Connecticut has a national champion in wrestling.
Jakob Camacho, who is finishing his sophomore season at North Carolina State, won the national championship in freestyle at 57 kilograms or 125.6 pounds at the USA Wrestling Senior National championship meet in Coralville, Iowa.
Camacho beat Ethan Rotondo of the University of Wisconsin in the finals, 8-6. Two takedowns in the span of 15 seconds in the second period gave Camacho the cushion he needed to capture his first senior-level title. He was seventh in this same event last October.
“I just wanted to put it on the line,” Camacho said. “I was grateful for the opportunity to compete and it was a hard-fought battle. He brought it and I brought it.”
Camacho was the first Connecticut wrestler in the final of the USA Wrestling Senior Nationals event since Middletown High graduate Richard Perry went to the freestyle finals at 86 kg in 2018, falling to David Taylor, 8-0.
Camacho finished second in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament this February and fell one win shy at the NCAA Division I tournament of earning All-American honors for the second straight season at 125 pounds.
What was the difference in getting a good result here in Iowa?
“I think I am fearless,” Camacho said. “I go out and put it on the line just like everyone else. There is no one out there that I am scared of. I just know that they are human and I am human. They’re great wrestlers. I am a great wrestler. So it’s just an honor to out there and compete. You look at the crazy stuff that happens, people get hurt all of the time. You never know how long your career will go.”
Camacho began his tournament with a 12-1 win over Christian Chavez of Catalyst WC and followed that up with a 12-0 win in 5:03 over Dane Durlacher of Illinois Training center in the semifinals.
It was a back-and-forth affair in the final with Rotondo, who wrestled at Wisconsin this past winter but couldn’t break into the starting lineup at 125 pounds behind All-American Eric Barnett.
Camacho had a 3-2 lead after one period thanks to an early takedown and Rotondo being penalized a point for stepping back out of bounds. In the second period, two nice takedowns and trips, gave Camacho a 7-3 lead with 2:15 remaining.
Rotondo exposed Camacho’s back with 1:15 remaining to cut the lead to two, 7-5 but Rotondo stepped out to allow Camacho to extend his lead to 8-5.
Camacho enjoyed the tight match.
“I loved it,” he said. “Sometimes, you feel it. When you get to these moments in practice where you are tired, your forearms hurt, your knees are a little shaky, your legs are tired and your back hurts from being in a stance for six minutes of hand fighting, you have to find a way to keep your hands and feet moving.”
By finishing among the top five in his weight class, Camacho earned an invitational to the U.S. World Team trials in September.
Will he attend? “Yes,” he said. “I’ll be there. Any (chance) to compete at the high level, I will be there.”
This was Camacho’s second appearance at the USA Wrestling Senior Nationals.
Recent Connecticut medalists at USA Wrestling Senior Nationals
The event was called the U.S. Open up to 2018.
2021 — Jakob Camacho, Danbury, first, 57 kg (Wolfpack Wrestling Club)
2020 — Jakob Camacho, Danbury, seventh, 57 kg (Wolfpack Wrestling Club)
2018 — Richard Perry, Middletown, second, 86 kg (Pennsylvania RTC)
2017 — Richard Perry, Middletown, second, 86 kg (Pennsylvania RTC)
2015 — Richard Perry, Middletown, seventh, 86 kg (Pennsylvania RTC)