February 24, 2021

The Last Dance

Creston/O-M’s Kinsella wrestles to third place finish

DES MOINES – “Thirty minutes. For the rest of our lives.”

The famous words of former professional baseball player Tim Tebow were said in a similar vein Saturday morning in the halls of the Wells Fargo Arena, only instead of Tebow saying it to his Florida Gators, it was echoed in a familiar fashion by wrestling coaches to their wrestlers.

For Jackson Kinsella Saturday morning, instead of 30 minutes, it was six minutes. Six minutes for the rest of his life in a Creston/O-M red singlet.

Kinsella took to the mat in the consolation final Saturday morning, taking on Reese Moore of Forest City in a battle for third place.

The tournament did not go as planned, with Kinsella himself expecting to battle in the Class 2A 195 final for first. A semifinal loss bounced him to consolation, but Kinsella retained his winner mentality, wanting to dominate his way through the back end of the bracket to go out on a win.

“I told myself there’s no way in hell I’m walking out of here without third place,” said Kinsella. “It doesn’t matter if I pop my knee or somebody chokes me out.”

Kinsella took it to Moore early, scoring a takedown in the first period to go ahead. Kinsella held off Moore’s attempts to score, holding a 2-0 lead entering the second period.

An escape and takedown shot Kinsella ahead 5-1 on points. With two minutes left in his high school career, Kinsella held the advantage into the third period.

A takedown for good measure locked up a 7-2 decision win, closing the book on his high school career with a win.

Finishing the match being a good sport, Kinsella shook Moore’s hand while smiling and chatting with him, before turning to the stands, pointing to Creston/O-M’s fan section in recognition.

“A three-time state place winner, a leader, ... I think (Saturday) speaks volumes about who he really is,” said Creston/O-M head coach Cody Downing. “He gets his heart broke (Friday) night and has the courage to come back and get third. That tells you enough right there. ... A humble, kind kid who does everything right on and off the mat. That’s what we try to teach our kids to do and he’s a good example.”

Even with the satisfaction of ending with a win, Kinsella candidly said it’s going to sting for a while, but he feels a little better knowing he ended on a high note.

“It’s going to hurt for a while, but this makes it feel a little better, getting third,” said Kinsella.

Heartbreak and determination

The decorated three-time state qualifier breezed through the early stages of the tournament, not wrestling past the first period in the opening round and quarterfinals.

Friday’s quarterfinals lasted a minute and a half with Kinsella pinning Harlan’s Jesse Schwery, who he had also beat to lock up a Hawkeye 10 title.

On waltzing through the first two matches, Kinsella said he felt he was more relaxed before entering the semifinals.

“I felt more relaxed. Those first two matches were quick because I went out there and got right after it and did my thing,” said Kinsella. “In the semis, I got away from what I was doing and I don’t know what happened. Nerves, stuff like that. It sucks, but I came back and I got it done.”

In the semifinals, Kinsella was pushed for the first time all tournament. Against third-ranked Jacob Reicks of AH/TV, the match was scoreless through the first period.

An upright, strength-against-strength battle, the first points came of an escape by Kinsella to open the second period. He extended his lead on points by two, scoring a takedown about 20 seconds later, to go ahead 3-0.

An escape by Reicks about halfway into the period turned the score to 3-1, which stood to the beginning of the third.

Early in the third Reicks scored another escape, making it a one-point match. Going back to a match where it looked like stalling was coming from both sides, Reicks took his shot on Kinsella with about 30 seconds remaining.

A takedown with Reicks wrapping up Kinsella around the ankles led to the go-ahead points with 29 seconds on the clock. At 4-3, Kinsella desperately tried to shed Reicks’ grasp on the reset to get an escape point but couldn’t.

Reicks rode out Kinsella for the match win, earning him a finals appearance. Reicks went on to lose to West Delaware’s Wyatt Voelker, who Kinsella had also fell to earlier in the year, in a 15-7 major decision.

“I thought we were initiating everything for two periods. Maybe (Jackson) wore himself down, (Reicks) did a good job of defending,” said Downing. “I don’t know if it was wearing ourselves down or a little anxiety or what. Just couldn’t get the job done.”

After the loss, Kinsella worked through consolation with the same determination that got him to the semis. A 14-2 major decision win, with two near falls and four takedowns, in the consolation semifinals locked up a win over Matthew Wirtz of Emmetsburg to earn his shot at third.

With hindsight being 20/20, Kinsella reflected on the match against Reicks after his run at the state tournament concluded the next day.

“Be more offensive. Go after him,” said Kinsella on what he would have done differently. “It felt like he was coming at me, head butting, stupid stuff all match. ... If I was to wrestle him again I’d do it right back to him. I deserve it more than that kid and I know it, but at the end of the day he brought it and he earned it, so hats off to him.”

With Kinsella now moving on to wrestle collegiately at powerhouse Nebraska-Kearney, he hopes how he handled and wrestled at state in his senior season can help show younger wrestlers that things don’t always work out as envisioned.

“I hope I showed the kids in our program (stuff) happens. Sometimes things don’t work out,” Kinsella said. “It’s kind of like what I told little Jagger Luther last night, ‘hey man, you’re a freshman, I’m going to tell you right now, if this is the worst thing to happen to me in my life then by God I better start counting my blessings now because there’s a lot worse things.”

Kinsella ends his season 51-2, placing eighth at state in 2019, second in 2020 and third in 2021.