GoDuke.com caught up with redshirt junior heavyweight Jacob Kasper before he begins his quest to become the Blue Devils' third All-American. He enters the NCAA Championships as the No. 4 seed at heavyweight, tying Konrad Dudziak for the highest seed in Duke history. He is 27-3 overall and finished as the runner-up at the ACC Championships. He opens his tournament against Gage Hutchison of Eastern Michigan. All of the action gets underway March 16 at 12 p.m., in St. Louis. The day will start at 125 pounds with Kasper wrapping up the first session that ends at 3:30 p.m.
GoDuke.com: You’re back at the NCAA Championships two seasons after first qualifying. What’s different for you this time around and what do you remember about your first trip?
JK: It’s pretty cool that it’s in St. Louis again and I get to wrestle in the same spot so I’m pretty excited about that. It’s going to be familiar territory. Some things that are different are obviously I’m coming in with a little more confidence, a little higher ranked and a little higher seeded as opposed to being unseeded. That’s really it. I’m still going to go out looking to hunt and reach my goals and achieve some dreams.
GD: What’s been the biggest challenge moving up to heavyweight this year?
JK: Adjusting the style was a large part of it, but also trying to keep weight on during the season and eating enough to stay big. It just presented a lot of different problems. I wouldn’t say anything less or more than making 184, but different for sure.
GD: Where have you made the most gains in strength and wrestling?
JK: I put a lot of time into the weight room. All of my numbers are higher than they’ve ever been. I’m stronger than I’ve ever been, but I think most importantly I’ve kept my speed and agility while keeping those numbers high.
GD: Going from unranked and unknown to No. 4 seed at heavyweight. What’s it like knowing you have a target on your back?
JK: I wouldn’t say I have the target on my back. I’m still hunting. There are three guys in front of me and I’m looking to win it all. If I don’t leave with an NCAA title, I’ll be unsatisfied at the end of the weekend.
GD: You’ve run the gamut in terms of weights you’ve wrestled at. Can you list the weights over the course of your career?
JK: In seventh grade – 92 pounds. Eighth grade – 104, ninth grade – 119, 10th grade – 140, 11th grade – 170, senior year – 182. Freshman year at Duke – 184, sophomore year – 184, redshirt year – 98 kg (215.5) and this year to heavyweight.
GD: What word comes to mind when you think NCAA Wrestling Championships?
GD: Word that comes to mind when you hear Glen Lanham?
JK: Quality man.
GD: Jake Faust?
JK: I’ve spent a lot of time with Jake Faust so that’s a tough one. Consistent and accountable.
GD: Connor Bass
GD: Coach Ben Wissel
JK: Tough. A machine.
GD: You always have your headphones on before a match. What’s playing?
JK: I think people would be sorely disappointed and view me in a different way if they knew what was playing. It ranges from Katy Perry to just about anything really. Whatever is going to keep me loose and relaxed out there.