LHW’s Wrestler of the Week (3/9): Jordan Leen

Every individual that steps foot on the wrestling mat battles two opponents: the opponent the fans see and the opponent only the wrestler sees – THEMSELF. It’s the voice in your mind that tells you, you’re too tired to go on; it hurts too much to continue to fight; it fills you with self-doubt and makes you tentative in your attack.

Jordan Leen EIWA Finals vs JP O'Conner - Photo By Lindsey M. Mechalik
Jordan Leen EIWA Finals vs JP O'Conner - Photo By Lindsey M. Mechalik

Every individual that steps foot on the wrestling mat battles two opponents: the opponent the fans see and the opponent only the wrestler sees – THEMSELF.  It’s the voice in your mind that tells you, you’re too tired to go on; it hurts too much to continue to fight; it fills you with self-doubt and makes you tentative in your attack.

The champions win these battles; the repeat champions slay these demons.

Jordan Leen has been slaying demons since high school when he was a 4 time Tennessee State Champion, breaking and retaining the Tennessee career wins record at 191-3.  As a Senior at Baylor High School, Jordan Leen went on to become the 2004 NHSCA Senior National Champion at 130lbs.

Upon graduating High School, Jordan Leen selected Cornell University to wrestle for Coach Rob Koll’s Big Red.  In 2007 Leen earned NCAA All American honors with an eighth place finish at 149lbs; in 2008 Leen defeated Michael Poeta (5-4) of the University of Illinois to become NCAA Champion at 157lbs after emerging from the eighth seed.

Exuding intensity on and off the mat, Leen employs a methodical and laser like focused approach to his wrestling.  As much as he is a student in the classroom, he’s the quintessential student of the game: studying and developing a game plan for each opponent.

Jordan Leen is an honor student.  As a high school senior, he was member of the National Honor Society and was selected to the Wrestling USA Academic Team.  Leen has been named twice to the National Wrestling Coaches Division I All-Academic team for seasons 2006-2007 and 2007-2008.  Upon graduation, he plans to continue with his education to pursue a degree in Medicine.

On Saturday, March 7th, at the 105th EIWA Championships at the University of Pennsylvania’s Palestra, Jordan Leen defeated JP O’Conner, after an earlier season loss,  to become the 2009 EIWA 157lb champion.  Next week in St. Louis, Leen will continue his journey in persuit of a second NCAA Gold Medal.

In recognition of Jordan’s outstanding accomplishments at the 2009 EIWA Championships, Lighthouse Wrestling names Jordan Leen the Wrestler of the Week for March 9, 2009.  We asked Jordan if he would underscore this recognition by answering some questions.

LHW: First, congratulations on your outstanding performance at the EIWA Championships and taking home the gold at 157lbs.  You entered the tournament as the number 2 seed after having lost to JP O’Conner earlier in the season.  How did you prepare for the tournament?  What was the difference in the outcome this time?

Jordan: Coach Koll does a brilliant job of preparing our team so each one of us can individually peak at the appropriate times in the season.  Our biggest two peaks are obviously EIWAs and NCAAs.  In order to prepare me, he decided to give me an extra weekend off before this past weekend’s EIWA tournament, which allowed me to feel especially refreshed and excited to compete.  He has observed over the course of my career that I wrestle my best under these conditions.  Other than taking a little extra rest, I prepared for the tournament in usual fashion by developing a specific game-plan for each individual opponent that I would face-not taking anyone or anything for granted.

LHW: Last season you were the first seed at the EIWA and lost a tough battle against David Nakasone of Lehigh to take 2nd.  Two weeks later, you went on to win the Nationals knocking off the Number one seed and former champion Gregor Gillespie of Edinboro.  How do you get ready for a big tournament like that after coming off a difficult loss?

Jordan: The loss to Nakasone turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  It reminded me that I am always capable of being beat by anyone at any time.  It helped me to narrow my focus onto the things that I could control such as developing a specific, individual game-plan for each of my opponents in each round of the national tournament.

LHW: After the Hofstra vs. Cornell match there was a little debate on this site over whether you crossed the line with your aggressive and physical attack after Johnny Bonilla-Bowman was obviously injured.  What’s your reaction to all of that? Do you have any thoughts that you would like to share on the subject?

Jordan: I don’t recall that my manner of intensity ever changed in that match against Bonilla-Bowman.  I understand how tough of a competitor he is, so there was never a second in our match that I could afford to let up even a little bit.  There are rarely easy matches in Division I college wrestling when I can ever afford to reduce my level of intensity, so I try to approach and execute each match with everything that I have.  I have to trust that, if my opponent chooses to continue wrestling, he is healthy and capable enough to beat me, so I cannot take anyone or any situation for granted out there on the mat by letting up on how hard I am wrestling.

LHW: What’s it like wrestling in college?  What’s it like to wrestle for Cornell? What do you like most about wrestling at Cornell?

Jordan: Wrestling in college is a battle-every day of practice as well as every day of competition.  Wrestling for Cornell is an absolute treat because Coach Koll manages to make such a brutal sport fun.

LHW: We have many ambitious and accomplished High School wrestlers who are readers of this site, and many are planning to wrestling in college.  What advice would you give them to help them with their decision?  For those wrestlers considering the Cornell program, what can you tell them about your experience to help them with their decision?

Jordan: Cornell is the place to be.  It is a place where you can grow as a well-rounded individual, without sacrificing any lofty, personal goals you might have for yourself as a wrestler.

LHW: You’re graduating this year; what’s next for Jordan Leen?

Jordan: I will be working part time next year with Dr. Keith Helton of the Galen Medical Group in Chattanooga, TN as well as coaching wrestling at the Baylor School.  In the meantime, I will be applying for Medical school, which I hope to enter into the following year.

LHW: That’s it for the serious stuff.  We’d like to ask you a bunch of fun questions, and we hope you find them to be fun as well. What’s your favorite song/Band?

Jordan: Bleu Edmonson

LHW: What’s your favorite movie?

Jordan: Hot Rod

LHW: When not cutting weight, what are some of your favorite foods? Do you prefer mom’s home cooking or going to restaurants?

Jordan: A ribeye steak cooked medium rare, sweet potatoes served any style, green bean casserole, and croissants.  Mom does a great job, but I wouldn’t turn this down at a restaurant either.  Cheesecakes and cobblers with ice cream are my favorite desserts.

LHW: When not wrestling, what are some of your interests and/or hobbies?

Jordan: Bible studies and fellowship of any kind with my close friends and family are probably my favorite past-times.  I also have a great time watching Braves and playing fantasy baseball.

LHW: What are three things most people don’t know about you that you think they would be surprised to learn?

Jordan: 1) I am a savvy driver. 2)  I have an elephant-like memory.  3) Multitasking is kind of my thing.

Thank you Jordan for taking the time to answer these questions with LHW….We wish you God speed in your title bid in St. Louis.

Jordan’s Interview at The Wrestling Talk

3 thoughts on “LHW’s Wrestler of the Week (3/9): Jordan Leen”

  1. Jordan Leen has become my favorite wrestler to watch since last year when he surprised us all and won the NCAA title as the 8th seed. Jordan has an unique style that has helped him reach the top. A sign of an outstanding coach is someone who brings out the best in his athletes while maintaining the integrity of their style. Rob Koll is a master at this and has shown year in and year out that he can take a non-scholarship Ivy school and make it into a top NCAA D1 program.

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