Considering his stellar career as a youth wrestler, it makes sense Jacob Kaminski was pegged for stardom at the high school level.
Kaminski, a Fenwick sophomore from Riverside, has already made good on such promise by winning an IHSA individual state tournament title on Saturday, Feb. 17 at the State Farm Center in Champaign.
The dominant sophomore left little room for suspense with four straights wins at state.
Kaminski (31-2) won his state championship in the 195-pound class in relatively comfortable fashion.
“It obviously feels great to be a state champion.” Kaminski said. “It’s really fulfilling for all your hard work to show and to know that you deserve the title. Accomplishing something like this would not be remotely possible without the support system of my family, coaches and friends that contributed their help to get me to the top of the podium.”
Kaminski, who advanced to the semifinals in the individual state tourney in 2017, finished the job this year with a 7-1 decision over Rochelle’s Alex Harvey in the state final match.
“In the finals, I felt that I came out with more intensity. I was able to dominate the next best wrestler in the tournament,” Kaminski said. “I saw opportunities for high risk/high reward moves, but I decided not to take chances to secure the championship.”
Kaminski also claimed a 7-1 decision over Robert Castellano (Galesburg) in the semifinals. In the opening two rounds, Kaminski won by fall 1:26 over Nicholas Capriotti (Rochester) and by fall 3:50 over Julian Ramirez (Oak Forest).
“Jake Kaminski is a tremendous talent, one of the best wrestlers in the country,” Fenwick first-year head coach Pete Kowalczuk said. “I’ve coached him the past couple of years with the Greco team in the offseason. He’s such a special talent and we can build our program around him.”
According to Kowalczuk, Kaminski joins Nick Bertucci, Bobby Barnhisel and Matt Garelli (two-time state champ) as the Friars’ state champions.
As a freshman last year, Kaminski compiled a 22-2 record at 195 pounds, highlighted by regional and sectional titles and a fourth-place finish at state. Kaminski was undefeated until the state semifinal, where he lost to eventual champion Jacob Warner of Washington.
“Last year’s state meet taught me that it’s just a matter of preparing myself,” Kaminski said. “It’s about taking it one step at a time and knowing that I am capable of placing anywhere on the podium.”
Kaminski developed as a wrestler this past summer as well. He traveled to Fargo, North Dakota to compete in the Cadet National tournament, which features many of the nation’s top high school wrestlers.
Wrestling in both the Freestyle and Greco-Roman divisions, he placed third in each. Both of the losses – just like in the 2017 state finals – came at the hands of the eventual champions.
Friars’ Matt Zuber (23-18 at 132) and Liam Mahon (23-10 at 285) also competed at the state individual tournament. Zuber lost a pair of matches, 20-5 tech fall against Bloomington’s Savion Haywood and 11-3 major decision to Cahokia’s Rodney Evans.
In the opening round, Mahon lost a 4-2 tiebreaker against Marquis Hall from Richards.
“Zuber has shown a ton of talent and has a bright future ahead of him,” Kaminski said. “Liam also showed a lot of heart and talent this year. I’m proud of how he did at state.”
Kaminski added about his teammates, “Liam and Zuber took the trip down to Champaign last year as alternates. To see them compete this year (at state) really shows how much they have improved and how much work they put into it.”
Aside from wrestling, Kaminski is an outstanding defensive lineman on the Fenwick football team.
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.”
He comes from an athletic family.
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.
At Yale now, Paulina Kaminski is a senior on the Bulldogs’ swimming team.
“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.”
Kaminski’s younger brother, Gabriel, is a very accomplished youth wrestler and football player who attends Hauser Junior High.