Jarod Kadel remembers pushing off his foot and hearing a crack.
No, it didn’t happen on the wrestling mat, where Kadel was 41-3 as a senior and ended his career with a 143-15 record and three state medals for Columbus/Winfield-Mount Union.
And no, it wasn’t even in the weight room where the senior wrestler spent the entire offseason lifting, leading to a move from the 106-pound weight class to 138.
Kadel was minutes removed from his third knee surgery of the offseason. The first two were for a torn meniscus in each knee and this one — five weeks before the wrestling season — was to remove a cyst off one of his knees.
It was pouring rain, so Kadel figured he would jog to his car. Before he was even able to get started, he heard a pop in a foot that had been causing him problems for a while. X-rays later that night confirmed his foot was broken.
“That sucked,” Kadel said. “I really didn’t have a whole lot of time this summer to wrestle. All I really wanted to do was try to work on things this summer and get better.”
Still, despite being robbed of a chance to improve in the offseason, Kadel put together a dominant senior season.
Although he fell short of his goal of a state championship, he posted a 39-0 record entering the state tournament.
That was despite having to wrestle himself into shape as the season progressed.
“Right up until conference I felt it was a concern,” Columbus coach Joel Keller said. “But it was something he was improving every week.”
“There’s no doubt I was struggling,” Kadel added. "All I could do was do whatever I could to try to get back in shape and where I was.”
He also had the obstacle of moving up five weight classes, something Keller is uncertain he’s ever seen before. It wasn’t a product of his injury and it wasn’t planned, either, as Kadel had a massive growth spurt.
As a result, Kadel had to change his approach because he was no longer the strongest guy in his weight class.
“You have to attack and get points,” Keller said of wrestling in the middleweights. “I thought he opened up his offense more than he did even last year.”
It helped that Kadel decided to focus on his wrestling instead of his weight this season after advice from his older brother, Jake Kadel, a former Iowa Hawkeye wrestler.
Still, the improvement is somewhat remarkable when considering the circumstances. Kadel suffered his first knee injury in the first tournament of his junior season. It got bad enough by Christmas break that his practice sessions were limited to lifting and riding a stationary bike while his teammates wrestled.
Still, he made it to the state title match and had a chance to win if not for a stalling call with one second remaining in sudden victory against Centerville’s Matthew Lewis. That loss motivated him through the three knee surgeries and a broken foot.
One year later, he found himself 41-0 and in the Class 2A state semifinals as the No. 1 seed.
But Kadel, up 2-1 entering the third period, got caught in a cradle and surrendered three near fall points. He went on to lose the match to Atlantic’s Chase McLaren.
“I don’t think I’d seen him get taken to his back,” Keller said. “I can’t think of a time in his few years here I saw that. I’m sure it was hard for him to bounce back when one of his major dreams in life was to be a state champion.”
Kadel confirmed his coaches sentiment.
In fact, Kadel said it’s even difficult to reflect on all of his high school accomplishments. Keller said he told Kadel that this year’s sixth-place finish doesn’t define him, but that hasn’t made it any easier for the senior to endure.
“It’ll probably be later in my life when I realize it was good,” Kadel said of his high school career. “I’m still hungry, so I’m still trying to get matches in.”
Indeed, Kadel’s career won’t be coming to an end as his high school eligibility expires. He will wrestle in the freestyle nationals in Fargo, N.D. and possibly other tournaments. Then he will continue his wrestling career at Oklahoma State.
The Cowboys have won 34 national team titles, more than any other program in the nation.
“Ever since I was little, I always wanted to go to Oklahoma State,” Kadel said. “My brother was a huge help. He got me to talk to some of the coaches and I took an unofficial and then an official visit. …
“I’m just trying to make my dreams come true."
Although Kadel has no family ties to the program, Keller said Kadel has been wearing Oklahoma State orange ever since grade school.
Kadel credits his love for the Cowboys to former wrestler Jordan Oliver, his favorite wrestler as a kid. It also helps that Oklahoma State has a quality Aviation program, and Kadel’s career goal is to be an airline pilot.
Three years ago when he was nothing more than a scrawny freshman on the junior varsity at New London, he never would have imagined being in the position to attend Oklahoma State as a walk-on. Now, he has aspirations of someday earning a spot in the regular lineup.
He transferred to Winfield-Mount Union because he wanted to wrestle for “some of the best coaches in the state” at Columbus.
Three years later, Kadel leaves as a three-time state place winner and has cemented a legacy within the program.
“He gives a lot of our junior high kids something to strive to be,” Keller said. “We have a lot of young guys who want to be Jarod Kadel. He’s shown you can accomplish any dream if you work hard.”