others include Kellen Russell (130), Eric Medina (145) and Max Shanaman (135). Russell is headed to Michigan, Medina has committed to Maryland and Shanaman is still undecided for next year. Medina is ranked No. 1 in the country at his weight class. Russell is No. 2 nationally in his division and Shanaman No. 3.
Blair Academy, which was ranked second nationally this year, has been a perfect fit for Platt.
"Coming here was the best decision I've ever made," he said. "Coach Buxton is an unbelievable coach and technician. There's just something about him that's really special. He really trains you and teaches you how to balance athletics and academics. It's not easy to do here, because the schoolwork is quite rigorous and we work really hard in wrestling."
Platt said he also plans to wrestle at the FILA Junior Nationals in freestyle next week in Las Vegas.
"Wrestling is so much fun for me," he said. "I do it 365 days a year, and I know it burns some kids out, but it hasn't stopped being fun for me. I love being in the room and going real hard. I will lose seven or eight pounds in a practice. Going through a wrestling practice makes me mentally tough where I know I can push through anything."
Making Platt's accomplishments on the mat even more impressive is that he has diabetes. He has to constantly monitor his blood-sugar level to stay strong when he practices and competes.
"Jared's done a great job monitoring his diabetes and figuring out what works for him," Buxton said. "If he doesn't take care of that, he will crash and his body can shut down and get really fatigued. He's done real well controlling it for competitions. He has to be really disciplined to do that."
Buxton said Platt has meant a lot to his program.
"He's just a great kid, no question about that," Buxton said. "He's been a real leader at our school."
Platt said he is unsure if he will compete at the U.S. World Team Trials in early June.
"I don't think I'm quite ready to wrestle (past two-time NCAA champion) Damion Hahn and guys like that," Platt said with a laugh. "I got a chance to work out with (past NCAA champions) Chris Pendleton and Steve Mocco during the NCAAs, and got pounded a little bit. Pendleton is very fast and would get behind me before I knew what hit me. Those guys are really good and that really opened my eyes. I know I have a lot of work to do before I even get to their level."
Platt has helped continue a tradition of Blair Academy standouts that includes 2007 NCAA champion Mark Perry of Iowa and 2007 NCAA runner-up Kurt Backes of Iowa State.
Platt is hoping to make a similar impact in college. He is expected to redshirt at Penn State next year with 2006 NCAA runner-up Phil Davis having one year of eligibility left at 197. Platt plans to wrestle 197 in college.
"My ultimate goal is to wrestle in the Olympics and the World Championships," Platt said. "But over the next five years, my focus is going to be mainly on college and winning four NCAA titles. I will have one year to redshirt and train with Phil Davis to help me prepare for my college career. I'm really excited to see what I can do at that level. I can't wait."