Kerber Enjoying Sucess With Cornell’s Big Red
In the world of wrestling, specifically college wrestling, upsets are common place. There are also surprises along the way, which is one of the reasons the sport continues to be so appealing.
For one Emmetsburg family whose name is somewhat synonymous with the sport, the pursuit of wrestling this season has an extra special meaning.
The Big Red of Cornell University of Ithaca, New York, are in the thick of the hunt for the NCAA?National Championship this season, fueled by a championship at January’s NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals in Cedar Falls.
Cornell, picked as the preseason No. 1, hopes to become the first Ivy League school to win the team title at the NCAA championships, which date back to 1928. The Big Red were second to Iowa last season and have their sights set on the top prize this season.
One of the leaders of the 2010-2011 Big Red is senior Justin Kerber, who grew up in Emmetsburg. The son of Jeff and Robin Kerber, a pair of University of Iowa alumni, Kerber appeared poised to follow his parents to Iowa after he graduated from Emmetsburg High School.
Jeff Kerber wrestled for Iowa after an undefeated high school career for the Emmetsburg E-Hawks in which he won four state titles. Robin Kerber competed as a gymnast at Iowa.
It seemed only natural that Justin, who had been a Hawkeye fan his entire life, would wear the black and gold and wrestle for the perennial powerhouse Iowa Hawkeyes.
“I was basically sure, before my senior year, I was going to wrestle at Iowa,” Justin said. “But I figured if I even looked elsewhere, they had to have something that set them apart, and that was academics. Coach Koll is a fantastic recruiter, and he convinced me to take a visit.”
Coach Koll was Rob Koll, the wrestling coach at Cornell University, an Ivy League school in Ithaca, NY – a long way from the home of the Iowa Corn Song.
Kerber visited the Cornell campus, weighed the pros and cons, and cast his lot with the Big Red. The move seems to have paid off in spades for Kerber, who already has a job offer with the Wall Street Firm of Goldman Sachs in New York City after graduation.
Now, in Kerber’s senior season, his parents are able to attend most of the Big Red meets, including the National Duals, which turned into a family reunion of sorts, as the extended Kerber family was able to gather in Cedar Falls to cheer on Justin and the Big Red wrestlers.
For the record, Kerber won his 165 pound match in the championship dual for the Big Red at the National Duals.
“Cornell’s wrestling community really is a family, too,” Kerber said. “This year, especially, has been really special to be a part of. We’re having a blast. Coach Koll has done a good job of emphasizing, ‘Why do we wrestle? It’s because we get so much enjoyment out of it.’
“He keeps that at the forefront of our minds, because it is a long, grueling season. So we have a joke of the day; practice cannot start until there is one.”
Justin Kerber at Cornell
NCAA Qualifier (2009, 2010)
EIWA Finalist (2009)
First Team All-Ivy (2008, 2010)
Second Team All-Ivy (2009)
NWCA All-Academic Team (2008, 2009,2010)
2009-10: Kerber qualified for his second NCAA tournament and won three matches at the national tournament after taking third place at the EIWA championships. He finished the year with a 21-11 record, including a 4-0 Ivy record to capture first-team accolades. In all, Kerber finished 11-9 against NCAA qualifiers. In his junior season, Kerber wrestled at his third weight class, moving down to 165 pounds after qualifying for the 2009 NCAAs at 184 pounds. After missing the first part of the season due to injury, he battled back to place fifth at the Southern Scuffle with a 5-2 mark. Kerber was named to the NWCA All-Academic Team.
2008-09: Kerber upset No. 10 Louis Caputo of Harvard, 5-3 in sudden victory, in the semifinals of the EIWA tournament to advance to the finals and qualify for his first NCAA tournament. The sophomore lost a 4-0 decision to No. 9 David Craig of Lehigh in the title match. Kerber led the team in major decisions with nine, and was tied for fourth in wins with 29. He won six matches against top-20 ranked wrestlers. With a 4-0 conference record, Kerber was named second-team All-Ivy. At the Southern Scuffle, he placed third with a 6-1 record. Kerber opened the season with a third place finish at the Body Bar Invitational and a fifth at the Brute Binghamton Open.
2007-08: During his rookie season, Kerber compiled a 28-11 overall record, with an 8-1 dual mark. Kerber was slated to wrestle for Cornell at 174 pounds, but moved up two weight classes to compete at 197 pounds in the last seven duals. The freshman tallied a perfect 7-0 dual record in his new weight class defeating all five of his league opponents in the process to earn First-Team All-Ivy honors. Kerber opened the season placing third at the Brute Binghamton Open at 184 pounds, with a 5-1 record. He wrestled for Cornell at the Body Bar Invitational, Reno Tournament of Champions, Southern Scuffle and National Duals, before placing third at the New York State Championships at 184 pounds. Midway through the season, Kerber racked up an 11-match winstreak. With a 3-2 record, he placed fifth at the EIWA tournament. Kerber was one of only two true freshmen to make the NWCA All-Academic Team.
Prior to Cornell
Kerber, a four-time letter winner in wrestling, was also a four-time Iowa state finalist for Emmetsburg High School. With a career record of 175-9, Kerber helped Emmetsburg to win three team wrestling state championships, as well as winning two individual state championships. Kerber also earned four letters in football. The all-district linebacker also served as his football and wrestling team captain.