Patrick Kennedy doesn’t break into a rash, become short of breath or have heart palpitations when he loses a wrestling match.
Nobody was quite sure what would be the case with the Kasson-Mantorville phenom and 2020 graduate when he did suffer a loss. That’s because the name Patrick Kennedy and “lose” hadn’t gone together in 2 1/2 years and well more than 110 matches.
The two finally did converge this past November when Kennedy was pinned in the title match of the U23 and UWW Junior Nationals in Omaha, Neb.
While the loss bugged the heck out of him, there was no rush to the hospital afterward.
Now, two months later, Kennedy has an even better feel for his reaction to losing. That seemed inevitable as the 174-pounder is a freshman wrestling on the No. 1-ranked team in the country, the University of Iowa.
The losing — which occurs only occasionally for him — has happened in the Iowa wrestling room. And while it’s been tough for him to take and nothing he wants to make a habit of, the freshman has discovered that it might be just the thing for him.
Kennedy has built a reputation as someone with massive hunger to be the best in his sport. But it turns out that losing makes him down-right ravenous, and in the process, better.
“There are some days where I get beat,” Kennedy said, "but I love the challenge of it; I love being in those dogfights in the room. I might get beat, but then I come back the next time full of piss and vinegar.”
Kennedy has felt at home since showing up at Iowa City in August. It was already a familiar place Kennedy, who’d been coming to the University of Iowa the last few summers to train with the team.
It made picking the Hawkeyes easy for Kennedy, who was a four-time state champion and the No. 1-ranked 182-pounder in the country when he graduated from Kasson-Mantorville.
After five months as a Hawkeye, Kennedy hasn’t been disappointed. This was what he was looking for, starting with the seriousness of this wrestling program.
Kennedy says there’s no beating around the bush here from its head coach, Tom Brands, or any of Iowa’s wrestlers.
“A lot of the stuff we are doing here is a lot like we did at Kasson-Mantorville" under coach Jamie Heidt, a former University of Iowa star wrestler, Kennedy said. “It’s awesome to be in the wrestling room here. The best part about it is how direct everyone is and how there’s no beating around the bush. If there is something that you need to hear, they’re going to let you know it.”
None of the Hawkeyes have wrestled in an actual match yet this season. Like every college sport, the COVID-19 pandemic has messed with wrestling schedules around the country. Iowa doesn’t go at it for real until Friday, when it hosts Big Ten rival Nebraska.
“A lot of things are goofy because of COVID,” said Kennedy, who had in-class learning his first day on campus but has been doing it online ever since, like everyone at his school. “But I’m not going to fight it. If I have to wear a mask in order to win a national title, I’ll do that.”
Kennedy is uncertain which Hawkeye will be in the starting lineup at his 174-pound weight. Kennedy, senior Michael Kemerer and junior Myles Wilson are all possibilities.
He’s not worried about that, feeling that things will sort themselves out as the season progresses.
Whether he is chosen on Day 1 to represent Iowa or not at 174 pounds, it’s not going to change his plans.
He has prescribed to Brands’ way of thinking, which is to think big and to waste no time to get there.
“Tom always has a sense of urgency with us to get better,” Kennedy said. “He tells us not to wait around. He preaches that you can be as good as you want to be.”
Kennedy has never wavered about his own desire. Go into his room on the Iowa campus and there it is.
“My goal is to be a national champion and to do it every year,” he said. “I’ve got it written on my wall. I think about it all the time."