When Chesterton coach Chris Joll met Jaycee Jensen, he knew little of the lanky, gawky freshman who arrived in town from New Jersey just two days before school started.
"The first thing I ask for is helpers with the little kids and he raised his hand and said, 'I'll help,'" Joll said. "I didn't know anything about him, but he solved a problem in the first 20 seconds. That first impression has never changed. It's just gotten stronger and stronger. He's been a pleasant surprise."
Now a senior, Jensen is taking vocational classes in law enforcement with an eye on a possible career in the field.
"It's a good fit for me," he said. "I like helping people out. I like to get my hands dirty."
On the mat, Jensen has also been laying down the law. The Trojans' 182-pounder takes a 14-2 record into this weekend's Al Smith Invitational at Mishawaka.
"Last season, I got off to a good start, then I sprained my ankle," Jensen said. "I felt I could've gone down state. Little stuff has always kept me from getting where I need to go. Now I'm all ready to go."
Born in California, Jensen spent some early years in Chesterton before his family began a series of moves when he was in fourth grade. He lived in Pennsylvania (Philadelphia), New Jersey, Massachusetts, Indiana (Highland in seventh grade) and New Jersey (again) before returning to Chesterton.
"It was a new town, new school almost every year," he said. "A lot of long car rides. I missed out on a little bit, but I didn't let it hold me back at all. It balanced out. I've had a lot of good life experiences not a lot of people get."
Along the way, Jensen came to enjoy traveling. He doesn't rule out heading back to the Golden State down the road. For now, Chesterton is the place he hangs his headgear.
"If I can call anywhere home, it would be here," said Jensen, who works in town at Sage Restaurant. "In football, I had a little trouble finding my place. Wrestling definitely helped me settle here. It's made me a better person. I've had good influences in all the coaches, coach Joll, coach (Jason) Cook, coach (Keith) Davison."
For Joll, that's more important than any kind of move or technique he could teach Jensen.
"That's my job as a coach, to do as well as I possibly can to get him to where he can be successful," he said. "If you break down along a road, Jaycee's the guy you want to help you. The way he wrestles, the way he approaches matches, he's kind of like having a pocket knife. You know it's there and you know it can do a lot of things. He doesn't talk a lot, but when he does, he must have something important to say."
Building on his success in football, Jensen started the season 10-0. He hadn't lost before last week's match with Merrillville's state-ranked Matthew Hollins.
"That was big motivation," Jensen said. "I'm getting different coaching angles in the room. It's a matter of going out and being tougher than the other guy, finishing little things, wrestling through positions, staying in better position."
With all the places Jensen has already been, Indianapolis holds a particular appeal to him right now.
"I think it's a realistic possibility to be a state place winner," he said.
Either way, it won't be Joll's first measure of success for Jensen.
"I'll always be proud of him," he said.