Prep football

Bertucci plays multiple positions for Wheeler

2013-10-03T17:00:00Z 2013-10-04T11:54:20Z Bertucci plays multiple positions for WheelerJim Peters jim.peters@nwi.com, (219) 548-4363 nwitimes.com
October 03, 2013 5:00 pm  • 

Statistics are the simplest measure of a player's value.

For Jake Bertucci, all you have to do is look at the Wheeler roster, where one number doesn't suffice for the do-it-all senior.

"When I'm a lineman, I wear 54. When I'm a running back, I wear 33," he said. "I've got patches for both on my jacket. I've got a 33 on the back of my helmet, just in case."

A four-year letterman and three-year starter, Bertucci has played at least five positions in his career -- tackle, guard and fullback on offense, nose guard and end on defense. Over that time, he has compiled 160 tackles and 360 yards.

"The running back position is more enjoyable, but 'TK' (coach Tony Klimczak) asked me to change, and I told him whatever's best for the team," Bertucci said. "I definitely have a different perspective."

After starting the season at fullback, Bertucci was moved to the line due to injuries.

"We were over-matched at times, and we needed a more physical presence," Klimczak said. "By far, Jake's one of the strongest kids we've had the last five, six years."

When running back Jake Wasz got hurt, Bertucci returned to the backfield. When Wasz came back, Bertucci returned to the line, while continuing to anchor the defensive front, where teams tend to run away from his side.

"He's been there," Klimczak said. "He's a calming influence for the other guys."

From the time he was a freshman, Bertucci had high aspirations. Instead of settling in with his classmates, he worked out with the older players.

"You have to get the push from somewhere," Bertucci said. "I liked being in there with them. They were great guys."

Big, but not a big weightlifter, he was sold on the importance of pushing iron by former coach Dan Klimczak.

"He said I was going to bench 185 twice," Bertucci said. "I said I couldn't do it. He said I was going to do it anyway. I didn't realize how strong I could be."

His name is now all over the weight room leader boards. A lean 205 pounds, Bertucci benches 300, squats 535 and dead lifts 575, but the three-sport athlete's brain is his strongest muscle. Bertucci ranks at the top of his class academically and is both senior class and student council president, among other off-field activities.

"My old line coach said I asked too many questions," said Bertucci, whose recruiting list includes Butler, DePauw and Rose Hulman. "I'm very particular."

Bertucci remembers the 2011 sectional championship win over Andrean like it was yesterday. He played three quarters in the 12-7 stunner.

"It's so fresh in my mind," he said. "It went by fast. After my sophomore year, I knew I had to be a leader, try to be a fixture (in the weight room)."

Success has not come as readily for Wheeler since, making Bertucci's experience and leadership all the more vital. This season, that group includes his brother Derek, a promising freshman much like Jake three years ago. Wheeler has won its last two games after an 0-4 start, and Bertucci hopes it's the start of something good.

"As a junior, it was a lot worse," he said. "I hadn't lost a (regular-season) game since sixth grade. I didn't know how to lose. I wasn't used to it. The hard thing is all the games except Griffith were winnable. You just have to have a positive mental attitude. When something bad happens, I always say the next play is the most important. We can't count ourselves out. Look at the Andrean game. It's all about believing in ourselves."

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