CEDAR RAPIDS — Cael Knox overcame adversity for one more shot to make his mark.
First, there was a stacked district bracket with the eventual state champion and runner-up at his weight, keeping him from his goal two years ago. Then, a fluke injury in football sidelined him for all of last season.
“Going back to AAU, it’s always been my dream to just to compete at that level against all the best in the state,” Cedar Rapids Kennedy’s 220-pound senior said. “This year, it’s my last chance to wrestle in that type of competition.
“It’s important to me, so I’m going to work my butt off to get there.”
Knox recorded one of the 13th-ranked Cougars’ 10 pins in a 72-6 Mississippi Valley Conference dual victory over Cedar Rapids Jefferson on Thursday night at Kennedy. The dual served as senior night and was the first varsity event in the renovated gymnasium, repaired after damage from August’s derecho.
Knox has climbed to fifth in the Class 3A rankings with a 6-2 mark, including two straight pins after the holiday break.
“I’ve been focusing on myself,” said Knox, who built an 11-1 lead before pinning Preston Bruck in 2:32. “So far, it’s been going pretty good. I’ve been getting in to practice, working as hard as I can every single day.”
Tough competition ended his season as a sophomore. Last season, it was more tough luck that kept him off the mat. Knox took a helmet to his left thigh in the first week of postseason practice. It bruised his bone and muscle, causing bone marrow to leak and calcify in his muscle.
Surgery could have ended his sports career, so he had to wait for it to heal, which took six months to return to normal.
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“I just felt so bad for him,” Kennedy Coach Nick LeClere said. “Now that he’s back, his mind is in the right place. He’s positive. He’s focused. I have all the faith in the world that he’s going to be coming out ready to go against anybody he wrestles. I’m so happy he’s on the mat.
“He’s just making the most of the opportunity. I’ll tell you what, he really hasn’t lost a whole lot. He looks good.”
Knox said the time away prevented him from improving physically, but he has grown mentally. He has a different approach.
“I’m no longer thinking about my opponent,” Knox said. “I’m thinking about what I’m going to do in the match. I’m not worried about rankings, who did this or who did that. I’m worried about myself, what I’m going to do and what’s going to win the match for me.”
Kennedy (3-3) won 12 of 14 weight classes. The Cougars scored falls in all but one of the last 11 weights and scored bonus points in each victory. They are starting to get into shape after a long delay to the season.
“Each week it’s been our goal to get in better shape and come out more aggressive,” LeClere said. “Go out and take care of business. That was the message the whole time and I think they did a very good job. We’re building some confidence after that. The kids are looking good (and) sharp.”
Cedar Rapids Jefferson (0-7) received a pin from Frank Budederi at 145. He scored the opening takedown and pinned Jordan Twitty in 1:33.
C.R. Kennedy 70, C.R. Jefferson 6
(Individual takedowns in parentheses)
106 pounds — Cael Long (CRK) won by forfeit; 113 — Double forfeit; 120 — Gunner Sparks (CRK) major dec. Max Lathrop, 14-2 (1,1); 126 — Jonah Hallam (CRK) pinned Shukuru Budederi, 2:48 (2,0); 132 — Colin Falck (CRK) pinned Austin Clifton, 3:41 (2,0); 138 — Jake McLeod (CRK) pinned A.J. Buzynski, 1:12 (1,0); 145 — Frank Budederi (CRJ) pinned Jordan Twitty, 1:33 (1,0); 152 — Divion Ocheltree (CRK) pinned Connor Luensman, :35 (1,0); 160 — Rashon Jennings (CRK) pinned Ryan Chamberlin, 1:54 (1,0); 170 — Alex Koch (CRK) pinned Luke Moses, 1:27 (1,0); 182 — Colin Flannagan (CRK) pinned Nick Graham, :37 (1,0); 195 — Giuseppe Gianforte (CRK) pinned Parker Chyma, :22 (1,0); 220 — Cael Knox (CRK) pinned Preston Bruck, 2:32 (3,0); Hwt. — Gavin Bascom (CRK) pinned Landen Rudnicki, :53 (1,0).
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Takedowns — C.R. Jefferson 2, C.R. Kennedy 15. Reversals — C.R. Jefferson 0, C.R. Kennedy 3. Escapes — C.R. Jefferson 2, C.R. Kennedy 0. Nearfall points — C.R. Jefferson 0, C.R. Kennedy 21. Penalty points (awarded) — C.R. Jefferson 0, C.R. Kennedy 0. Total match points — C.R. Jefferson 6, C.R. Kennedy 57.
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