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Patrick Kennedy ready for highly-anticipated chance as full-time starter for Iowa wrestling
Sophomore was 2-1 in the COVID season and 17-3 in open tournaments last season
IOWA CITY — Patrick Kennedy cannot stop envisioning the experience.
He has been consumed with the moment when he emerges from the tunnel to Carver-Hawkeye Arena’s floor in front of a sold-out crowd of Iowa wrestling fans as a full-time starter.
The sophomore has imagined everything all the way down to the tune rabid supporters will associate with him.
“I think about it all the time,” Kennedy said. “Come down here at night and think about it. I’ll come down here whatever time of the night and I’ll walk out there with my walk-out song going through my headphones to kind of get going.”
Kennedy will replace fan-favorite and four-time All-American Alex Marinelli as the Hawkeyes’ 165-pounder when No. 2 Iowa hosts California Baptist in the season-opening dual Sunday, starting at 1 p.m. He plans to display a similar style as his predecessor.
“People loved watching Marinelli wrestle because he went out there, he fought hard, wrestled hard (and) he put it on the line,” said Kennedy, who won the U23 World Team Trials at 74 kilograms earlier this year. “I don’t expect to do anything less. I just want to go out there and impose my will. Try to score as many points as I can and get my hand raised every single time.”
Marinelli had been a pillar in the Iowa lineup for five years. Now, Kennedy gets his turn. Iowa Coach Tom Brands said he is not in the habit of making bold predictions but sees Kennedy’s capability to win over the Hawkeye faithful.
“I think that the fans will gravitate toward him and his style,” Brands said. “He's well-spoken. He's direct but he's also a hard, hard worker, very physical wrestler and he lives the right lifestyle. Total package.”
The four-time Minnesota state champion for Kasson-Mantorville High School has already had success. He was 2-1 in 2021. Kennedy posted a 17-3 mark in open tournaments last season, winning titles at the UNI Open, Iowa State’s Harold Nichols Open and Last Chance Open. He was able to compete against All-America caliber opponents.
“Those matches were good to be a part of because I definitely learned a lot,” Kennedy said. “I think I saw growth there. I’m excited to get back out there against those guys.”
Each of those results has made an imprint. The good and the unfavorable. All learning opportunities that stick with him enough to immediately know the correct number of losses last season and to whom, including a 3-2 loss to Marinelli on a late takedown.
“I run things through my head every single day,” said Kennedy. “Before I go to bed (and) when I wake up, just reminding myself. Recycling that pain or that loss is important to me.
“Also, what I’m about as a competitor and as a person is getting better. It’s what coaches preach to us and I think it goes hand in hand with being a champion on and off the mat.”
This will not mark Kennedy’s debut. He wrestled against Nebraska All-American Mikey Labriola at CHA as a true freshman during the free COVID season. Kennedy dropped a 7-4 decision and recalled a small, but loud, crowd of about 400. Kennedy said he has improved in all aspects since that bout.
“I wish I could go back and wrestle that match but you’ve got to learn from it,” Kennedy said. “Just throwing my hat in the ring didn’t really matter to me. Throwing my hat in to win was my mindset. After that match, and any other match, you have to continue to work and just make yourself as close to bulletproof as possible.”
Kennedy is eager to live in the moment that he has pictured multiple times already. He has controlled his emotions leading up to the start of the season. Kennedy is prepared to make his mark.
“I describe it more as motivated and ready to go than super amped and excited,” Kennedy said. “Just calm before the storm is how I would put my style of approaching things.”