PHOTO: ANDRE’ MORGAN / ILLINOIS MATMEN
By STEVE MILLAR
When Jake Lindsey’s father first had a notion to get his son into wrestling, there was plenty of apprehension from the rest of the family.
“A flier got sent home from school about wrestling when I was in second grade,” said Lindsey, a sophomore at Providence. “My dad saw it and wanted me to do it. My mom was like ‘No way.’ I really had no idea what to expect. I thought it’d be like WWE-type stuff. I didn’t know if I wanted to do it.
“My dad kept working on my mom and they let me do it. I decided to give it a shot.”
Fast forward eight years and that decision has been of the best Lindsey and his family ever made.
The star 106-pounder, who finished fifth in the state in Class 3A last season, became a Catholic League champion Saturday.
Lindsey, ranked No. 3 in the state at 106, navigated a tough path to take the conference crown as he was seeded third.
He topped top-ranked and second-seeded Dylan Ragusin, of Montini, 5-4 in the semifinals then routed top-seeded Pauley Keane of Bishop McNamara, ranked No. 2 in Class 1A, 13-3.
“Coming into the tournament with so many highly-ranked guys at my weight class, it was definitely fuel,” Lindsey said. “I was really looking forward to it and I had great week of practice.
“I had been sick the week before and didn’t get to wrestle at Geneseo, so I was really eager to get back out there.”
Particularly important to Lindsey (29-3) was the win over Keane. That brought him redemption for a loss earlier in the season, when the freshman Keane pinned Lindsey.
“I was up and I just got turned and pinned,” Lindsey said. “It was ugly. It was embarrassing. I wanted to come out and show everyone that wouldn’t happen again.”
Lindsey likes putting up big points in a match. He isn’t one to sit back and protect a lead.
That may have cost him in his initial meeting with Keane, but he didn’t change his style in the rematch. Lindsey kept attacking throughout, en route to the 13-3 win.
“I wanted to put on a nice show for everyone,” Lindsey said.
Lindsey has brought a higher self-confidence into this season after last year’s run at state.
“Last year, going down and competing and placing at Assembly Hall, it showed me what I was capable of,” he said. “I know if I could get it done then, I can definitely get it done now.”
On a young Providence team that doesn’t have a senior, Lindsey has become a leader despite being just a sophomore.
“A guy like Jake who’s been in big matches and has experience, he’s a great leader by example,” Providence coach Keith Healy said.
Lindsey has helped the Celtics put together a phenomenal season. They’re ranked No. 4 despite their youth.
“I think we exceeded other people’s expectations, but definitely not ours,” Lindsey said. “We knew from day one what we wanted to do and what we had to do to get it done. We’re just wrestling hard, trying to get better in practice and we’re preparing for the postseason now.”
That postseason begins with a draw that’s as tough as it gets. The Celtics will compete in the Lockport Regional along with the top-ranked host Porters.
“It happens,” Lindsey said of the assignment. “It doesn’t change the mindset for us. We’re still going to go into it prepared to get it done. I know me and all the other guys are going to walk into that room every day and keep getting better and better.”
Individually, Lindsey has his sights set squarely on a state title. He feels he’ll be more prepared for the big stage this time around.
“Last year, I learned how important it is to keep your composure,” he said. “When you’re down on that floor at Assembly Hall, even if you look up to that crowd for one second, it takes a long time to regain your focus.
“No matter the environment, no matter how big the match, you have to keep your focus and get it done.”
Lindsey, and his Celtics teammates, are certainly glad that mom relented all those years ago. He hasn’t looked back since.
“When I started wrestling, I figured out that I was alright at, I guess,” Lindsey said. “I decided to keep going with it.”