La Grande's Eric Jorgensen coming out on top

February 26, 2001 11:00 pm
 (Oregon State University photo).
(Oregon State University photo).

By Pat Perkins

Observer Staff Writer

Eric Jorgensen did not finish his junior season at Oregon State on a high note.

Everything prior to the 2000 NCAA Championships had gone quite well. The former La Grande High School wrestler finished second at 157 pounds in the Pac-10, was ranked fifth in the nation and had a 24-match win streak stretched over four months.

By the NCAA tournament, Jorgensen had run out of gas.

Last year I set higher goals and I think maybe in the end I didnt wrestle to my capabilities because it was such a long season and I went so hard at the beginning.

He lost in the first round, won a wrestleback match, then lost and was done.

It was pretty devastating, he said. I was coming back through, (but) there were several people that lost first-round draws that were supposed to have placed last year at my weight.

I tried to not look at the loss. Things just didnt work out in my favor.

Most of Jorgensens career at Oregon State has gone in his favor, including Monday night. Jorgensen won his first Pac-10 title when he beat former national champion Kirk White of Boise State in a 10-2 major decision. He was named the tournaments Outstanding Wrestler.

Since I was in grade school, I wanted to be a conference champion in Division I, said Jorgensen, now 32-5 with four pins this season. The second goal was, I wanted to win a national title.

After he won two state titles at La Grande in 1994 and 1996, he went to Corvallis with the intention of continuing his dominance.

Everybody has huge learning curves. Its definitely a different level when you come to college and wrestle Division I, he said. I came in expecting to rip it up, and I dont think I did my freshman year.

He wasnt bad as a freshman, going 23-14 with three pins. In fact, one of his most memorable moments was going into the Pac-10 tournament unranked, placing fifth and getting a trip to the national tournament, where he went 2-2.

For Jorgensen, a forest management major who will graduate this year, the biggest difference between college and high school was in practice. They werent necessarily harder, but more intense.

Youre trying to make sure you push yourself every day in practice and get the best out of every workout you can. You cant really slack off in practice, he said.

Former head coach Verl Miller made really good practices, so we had some of the best practices in state when we were in high school. Practices here, I dont know if they were harder.

It was a totally different level than high school was.

Joes been a really good coach, really fun to wrestle under, Jorgensen said. Hes kind of an excited man. Hell come to practice some days and say were going to have a short and snappy practice and well go in and practice two hours.

Hell wrestle us and wrestle us and wrestle us til were not standing anymore.

Thats how Jorgensen wears down his opponents.

I like to push the people I wrestle, he said. When I say push, I mean make them tired. I like to pick up the pace of the match. Most people cant stay with me when I pick up the pace of the match. Thats been a key for me.

His junior season was full of wins, accolades and honors. His 24-match win streak ended when he lost to third-ranked Brian Snyder of Nebraska at the National Wrestling Coaches Associations All-Star Classic, a prestigious event for the nations best wrestlers. He won the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Classic, took third at the St. Louis Open and went 29-6.

Still, his disappointing finish at the NCAA tournament lingered at the end. So he didnt as much lower his expectations this year as pace himself, setting himself to peak at his final collegiate tournaments. The NCAA tournament is March 15-17 at Iowa City, Iowa, and Jorgensen wants to finish in the top eight to become an All-American.

He is concentrating on one match at a time.

Everybody I wrestle challenges me every single time, because everybody you come up against is going to want to beat you whether youre ranked or not.