His online blog says it all — “Stay weird.”
Jay Borschel has carved a niche as being one of the unique characters of the University of Iowa wrestling program, melding a fun-loving attitude off the mat with a competitive nature on it.
Borschel, without the mustache he grew during last season, takes an undefeated record on the road as the top-ranked Hawkeyes open their Big Ten dual season tonight against the University of Michigan (4-7) at Ann Arbor, Mich. The meet begins at 7. Iowa will then travel to Lowell, Ind., to face Purdue (10-4) on Sunday at noon.
Being different is perfect for Borschel, even though he doesn’t shun the mainstream.
“I’m not trying to impress anybody,” Borschel said. “I’m just trying to be myself, you know?
“I’m not really afraid of anything. I’m pretty comfortable with myself.”
Iowa Coach Tom Brands has been exposed to Borschel’s antics for a long time, and remains unfazed by them. He knows Borschel says and does some things to try and get a rise out of him.
“He’s one goofy dude,” said Brands, noting Borschel could be funnier than Jim Carrey, if he wanted. “He’s a guy who wants you to second-guess him.”
Brands noted a recruiting visit to the Borschels’ home in Marion. Borschel greeted him at the door, wearing a pink blazer, light blue pants, odd shoes and a bucket hat.
“That’s the first time I pulled up to his house.” Brands said. “When I pulled up he was looking out the window waiting for us. So when he answered the door, you know, it’s like ‘What in the world fire?’ ”
That drum pounds out a beat only for Borschel, but in a good way. That’s how it’s always been. While at Linn-Mar High School, where he became the 16th four-time state champion in Iowa history, Borschel regularly dressed up for Lions basketball and football games. Sometimes he wore dresses or was costumed as different characters.
“He was known for having a good sense of humor,” said Carol Borschel, a music teacher, who noted her side may be the source of his love of music and humor. “and not really caring if people thought he was weird.”
Now, he’s not considered as eccentric as former Hawkeye Ray Brinzer, who once hitchhiked to a dual in Minnesota and lived in his truck for a semester in Iowa City. Brands and his parents, Jim and Carol Borschel, compared him to former Hawkeye Lee Fullhart, who coached Jay as Brands’ assistant at Virginia Tech. He had an interesting response when asked if he was comparable to anyone or stood alone on his own island.
“I wish I was on my own island,” said Borschel. “Be naked and free all day long.”
Borschel, an outdoor lover who chronicled some of his wilderness escapades, including a run-in with a bear in Colorado, on his blog at jayborschel.com, taught himself to play the guitar and played the piano, singing a song titled “Dracula’s Lament” for an online video on his blog. He enjoys all music, except country, and his favorite movie is “The Big Lebowski.” He can be found relaxing at times, like Wednesday when he spent time listening music, including the Dave Matthews Band, and playing the video game Modern Warfare.
Borschel, a strong student majoring in Biology, lives in the moment, but knows his audience. He’s impulsive but you won’t catch him doing anything inappropriate in public.
After the Hawkeyes won the NCAA Championships team title in 2008, where Borschel was an All-American by placing third at 174 pounds, he took a plant from the arena floor and gave it to his girlfriend during a post-tournament celebration.
“It was funny, because I saw it sitting down on the floor, and I told my brother, ‘I bet he takes that plant,’” Jim recalled. “Sure enough. He walks over there, takes that dang thing and takes it to the reception. I couldn’t believe it.”
Borschel flips a switch, transforming from laid-back nonconformist to dominant wrestler when he hits the mat. A near flawless change because of his dedication to the sport.
“It’s important to him and he’s very competitive,” Brands said. “He’s hard on himself and he knows what he’s capable of.”
When given one word to describe Borschel on the mat Brands quickly said, “smooth,” and Borschel is “dynamite” when he executes what he does best. Occasionally, he gets in some precarious positions.
“He’s a little bit too sloppy for me sometimes,” Brands admitted. “We work to iron that out. The thing is he works hard at it.”
Borschel, ranked first by Wrestling Insider Newsmagazine (W.I.N.) and Amateur Wrestling News but second by InterMat, is 19-0 this season. He was named the Outstanding Wrestling in the NCAA Division I tournament of the National Duals, posting a 4-0 with each win coming against a ranked opponent. He also captured his first Midlands title in December.
“I expected it to be this way,” said Borschel, adding “It should be this way.
“I’m just feeling good about how I’m competing.”
Borschel is focused on claiming a national title. No matter what happens in March, Borschel will accept what his efforts bring and move on.
“Ultimately, you and you’re career and everything are defined by championships,” Borschel said. “It might be a hard way, but it makes everything right. Yeah, I want that.”