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Post Bulletin Wrestler of the Year: K-M superstar Patrick Kennedy

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Kasson-Mantorville's Patrick Kennedy celebrates winning the 182-pound Class AA championship match against Simley's Quayin Short on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. (Andrew Link / alink@postbulletin.com)

In November of 2014, Matt and Tammy Kennedy sat around their kitchen table with Kasson-Mantorville head coach Jamie Heidt.

Their son, Patrick, had just started seventh grade. He was coming off a dominant sixth-grade season. He had traveled to seven different states to wrestle against elite competition.

No one could touch him.

Everywhere he went, Kennedy won.

"We thought we were throwing a baby lamb out there," Tammy Kennedy said. "He was the smallest in his bracket. He looked absolutely tiny. And then he won. And he just kept winning. So we were like, 'OK, I guess we’re just along for the ride.'"

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So, Heidt came to Matt and Tammy with a request.

He wanted to know if they would allow their seventh-grader to compete for a varsity position. Heidt promised them that he’d respect the Kennedys' decision. If they felt Patrick was too young for varsity competition, Heidt would’ve let the electric talent wrestle at the junior varsity level.

Matt and Tammy turned to Patrick and asked him what he wanted to do.

"I want to win the state title," Patrick replied. "This year."

That pretty much settled it. Matt and Tammy let Patrick compete at the varsity level. The 132-pounder wasn’t handed a starting job. He had to work for it. And boy, did he earn it.

Kennedy blitzed his way into the Kasson-Mantorville starting lineup. He advanced all the way to the state tournament and placed sixth. 

He placed third at state as an eighth-grader. Then, as a freshman, he won his first state title. 

"The state title freshman year was the most rewarding," Kennedy said. "But it doesn’t get old. You cherish every win."

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Kennedy capped off his legendary K-M career with a fourth state championship on Feb. 29. He finished his varsity career with 223 victories. He went 109-0 the last three years and he lost just twice in the last four seasons.

Kennedy is also the Post Bulletin's Wrestler of the Year for the second year in a row.

"I obviously love the wrestler Patrick Kennedy, but even more so, the young man," Heidt said. "The coach-athlete relationship, it’s pretty unique. I cherish that. Great young man. I love being around him."

• • •

Tammy Kennedy has been around wrestling basically her entire life. Her brother, Doug McNallan, was a wrestler. She married her high school sweetheart, Matt, who also wrestled. 

But she quickly learned that her first-born son, Patrick, was a whole different breed.

"It’s wrestling all the time; it’s wrestling every day," Tammy Kennedy said. "It’s his workouts every day. He’s constantly thinking and talking wrestling. He’s talking about the future and what his goals are with wrestling. When he was in youth wrestling, we couldn’t remember how many times he lost. We could count them on less than two hands. Less than 10 for sure."

The switch was flipped in fourth grade.

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"He’s always been coachable, but he really started to buy-in to how great it could be and look ahead for his goals," Tammy Kennedy said. "His whole mindset changed in fourth grade."

The work ethic has been off the charts. This year, K-M had three Kennedy boys in its starting lineup. Joey, an eighth-grader, wrestled at 113 pounds. Patrick dominated at 182 pounds. Jackson earned a Section 1AA crown and a state berth at 195 pounds.

"Patrick had to help Joey cut weight, while Jackson had to gain weight," Tammy Kennedy said. "Patrick took leadership of the whole household with the menus, the grocery lists. He gave Joey really good guidance on what to eat and how to cut weight. He helped Jackson gain weight by telling him the good foods to eat. It was incredible to watch."

Patrick Kennedy became a leader not only in his own home but in the K-M program. He set the bar in the weight room. He set the bar in the KoMets’ wrestling room every day at practice. No one worked harder.

"State titles are won at 3:40 in the afternoon when Patrick Kennedy and Bennett Berge are scrapping, trying to score," Heidt said. "It’s won in the weight room where Bennett Berge and Patrick Kennedy try to find who the strongest guys in the world are. That’s where it’s won.

"Patrick will leave a legacy with his state championships, but it’s more than just that. Bennett Berge wants to be like Patrick Kennedy. Patrick Kennedy learned from those before him from guys like Sam Stoll and Brady Berge."

• • • 

It didn’t take long for Patrick Kennedy to make a name for himself among the college wrestling ranks. At first, Matt and Tammy wanted Patrick to represent his home state and wrestle at the University of Minnesota.

But one trip to Iowa City, Iowa, was all that Patrick needed to know that he wanted to be a Hawkeye.

"He was being recruited really hard by the Gophers," Tammy Kennedy said. "We were really comfortable with that. The distance, the drive, everything. But we also knew very quickly that it wasn’t what Patrick wanted.

"The Gophers coaches are amazing coaches and amazing people, he’s been going up to their room and working out since seventh grade, but you could just tell it wasn’t for him. When he left Iowa City, we looked at each other and were like, 'It's over. It’s done.'"

When Kennedy signed with powerhouse Iowa, he didn’t want a lot of pomp and circumstance. He just signed the Letter of Intent, took a picture of it and sent it off.

That’s because signing with a Division I wrestling program has never been the end-goal for Kennedy. It’s always been just a step in the right direction. The next goal is winning National Championships. Not one. Multiple. A gold medal at the Olympics is also on the agenda.

And when Patrick Kennedy sets out to do something, he usually gets it done.

That’s the Patrick Kennedy way.

No one at Kasson-Mantorville will forget about him anytime soon.

"High school wrestling is over for me and it’s sad," Kennedy said. "I always talk about going to bigger and better things. Iowa City is definitely bigger but I don’t know if it’s better. Kasson-Mantorville is a place with so much pride. So many people love you. Our house could burn down and we could have 100 people willing to take us in. I’m super blessed. I have a lot of passion for K-M wrestling. Also excited to get to the next thing, too."

State Individual Wrestling

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