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La Salle-Peru graduate Jacob Wever leans into a turn during a motocross race. Wever has traveled around the country this summer, racing in Michigan, Indiana and Tennessee. He also has plans to race in Iowa and Minnesota in his pursuit of becoming a professional. Photo courtesy Stacey Liptack, Diffy Smooth Photography
A recent graduate of La Salle-Peru High School, Wever was a four-time state qualifier, a two-time state medalist and a two-time NewsTribune Wrestler of the Year.
However, when he wasn’t wrestling over the past four years, the 18 year old was riding his dirt bike and competing in motocross races across the state and the Midwest.
Now a freshman to-be at IVCC, this summer Wever is attempting to become a professional motocross racer and hopes to achieve the status by the end of the year.
As he drove back Monday from a weekend race in Tennessee with friend and fellow rider Mark Marincic from Oglesby, the NewsTribune caught up with Wever to discuss his racing, his quest to become a professional and his future.
NT: A lot of people who read the NewsTribune sports section know you as a wrestler but not a motocross rider, so can you talk about how you got into riding?
Wever: I think I got into it when I was 4 years old. That’s when my dad got me a bike and when I started riding and messing around, and I started racing when I was about 5 years old.
When I began racing, I competed against kids my own age, and the older I got I moved up to bigger bikes.
When you’re young you race by age, but when you get older you race in classes and it instead goes by ability. There are A, B and C classes. C would be for those who are just having fun and going to races, where A and B are for more serious racers. I’m in A and I’m trying to get 75 points in pro-am events to get my pro license to compete in pro events.
NT: How do you train and become a better rider? Is it just ride and go or are there specific ways to practice?
Wever: The most basic way is just riding, but there are also other aspects. Last year, I had a coach and he helped me with technique because there’s a lot more to it than just getting on and trying to go as fast as you can. Trust me, I’ve tried that technique before and it doesn’t work.
Conditioning is also an important aspect, too. One of the biggest things with motocross is road biking. Looking at it, it may not look like much (to ride in a race), but if you get on a bike and go as hard as you can for 20 minutes, you’ll be tired, so you’ll need to have good conditioning.
NT: Do you consider yourself more of a wrestler who does motocross or a motocross rider who also wrestles?
Wever: I actually got into motocross as a kid before I began to wrestle. I originally started wrestling because I couldn’t ride in the winter because it was too cold, so I started wrestling just for something to do.
As I grew up over the years, I got more serious in wrestling, but the last three years I’ve become a lot more serious in motocross and now that’s what I’m focusing on and seeing how it goes.
With that said, it really is hard to say what I would claim over the other because they both have been a big part of my life.
NT: Where all have you traveled to compete?
Wever: So far this year, I’ve raced in Indiana, had a couple of races in Michigan and last weekend was the second time I went to Tennessee this summer.
Right after I finished with wrestling, we went on a two-week trip to Alabama just because it was still so cold around here and I wanted to start riding.
There’s a race in Minnesota coming up that I will go to in a few weeks, and after that there’s a race in Iowa and I’ll probably head back to Michigan a few times.
NT: What are the keys to being a good racer and being successful? Wever: Personally, what I like to do is watch the track (during a race) because the lines (of fresh trail) always change, so you can’t always take the same spot. The route you took on the first lap isn’t always as fast on the last lap. If you get 30-40 bikes competing and everyone is going through the same line, the line is going to be blown out and you’re going to have to go somewhere else.
You also have to stay calm. If you go out there and you’re a spaz then you’re going to end up in a crash and on your butt.
So you just have to keep calm and you always keep watching the track.
NT: Have you ever suffered any major injuries while racing?
Wever: I actually — and knock on wood — have never broken a bone, but I’ve had a lot of ‘This hurts’ and ‘That hurts’ for a few days type of things. But as far as injury injuries, I’ve had more in wrestling than I have in motocross, which I don’t know how I managed that because I have friends who have broken their collarbone or their foot or whatever. It’s very common to get hurt, but so far I’ve dodged the bullet.
NT: You were in a race last year that was broadcast on NBC. Can you talk about that experience?
Wever: I competed at the Amateur National (Motocross Championship) at Loretta Lynn (dirt track) in Hurricane Mills, Tenn. It’s the biggest Amateur National in the world, and it just so happens to be in the U.S.
With wrestling, you have the state series with regionals, sectionals and state, and for that race it was kind of the same way. I had to go through a series of qualifiers to be able to compete in the event.
We arrived at the event a day or two early, and there were people who arrived before us. Some people showed up to the race three or four days beforehand.
When we were there, the first day was practice and then there are four or five days of racing. It’s a real long week.
What they did was broadcast 250A (class) and 250B live on NBC, and I was in 250B. It was pretty neat. I was on the starting line and there was this camera just a couple of feet from me. I didn’t think anything of it, but as soon as I finished I looked at my phone and I had a bunch of calls and texts from all my friends. Getting pictures of me just sitting there looking like a fool on TV was kind of funny.
I ended up getting 24th in that race, but they have three or four races and then average out your score, so for that race and the others I think I ended up in 29th overall, which considering the competition and that you had to qualify to get there was pretty good.
NT: How far do you hope this will take you? What are your realistic goals?
Wever: For my realistic goals, I want to advance to the Pro Nationals and be able to make a main event. To do that, you have to qualify top 40 and then I’d be racing with all the ‘Pros.’
Once you step up from local to Pro Nationals, it’s quite the jump because you’re racing against guys who are pitted out of semi rigs and stuff like that. All they have to do is jump on a plane, go to the next track and race because someone will have driven the rig or trailer there. You’re racing against some pretty serious and competitive teams.
Jared Bell can be reached at 220-6938, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.
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