McHenry wrestling coach Jake Guardalabene heard about Jaden Glauser a few years ago, sometime around when Jaden was a sixth-grader. His older brother, Alec, had been in one of the coach’s classes at McHenry and had wrestled some before switching to other sports, but Guardalabene heard the kids talking about a younger Glauser brother.
“I looked him up and said, ‘We got to make sure this kid gets to McHenry,’ ” Guardalabene said.
This year, Jaden arrived as a freshman and quickly has made the kind of impression Guardalabene thought he would. Through his first 15 high school matches, Glauser is 15-0 with eight pins and five tech falls. He has been taken down only twice, while taking opponents down 51 times.
“He definitely doesn’t carry himself like a freshman,” Guardalabene said. “If you didn’t know he was a freshman, you’d think junior, senior. One, the way he looks: He doesn’t look like a freshman. Two, the way he acts: He’s mature beyond his years. He doesn’t come across like a 15-year-old kid; he comes across definitely as a veteran, and that’s just from the hundreds of matches that he’s wrestled coming in. All that experience at the kids club is huge, winning a couple IK state titles and wrestling those big national tournaments that he has just helped him make the transition pretty easy.”
Glauser began wrestling around 6 years old and began getting competitive a couple of years later. He won two Illinois Kids Wrestling Federation state titles, placed twice more at IKWF state tournaments and competed in numerous national youth tournaments.
“I’ve had some pretty good freshmen the last few years come through McHenry … they all had some deer in the headlights (looks), but Jaden hasn’t yet,” Guardalabene said. “He has some freshman questions every now and then, but that’s to be expected. He’s definitely mature beyond his years.”
Usually the lower weight classes are the realm where younger wrestlers might be able to step directly into a varsity lineup, but Glauser has jumped right in at 170 pounds, facing mostly upperclassmen.
“The biggest adjustment is just wrestling like a high schooler,” Glauser said. “Just being a lot more physical than in the IKWF. … I don’t want to say
more rough, but you’re dealing with guys at 170 pounds, 90 percent of the time are seniors, so the style is just a lot more physical for me in particular. That’s what I’ve noticed.”
Glauser was ranked No. 8 in Class 3A at 170 as of Tuesday morning, by illinoismatmen.com. Everyone ranked above him is an upperclassman, and he is one of only three freshmen (along with Huntley’s David Ferrante) ranked in 3A at any weight class above 138.
“It felt pretty good,” Glauser said about the first time he saw himself in the rankings. “No. 8, it isn’t really where I want to be, but it still felt good to see my name up there because, you know, I’ve been tracking and following high school wrestling since I was like in sixth grade, so it’s kind of cool to see your name in there.”
Glauser said physicality is the biggest area of growth he’s wants to work on the rest of the season.
“Keep adjusting to the high school style, being more physical but staying calm and keeping my composure,” he said. That’ll be my biggest thing this year, still making that transition from wrestling 14-year-old kids to 17-, 18-year-old guys most of the time.”
In the practice room, Glauser goes up against McHenry’s No. 9-ranked 182-pound junior Jake Leske. Guardalabene credited the leadership of Leske and other upperclassmen, including 2016 state qualifier Lucas Busse, Matt Gutierrez and AJ Sweeney, with helping Glauser’s transition. Guardalabene said he’s seen more personality coming out of the freshman, and Glauser said he’s enjoying the familial bond of a high school team.
“I’ve seen a lot of determination from him,” Leske said. “I think from all his hard work back in his club days, that really paid off in how he pans out right now. He’s going to be doing some good stuff.”
Recently, in the span of a week, Glauser beat three other ranked wrestlers, and then beat one of them again, ending the week with a title at a tournament hosted by Prospect. It was a victory that proved something for the freshman.
“Winning the Prospect tournament just kind of reassured myself that I’m a freshman, but I’m in this thing,” Glauser said. “Ignoring the fact that I’m a freshman and realizing that I’m right up there with everyone else.”
The final bout of the Prospect tournament was also a proving moment because it was Glauser’s first six-minute match of his career. Glauser had won his first 12 matches either by fall or technical fall, but to beat Barrington’s Jake Meyer, he had to go all six minutes for a decision, 1:30 longer than a full-length IKWF match.
“It was a pretty grueling, intense six minutes, so I just had to keep myself calm and not put myself in any bad positions,” Glauser said.
Now the aim, Guardalabene said, is to work on the mental challenges and his gas tank: “Get in shape, try to peak in February and make a run for that title.”
When Guardalabene asked the wrestlers to write down their goals at the beginning of the season, Glauser didn’t mince words.
“I want to be a state champ this year,” Glauser reiterated recently.
McHenry has never had a state champion, only four runners-up, and although his coach knows how tough it is, he doesn’t think it’s out of the question.
“If things fall right – to win a state title, to get to the finals, even to place, you’ve got to get a little bit lucky,” Guardalabene said. “You’ve got to fall on the right side of the bracket; you’ve got to get some breaks along the way. If anybody can do it, he can. … He could do it if things go right.
“And there’s so much potential for him to grow. He’s only the tip of the iceberg right now. He’s going to continue to get better, which is scary to think about because he’s already, in my opinion, one of the best kids in the state.”