Alber Looking For NCAA Wrestling Championship After Perfect High School Run
In one story in his wrestling glory days at Dakota High School, Josh Alber was called "Mr Perfect."
It was in reference to his perfect high school record of 182-0. He won all four Individual State Championships at Dakota as he became the only wrestler in Illinois history to never lose or tie.
Alber is now a red-shirt sophomore at the University of Northern Iowa. He has suffered some growing pains.
An NCAA championship with only 10 weight classes, as opposed to the 14 in high school, and an Olympic spot are hard to come by. Alber is currently 6-1 this season.
So how does Alber, who never suffered defeat in high school, deal with the rigor of the elite college level?
"Being undefeated (in high school) has definitely put a lot of pressure on me to succeed in college," Alber said. "That pressure has kind of worn out though. Now it's more of what I can do instead of what I've done in the past."
Alber opened the season as the runner-up at the Grand View Open. He was pinned by Jacob Colon, an NAIA National champion, in the 133 pound final. He had a major decision over Colon the year before for the title.
"It's crazy. He wrestled so good and had dominated every match before that," Josh's father, Tony Alber, a three-time state medalist and a state champion at Dakota, said. "He just got caught in a little mistake and just like that it was over.
Alber was 27-12 as a red-shirt freshman and qualified for the NCAA finals at Madison Square Garden. He won his first match but did not place.
"He wants to place at the NCAA championships," Tony said. "Last year, he had a solid second place at the Midland Open and a great win at the NCAA finals that gave him some confidence that he had all his life back. He hates to lose, wrestling has been his life. Last year, he felt defeated and lost his confidence with some losses. He has understood he needs to get stronger. This summer he climbed a 20-foot rope and to climb the goal distance he was determined to make it. He made 14,000 feet in 27 days only one of two guys that completed it."
Josh has lofty goals and hopes to be on top of the podium at this season's NCAA Championships in St. Louis.
"My goals for the rest of my career are to be a three-time All American and National Champion," Josh said. "When I face the best guys in the country it is important for me to stay relaxed so that I can still pull the trigger on my offense and execute my stuff. I have to think of them as just another guy no matter what their accolades are."
In high school, Dakota a small school was in 1A. Josh, however, wrestled bigger schools as well in winning all 182 matches. He beat two 3A four-time State champions in Jered Cortez of Glenbard North and Johnny Jimenez from Marmion Academy.
The highlight was a win over Cortez, the top-ranked wrestler in the country, with a takedown in overtime at the Dvorak tournament. It set off an emotional celebration for Josh and his family.
"Josh brings passion and energy, he is a fierce competitor, he lives and trains to be great," UNI coach Doug Schwab said. "He doesn't say a lot but when he does it's definitely worth listening to. He is respected because of the way he goes about things. Was he happy with last year, 100 percent no, but has learned from it and is going to have a great season."
"My biggest adjustment has been the quality of competition," Alber said. "In high school I had some high caliber opponents but it was maybe a handful of times per season. In college almost every guy I wrestle is a multiple time state champion."
Josh's last match gave him the IHSA record 182 consecutive wins. The encore coming on a 38-second pin as Dakota beat Petersburg Porta in 2014 65-3. That was the second of what is now four straight 1A dual State titles under coach Pete Alber, his uncle.
Josh comes from a long line of champions in the Alber family. His father, Tony; cousin, Vince; and uncles, Pete and Greg; have all won State championships.
"As hard as it is on the emotions, when it's over, it will be something Josh, myself and Sherry (Josh's mom) will never forget," Tony said.