Hempfield grad Jake Kemerer ranked nationally for Lock Haven
A former high school standout is finally making his mark on the mat at the next level after battling injuries and is getting nationally recognized for his success.
Jake Kemerer, a Hempfield graduate, is ranked 20th in the nation in the WrestlingReport.com Division I rankings at 157 pounds. Kemerer has gotten off to a 14-7 start this season for Lock Haven with five majors and two pins after sitting out last season after the PSAC championships due to neck surgery.
“I have been having a good season so far,” Kemerer said. “This has been the first season in a while where (my neck) feels a lot better. I have had the injury the last couple of years, and last season it got to the point where I needed to sit out and get surgery to repair it.”
The redshirt junior's road hasn't been easy. While wrestling for Hempfield, Kemerer first committed to Oklahoma. He later rescinded his commitment to choose Penn State at the last minute. But due to injury and lack of performance, which could be attributed to a nagging neck injury, Kemerer decided after his sophomore year at Penn State to transfer to Lock Haven.
“Jake transferred in the fall of 2011. Pretty much immediately from the get-go we knew he would probably need to get neck surgery,” Lock Haven coach Robbie Waller said. “A lot of guys don't come back from a surgery like that and perform at a high national level or at his academic caliber.”
Waller has been familiar with Kemerer for quite some time, considering Waller's father, Rob, helped train Kemerer while he was part of the All-American Wrestling Club in Latrobe.
When Kemerer originally committed to Oklahoma, the younger Waller was the assistant coach in Norman, Okla. But they reunited at Lock Haven when Kemerer wanted to go to a small university with big-time wrestling.
Kemerer, a two-time state champion, already has faced some top competition. During the Nittany Lion Open in December, Kemerer, who finished third, was able to upset then-ninth-ranked Scott Winston from Rutgers, 5-4, in the quarterfinals.
“I feel like I'm getting better as the season goes along,” Kemerer said. “I'm still getting back into the swing of things.”
Kemerer followed with a second-place finish at the PSAC championships after losing to Clarion's James Fleming, 10-0, in the championship bout.
So far, Kemerer has been unable to solve Penn State's Dylan Alton. Kemerer has lost to the No. 5 wrestler twice, with the most recent loss a 5-2 decision on Dec. 15.
“The fact is that he is a kid who is healthy and is very self-motivated,” Waller said. “When you have that drive and motivation, the sky's the limit for him.”
With the remaining schedule and projected bouts, Kemerer will have the opportunity to face competitors ranked ahead of him and possibly still climb the rankings. It's apparent that Kemerer has at least one person in his corner rooting for and believing in him.
“Jake has the opportunity down the road here to knock some guys here ranked in the top twenties,” Waller said. “With his work ethic, attitude and passion, I think he will be able to get it done.”
Andrew John is a freelance writer.