There was no riveting debut, no beginner’s luck, no instant splash.
Jared Brinkman’s rookie season was one to forget.
“I remember his first year — wrestling in first grade,” Jared’s father, Mike Brinkman, said with a chuckle. “He went 1-9, and his only win was because a kid had to forfeit because of ringworm.
“So he’s come a long way.”
Safe to say there’s been a tad bit of improvement.
Brinkman, just the second four-time state qualifier in Regina history, has entered the home stretch of his decorated wrestling career, which includes just one loss, so far, as an upperclassman. Before embarking on his football journey north as a Northern Iowa defensive lineman signee, Brinkman (34-1) will head to Des Moines this week as the top-ranked Class 1A heavyweight and likely favorite to repeat as state champion.
“It’s sad to see it go, but it’s exciting,” said Brinkman, who’ll open against Dike-New Hartford’s Chase Arends (31-9) and could become Regina’s first back-to-back state title wrestler ever.
“It’s the best part of the year. It’s when all the work you put in shows.”
Although Brinkman’s initial seasons arrived with modest success, he quickly began his ascension up the wrestling ladder as a noticeable force. Beginning with veteran coach Mike Colleran at the Trojan Wrestling Kids Club, Brinkman conquered the underhook series and was soon placing at youth state. He then tore through the junior high circuit with little resistance.
“Jared’s always been a thumper,” Mike said. “It wasn’t too hard to look at his physique and his strength and all that and decide, ‘You know, he wasn’t going to be a basketball player. I think wrestling might be up his alley.’
“I think when he tried it, he really gravitated toward it and liked it. There were highs and lows and learning to deal with defeat — but learning the benefits of working hard and coming out on top. And every year, he’s gotten better and better and better.”
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There was no letting up, come high school.
Jared began his freshman year wrestling as an undersized heavyweight — he weighed about 210 in a 285-pound class — before dropping down to 220 as the season pushed on. A pair of district upsets propelled Jared to his first state tournament appearance, where he dropped his first two matches to a pair of upperclassmen — including eventual sixth-place wrestler Blake Sappingfield.
Despite Jared’s fledgling status, there was no “happy to be here” mantra. There was no hesitation, no tentativeness. As Mike put it, his son “went after” both wrestlers with an aggressive and active approach — something that swiftly became Jared’s calling card despite his hefty size.
Until the tutelage of Regina’s Alex Kanellis and Regals wrestling coach Adam Martensen — the program’s only other four-time state qualifier — Jared learned how to combine size with quickness to create a deadly offensive arsenal that many heavyweights can’t emulate.
“He’s always continuously creating action and always looking to take shots and looking to score,” Martensen said. “In those heavyweight matches, you don’t see that a lot.
“And (going to state as a freshman) made him realize that he belonged there. It’s tough for a freshman — especially a freshman at such a high weight class — to be able to qualify. Then that next year, he knew he belonged there. He wanted to go out there and look for the top of the podium.”
A dominant sophomore campaign saw Jared end with a fifth-place showing and turn more heads at state after pushing AGWSR’s Clay Meinders — who eventually finished third and had been ranked No. 2 all season — to the brink of an upset.
A corner was turned that afternoon.
“Jared walked off that match smiling,” Mike recalled, “going, ‘Dad, I can beat him.’ And I go, ‘I know.’
“And from that point on, his confidence level was through the roof.”
It’d be quite some time before he fell again.
Jared ripped through an unblemished junior season (42-0) en route to just Regina’s fourth state title ever and first since 2013 (Daniel Gaffey), cementing himself as one of the state’s more dominant heavyweights. With a target squarely planted on his unbeaten back, he upended six top-10 foes — four of them twice — and ignited what has been another emphatic romp through the competition.
The Regina standout started his senior year 22-0 as 1A’s top-ranked heavyweight, setting the stage for a colossal matchup against Western Dubuque standout and Iowa wrestling commit Aaron Costello — one of the nation’s best at 285. Jared had the Jan. 15 matchup circled for months — so much so that he delayed that weekend’s official visit to UNI.
Costello eked out a 3-2 victory, and Jared admitted he was “pissed” despite his opponent’s lofty credentials. But the loss added yet another coal to his unending competitive fired, something that has remained steadfast throughout his wrestling career.
“I’ve been to the state championship, and I want to be there again,” Jared said. “It’s one of the best experiences of my life. That’s my goal — to do it again.”
A quality wrestling career that commenced as a wide-eyed first-grader, Jared’s mat time is dwindling. He knows football is the future, but wrestling is the present.
Time to end strong.
“He’s not ready to be done,” Martensen said. “And he set himself up at the beginning of the year to be a back-to-back state champion.
“And I don’t think he’ll be satisfied with anything less than that.”
Dargan Southard covers preps, recruiting, Iowa and UNI athletics for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, The Des Moines Register and HawkCentral.com. Email him firstname.lastname@example.org follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.