It could've been Jacob Falk's nickname.
The recent West Jordan graduate had quite a knack for being runner-up in every big wrestling tournament. His freshman year: second place in cadet nationals. His sophomore and junior years: second place in state.
"I guess a lot of people call it the curse taking second all the time," Falk says. "It happened a lot."
But 2011 represented a turning point for Falk. He would not be second to anyone anymore.
The UVU-bound wrestler had a title sweep this year, taking a state title, a Greco-Roman World Duals title and a junior national Greco-Roman title at 145 pounds in a matter of months. The national title the crown jewel of his prep wrestling accomplishments capped what had been a career of "almost" moments.
Getting over the "curse" was not easy. Blessed with quickness and learned in technical skill, Falk had the tools physically to dominate. It took a little longer for his mind to catch up with his body.
"He's always been a hard worker who doesn't like to lose," West Jordan coach Gabe Vigil says. "I know no one likes to lose, but he takes it harder than other people. Mentally, he had to start winning more, and I thought the confidence would come along. That's what happened."
A few solid tournament results built up some swagger for Falk. Headed into the state tournament, he was feeling as strong as he ever had.
And it was no contest. Falk dominated the 145-pound field, scoring three pins on his way to the finals. In the championship, he notched a 17-5 major decision over Jared Taylor of Davis. The second-best was now at the top of his class, fulfilling his promise at last.
"He had a growth spurt in high school, so he started smaller," Vigil says. "He's quicker than most kids he wrestles, and he has a really good build for wrestling. Where he really succeeds is when he's on top; he always scores points. He never gets turned."
Falk maintained that reputation throughout the summer, even after coming off knee surgery. After winning his class in the World Duals, he was prepared for nationals in Fargo, N.D., last month.
It had been a frustrating past for Falk in the national tournament. After his runner-up finish as a freshman, he placed third as a sophomore and didn't place at all as a junior.
He trained four times a day in the week leading up to the tournament, lifting, running and drilling until his brain felt like mush. There were plenty of times Falk questioned his desire to keep up the exhausting regimen.
"It just sucked," he says. "I was just dead tired. But during the tournament, I felt like I knew what I had to do in every situation."
As it turned out, Falk did have an answer for every situation. He cruised through his matches, winning 10 in only two days. In the Greco-Roman junior finals, he came up against Oliver Pierce of Texas, a previous champion.
A 2-1, 1-0 decision in Falk's favor broke the spell. He earned his final point by avoiding being flipped by Pierce. When the clock ran out, he threw up his hands and pointed to the crowd, relief washing over him.
"I just thought, 'I'm not going to take second anymore,' " Falk says. "I put my nerves to the side and went into my matches confident. I never had that mentality before, and it's great to finally win."
About Jacob Falk
Falk won a state title at 145 pounds over Davis' Jared Taylor after finishing second twice in a row.
The recent West Jordan graduate also won his first junior national Greco-Roman title in July over Oliver Pierce of Texas.
Falk will wrestle for Utah Valley University in the fall.