Fenwick freshman Jacob Kaminski has already accomplished more in six months than most high school athletes could even imagine over four years.
The precocious Kaminski earned fourth place at 195 pounds at the IHSA Class 2A individual state tournament in Champaign over the weekend. Previously, he starred as a defensive end/linebacker with 7.5 sacks and 35 tackles (including 5 for loss) in 13 games on the Friars’ state semifinalist team that finished 11-2 during the fall.
If anybody deserves a spring break, it’s this kid.
Then again, that’s not really in the young Riverside resident’s DNA.
Kaminski has an athletic “motor” that Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin would admire.
“Jacob is a humble young man,” Fenwick wrestling coach Anthony Poro said. “He is always thinking 2-3 steps ahead of his opponent during a wrestling match. He is confident and always keeps his composure.
“It is difficult to remember that he is only 15 because he is so mature and soft spoken.”
Highly touted as a youth football player and wrestler pre-Friar Nation admittance, freshman sensation and phenom are now commonly tossed around to describe his athletic prowess.
“I’m really not paying much attention to it,” Kaminski said regarding the hype about his athletic ability. “It’s always good to know I’m a topic of conversation, but it really comes down to hard work and dedication.
“Even if I’m regarded as one of the best, it doesn’t change much. I still have to go against the guy in front of me in either football or wrestling and get it done.”
Kaminski’s first endeavor in sports was actually swimming. His older sister, Paulina, won the 100-yard breaststroke (1:02.40) and took second in the 200-yard individual medley (2:03.67) as a senior at Fenwick during the 2013 IHSA state meet. When she was a sophomore in 2011, she claimed the 100-yard breaststroke state title by touching the wall at 1:03.96.
“Following in my sister’s footsteps, I started as a swimmer but I didn’t like it very much,” Kaminski said. “Then, I started wrestling and fell in love with it. It was a great to have my sister to look up to and see what levels of success she reached and how hard she always worked.”
At Yale now, Paulina Kaminski is a key member of the Bulldogs’ swimming team.
Kaminski’s younger brother, Gabriel, is a very accomplished youth wrestler who attends Central Elementary in Riverside.
“I would like Gabriel to attend Fenwick, but it’s up to him,” Kaminski said. “Gabriel is tough and competitive. We like to see who places higher between us at tournaments but it’s all good.”
While Kaminski considered other high schools like Riverside-Brookfield, Nazareth and Brother Rice, Fenwick felt like home.
“I really like the people at Fenwick,” Kaminski said. “It’s a very academic school. The classes are pretty small so you get to know almost everybody. And I’ve met a lot of upperclassmen through varsity sports.”
Kaminski particularly enjoyed playing on defense with senior stars like linebacker Brett Moorman, defensive end Ellis Taylor and nose tackle Adrian Nourse. All three will play college football next season.
“Our defense was a really tight-knit group,” Kaminski said. “They were very accepting of me and I think I proved myself during summer camp.”
With two seasons of football under his belt before high school, Kaminski’s entry into the starting lineup went smoothly.
“I felt really confident entering high school because I played nationally through my previous youth team, the Naperville Patriots,” he said. “I also played in the 8th Grade Under Armour All-Star football game at right tackle and linebacker.”
Looking ahead to next season, Kaminski has plenty of sources of motivation.
“I’ve got my work cut out for me in both sports,” he said.
Aside from his own fierce competitive streak, Kaminski and his returning varsity football teammates won’t soon forgot the Friars’ 18-17 loss to Plainfield North in the semifinals of the Class 7A state playoffs.
The Friars were on the verge of becoming the first in program history to make a state final. Instead, the officials ruled incorrectly on the final play in regulation setting the stage for an improbable Plainfield North victory.
The “Travesty at Triton” will never be forgotten.
“After the game, it quickly got around that the officials made a mistake and the wrong call was made. The game should have been over,” Kaminski said. “We thought we could turn the call around and make things right. The IHSA wouldn’t take our appeal and then Fenwick took the IHSA to court. We thought for sure we could get it overturned but it just didn’t happen.”
Kaminski’s semifinals loss in wrestling was a bit easier to digest considering he was beaten on a fall at 1:07 by three-time state champion Jacob Warner of Washington.
Warner finished 41-0 this season.
“I knew it would be tough going against Warner in the semis,” Kaminski said. “He’s the top-ranked wrestler (at 195) in the country. Just to see how he wrestles, his style and his strength was a good learning experience. I want to be like him my senior year.”
In the third-place match, Oak Forest’s Eric Brenner defeated Kaminski by fall at 4:55.
“I knew I could do great things going into the state tournament,” Kaminski said. “It was just a question of how high I could make it. I was pretty nervous my first match but then I felt sure of myself.
Kaminski, who finished 22-2 for the season, also won Chicago Catholic League tournament, regional and sectional titles and became the first freshman in program history to earn All-State accolades.
“The sky is the limit in regards to his potential in wrestling,” Poro said. “He will continue to wrestle all offseason to improve himself. I truly think he could be Division I wrestler and make an impact for any team his freshman year of college.”
With time and ambition on Kaminski’s side, it appears the best is yet to come for the Friars’ burgeoning star.