Wrestlers looking for ways to conserve energy before a match would be wise to avoid the Shane Kennedy model.
In the moments leading up to a match, Kennedy, a junior 195-pound standout at West Fargo Sheyenne, can always be found frantically pacing back-and-forth around his assigned mat, cutting and weaving through nearby foot traffic, music blaring through his Mpow wireless headphones.
Even when he stops to speak with coaches, teammates or opponents, Kennedy is rarely in a stationary position, choosing to jog in place to keep his competitive juices flowing.
“I feel cruddy if I’m not moving,” he said. “It’s just kind of in my nature to always be walking around. I’m not ever really standing still.”
There is, however, more to Kennedy’s kinetic demeanor than trying to achieve a competitive edge.
In fifth grade, he was diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), described by WebMD as “a chronic condition marked by persistent inattention, hyperactivity and sometimes impulsivity.”
Though it has created issues for him both on the mat and off, Kennedy believes the condition and the rush of activity it brings to his mind has proven to be a major asset during a breakout junior campaign.
While working through a four-song pre-match playlist, one always capped off with “One Minute” by XXXTENTACION ft. Kanye West, Kennedy pours over match scenarios in painstaking detail, saying he may go through as many as 40 move-countermove combos going into difficult matches.
“It has its ups and downs (but) in wrestling, I try to use it because I see things a different way,” he said of his condition. “I see opportunities in matches. It gives me, I feel, an edge.”
Kennedy has gained enough of an edge that he is the 195-pound No. 2 seed for the North Dakota Class A state wrestling tournament that begins today in the Fargodome.
Finding a proper outlet for his symptoms hasn’t always been an easy task for Kennedy.
Ann Kennedy used to dread her trips to Aurora Elementary School. Once Shane began first grade, and his hyperactivity led to a string of classroom disruptions, his mom knew exactly what to expect whenever she’d sit down with members of the school’s faculty.
“All my parent-teacher conferences consisted of ‘When are you going to medicate your child?’” she said.
Though knowing in her heart something needed to be done, Ann spent years firmly opposed to the idea of putting her son on medication.
“I guess maybe I was caught up in a stereotype that he’d be a zombie or he’d be just sitting around doing nothing,” she said. “I needed to get over the stereotype I had in my head.”
At the continued urgence of school’s faculty, the Kennedys eventually conceded to putting Shane on medication, a decision that paid immediate dividends.
“My next parent-teacher conference (I was told) he did a 180,” Ann said.
While some subjects are easier for him than others - he loves history but admits to sometimes needing a string of repetitive tactics to finish math and English homework - Shane is also pleased with how he’s progressed, saying medication has helped him better deal with the stress of the classroom.
In other areas, the transition wasn’t as seamless. Shane, who began wrestling in first grade, said taking the medication took time to find the right emotional balance while wrestling.
While always impressed with his talent, Mustang coach Lex Lunde says Kennedy tended to be his own worst enemy in tight situation. As they would try to map out a plan for a six-minute match, Lunde says any early slip-up would derail those plans, as Kennedy tended to compound early mistakes by frantically attempting to course correct.
Such problems have faded during Kennedy’s junior season.
“He has really grown up,” Lunde said. “I don’t know what changed, but something happened. The kid you see now and everyone sees in Shane, that’s not the same kid we’ve had the last couple years.”
Lunde says that maturity has been on display since the start of preseason workouts.
Despite being a state-qualifying upperclassman on a young team, Kennedy initially wasn’t named a team captain this season, as coaches told him he would have to prove he deserved such a designation.
Believing “he’d have just been mentally out of it” hearing such news in past seasons, Lunde says Kennedy instead took the challenge to heart, needing just two weeks to earn a captain’s designation.
Kennedy has made even greater strides as a competitor, with his growth taking center stage in the championship round of last Saturday’s East Region Tournament.
Against Wahpeton’s Josh Krump, the third-ranked 195-pound wrestler in Class A, Kennedy took an early near fall and quickly found himself in a 5-0 hole.
Faced with what would have been a nightmare scenario in season’s past, Kennedy kept his cool. After securing a point to end the first period, he dominated the second, getting a near fall of his own and outscoring Krump 6-0 in the frame en route to a 7-6 win.
Kennedy enters the state tournament with a 25-8 record. His first trip to the state tournament in 2018 was a disappointing one, in which he went 0-2 and failed to place.
Kennedy says last year’s struggles proved to be a major motivating factor in his preparation for the season. The big challenge at this week’s state tournament could be top-ranked, defending champion Matthew Kaylor of Bismarck Legacy who has a 34-0 record - with two wins over Kennedy this season.
Kennedy knows he has to pounce on the few remaining opportunities in front of him.
“I only have two years left,” he said. “That’s not a lot of wrestling left and I’ve just kind of taken that to heart this year. I’ve finally been succeeding the way I wanted to and I feel like my goals are finally achievable.”