CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids Kennedy’s Jason Shupp can be considered a complete package.
The 189-pound senior serves as a model for wrestlers and athletes in general, demonstrating intelligence, work ethic, talent, leadership and even a little perseverance.
He’s molded those traits to put himself in perfect position for his best wrestling season to date.
“He’s just a coach’s dream,” Kennedy Coach Brent Paulson said. “He gets it done in the classroom, he comes to practice every day, never missed a practice (and) helps the younger guys. Everything you’d want in a wrestler, he has it.”
His accomplishments off the mat are impressive. Shupp holds almost a 3.80 grade-point average and earned a $180,000 Navy ROTC scholarship for any college with a Navy ROTC program. The award is given to those who exhibit a combination of leadership and academics.
He’s even received congressional endorsements from Iowa senators Tom Harkin and Charles Grassley for entrance to the Naval Academy. Shupp isn’t sure of his post-high school plans, but the Naval Academy is “up there.”
“Since I was younger I always wanted to serve my country,” said Shupp, who will likely earn his second straight Mississippi Valley Conference all-academic honor this year. “I think being a leader in the military would be my best option.”
Leadership was one of the traits Paulson most praised. Shupp has been instrumental working with teammates and helping the Cougars (6-2 overall, 3-1 MVC) turn around a team that won just one dual last year.
He put in a lot of time during the off-season, working out twice a day on all facets of his style.
“I just felt it was my role,” said Shupp, a two-time team captain. “I feel I owe it to my teammates to push them and make them the best that they can be.”
All the hard work is paying off. He is 18-3 with seven pins, unblemished against Class 3A competition. Ranked third by The Predicament, Shupp has reached the finals in each of the Cougars’ invitational tournaments this year.
After second-place finishes at Cedar Falls’ Keith Young Invitational and tournaments in Fort Madison and Boone, Shupp claimed his first gold medal with a win at the Geneseo (Ill.) Invitational.
“I felt pretty proud after that,” said Shupp, who blanked a ranked Shawn Yaros of Palos Hills Stagg (Ill.) High School, 7-0, in the finals. “I was pretty happy with how I wrestled.”
The title was special, considering Shupp’s knack for reaching the finals and regularly earning silver. As a junior, Shupp advanced to the finals in four of six tournaments, placing second in three and placing third in three others. He remained confident.
“I looked positive on every match,” Shupp said. “I knew one of these times I was going to get one.”
He dominated the field from start to finish in Geneseo.
“Geneseo was the best tournament he’s wrestled in a Kennedy wrestling singlet,” Paulson said. “He’s been in the finals of every tournament this year. Hadn’t made it to the top … as I told him after the (championship) match, it’s real nice to call him champ.”
The near-misses might provide more motivation than a championship.
A two-point overtime loss in a district wrestleback to Dubuque Hempstead’s Tyler Soppe prevented Shupp from reaching the state meet last season. The sting of that loss lingers.
“It was pretty tough to lose that match,” said Shupp, who lost district wrestlebacks each of the last two seasons. “My teammates and coaches really helped and got behind me and that really drove me all summer.
“I wanted to make this season memorable (and) get as far as I could.”
n Contact the writer: (319) 368-8679 or firstname.lastname@example.org
(Jim Slosiarek photos/The Gazette)
Cedar Rapids Kennedy senior wrestler Jason Shupp spars with assistant wrestling coach Craig Mallicoat during practice at the school Tuesday in northeast Cedar Rapids.