#WrestlingWednesday: Ruberg has overcome more than opponents on the mat
By JEREMY HINES
Lawrenceburgâ€™s Jake Ruberg has battled some of Indianaâ€™s best wrestlers, and more often than not has emerged victorious. But Rubergâ€™s true adversary isnâ€™t an opponent standing across from him on the mat. No, for Ruberg, the demons he has wrestled in his own mind are far more vicious and formidable than any opponent could ever be.
Ruberg emerged on the state scene four years ago. He was a little-known freshman wrestling for a small school a stoneâ€™s throw away from the Ohio state line. He won sectional and regional that year and eventually advanced to state. He lost just twice as a freshman, once to eventual champion Tommy Cash 2-1 in semistate, and then to Jacob Covaciu in the first round of state.
Ruberg had sat at the table of the stateâ€™s wrestling elite. He developed a taste for that success and became obsessed with getting back there. He stepped on the mat 10 times that sophomore season, and all 10 times he emerged victorious. He was well on his way back to Indianaâ€™s pinnacle â€“ the state finals.
Ruberg injured his shoulder during football, and thought he would be able to wrestle. But wrestling can be a cruel mistress at times. Ruberg realized that his shoulder needed more time to heal, and that he would have to stop wrestling for the remainder of the season. That injury led to a dark time for Ruberg, one where he would eventually be hospitalized because of a deep depression.
â€œIâ€™ve had to deal with some pretty tough stuff,â€ Ruberg said. â€œI became very depressed after my shoulder injury and I was in the hospital for a while. It was at the same time that Shenandoahâ€™s Levi Black committed suicide after dealing with a mental illness. I was shocked to see that another kid was having some of the same issues I was having. I knew I had to come out of it.â€
Ruberg made the decision to talk about his issues. He went to therapy. He talked to Leviâ€™s parents and brother (Shenandoah head coach Gary Black). By talking about it, he was starting to get better. He also realized that there might be other kids out there going through similar struggles. So, he made himself available to talk to them.
â€œI wanted to make sure I was there for people,â€ Ruberg said. â€œNobody should battle that alone. Mental illnesses are tough. Iâ€™ve been dealing with them since I was little. Itâ€™s something you have to work out. You canâ€™t just fix yourself in a day. You have to have outlets and people you can talk to. My outlet is wrestling and working out. If Iâ€™m feeling bad, I go lift or work out on the mat. Everyone has to find their own outlet to get their mind clear.â€
Ruberg didnâ€™t advance to state as a junior. He lost in the ticket round to Noah Warren in the New Castle semistate. The loss hurt, but Ruberg has learned to deal with the negative emotions and turn them into a positive.
That was evident this football season. The Tigers advanced to the state championship game, eventually getting second. Ruberg was named the Class 3A Mental Attitude Award winner.
â€œJake is a born leader,â€ Lawrenceburg coach Mark Kirchgassner said. â€œHeâ€™s been a leader on our wrestling team for four years. Heâ€™s a leader on the football field. Heâ€™s just a leader in everything he does.
â€œWith Jake there have been ups and downs. But he has really taken positive steps. Heâ€™s done vigils with people battling depression. Heâ€™s taken kids under his wings. He helps people along the process and heâ€™s been very open with it to other kids. It takes a lot of courage for a high school guy to tell people that he battles depression.â€
Ruberg is hoping this senior campaign ends with him on the podium at the state meet. He is currently ranked No. 10 at 170 pounds. He has a lost twice this year, once to No. 2-ranked Tanner Webster 3-2, and the other time he was pinned by No. 9-ranked Kameron Fuller.
â€œMy goal is to win state, and I expect to be in the top three at least,â€ Ruberg said.
Ruberg has the luxury of being in the same room with three other highly skilled wrestlers in the upper weights. Nationally ranked Mason Parris is at 220. Jonah Rolfes (ranked No. 5 in the New Castle semistate) is at 182 pounds and Sam Tibbets is at 195 pounds.
â€œWe are fortunate for a small school to have four guys of that caliber that can battle every day in practice,â€ Kirchgassner said. â€œThey are really able to push each other.â€
Ruberg loves the success his small school has had recently in wrestling.
â€œPeople try and tell me how much better the Ohio tournament is,â€ Ruberg said. â€œI know they have great wrestlers. But we have a tournament where a school of 600 people gets to compete against a school of 6,000. Your ability really shines. You know you are one of the top 16 when you make it to state. If you win, there is no doubt that you are the best. I do wish we had wrestle backs though.â€
After high school Ruberg will wrestle for the University of Indianapolis. He chose Indianapolis because he wanted to remain close to home, and he really liked the coaching staff.
â€œTheir coach is very down to earth,â€ Ruberg said. â€œHe will talk to you about anything. Heâ€™ll check up with you on the weekends and see how youâ€™re doing. I just really like their program.â€
Ruberg plans to go into nursing. He had people help him when he was at his lowest point, and now he wants to make a career out of helping others.
â€œMy advice to anyone that might be struggling is to find someone that will listen to you,â€ Ruberg said. â€œFind someone you can open up to. Always keep going. There might be bad times, but something greater is always right around the corner.â€