Should Jake Bellis ever doubt the importance of his career as a Greco-Roman wrestler, all he has to do is look in the eyes of his 8-year-old brother Chad.
“He’s my biggest fan out of anybody,” said Bellis, who was in Bucharest, Romania, last week representing the United States in the Junior World Greco-Roman Wrestling Championships.
In early July, the 2010 Bloomington High School graduate was in Sao Paulo, Brazil, for the Junior Pan American Games where he won the freestyle wrestling gold medal and the Greco-Roman silver.
“The happiest person (about my success) in my whole family is my little brother,” said the 19-year-old Bellis. “It’s so ridiculous how much he wants to be like me and how much he wants to wrestle and do good.”
Bellis qualified for the Junior Worlds by beating national champion Colton Howell of Missouri in two out of three bouts on May 21 in Indiana. Bellis won the first bout, 1-0, 3-0, but lost the second, 2-0, 0-4, 0-6, before capturing the third, 3-0, 3-1.
“After I lost the second one, (Chad) was crying to me, telling me he was sorry,” Bellis said. “He was in my corner for all the matches at the world team trials, trying to coach me.”
Another proud Bellis backer is his father, Kevin, a former Illinois State coach who owns a painting business where his son works. Kevin serves as an assistant coach at BHS where his son posted a four-year record of 124-19 and placed second in the 2010 Class 2A state tourney at 112.
“The (junior worlds) trials were a tough time,” Kevin Bellis said. “He had a rugged three-match set. He was banged up. He was throwing up. He couldn’t see out of one eye. He still wrestled and won. That’s what you like to see, fighting through the adversity.”
The younger Bellis said training for tournaments this summer has taken his wrestling to a new level.
“I’m 100 times better than I was,” said Bellis, who trained 14 days at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., prior to his 10-day visit to Romania. “It’s confidence and my moves are down pat.”
Those training in Colorado included Olympians, whose ranks Bellis hopes to join in 2016 in the lightest weight class, 121 pounds. He competed at 110 in Bucharest where he lost his only match, 7-0, 2-0, to Russia’s Pavel Vasilenko, the eventual fifth-placer.
“All the Russians are pretty tough,” Bellis said. “Being part of Team USA was definitely an honor.