North Allegheny grad perseveres despite frustrating end to 2012 Olympics

Turning the worst day of your life into a positive — that’s what North Allegheny graduate Jake Herbert has done in his years since the Olympic Games.

Herbert was a wrestling state champion at North Allegheny, NCAA champion at Northwestern University, and gold medal favorite at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. But a controversial call cost him an Olympic medal and ended his wrestling career.

“Like I walked away a failure in the sport in the sport of wrestling. I’m a silver medalist and a bronze medalist, a two-time university bronze medalist. I had the technique. I was 4-and-0 against the guys that walked away with gold, silver and bronze during my Olympic cycle,” Herbert said. “I wrestle that day, nine times out of 10, I’m walking away with a medal. Or 10 times out of 10 in my mind, I’m walking away with a gold, and it just didn’t happen.”

Still, Herbert worked to make that experience a positive one and now helps other Olympic athletes.

“All those people at that level have already had the skill, the strength, the speed, whatever it is to prove that they’re there in that journey. But now you got to do it in your head, which is the most difficult thing to really do consistently,” Herbert said.

Herbert has a business as a mental coach, helping Olympic and other athletes, business owners and everyday people train their brains toward success, no matter what they’re experiencing.

“Because stress is really how you view it, right? You want to get a muscle big and strong, if you want to do you it have to put stress on it,” Herbert said. “You can do stress as a positive or a negative. Stress can be some of the best things.”

Herbert still has fond memories of his Olympic experience, like the opening ceremony.

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“It was like, oh my gosh, it’s Kobe Bryant filming me walking in with them,” Herbert said.

And he remembers that moment taking the mat, representing home.

“There’s a honor and a blessing. Honored to know that I’m representing the Steel City. I love Pittsburgh, I love where I’m from. It’s like I represent the greatest city in the greatest country in the world,” Herbert said.

He’s done this all while taking one of the most disappointing incidents in his life and turning it into a passion, a career and a mantra for his family and for himself.

“If the worst thing that ever happens to me in my life is not getting a medal in the Olympic Games, well boo-hoo, right?,” Herbert said. “Who’s going to listen to complaints about that problem? That’s a pretty blessed life at this point.”

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