It’s never over until the clock runs out

Jacob+Kleimola+%2812%29+stands+at+the+top+of+the+podium+at+the+IHSAA+State+Finals.+Kleimola+received+a+gold+medal+and+bracket+for+his+victory.+

Jacob Kleimola (12) stands at the top of the podium at the IHSAA State Finals. Kleimola received a gold medal and bracket for his victory.

Maddie Hirschfield

Jacob Kleimola (12) did not walk into Banker’s Life Fieldhouse for the 78th Annual IHSAA Wrestling State Finals as the first-ranked wrestler in his weight class, but there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that he left that way on Saturday.

Kleimola was on a mission this season. A year ago, he taped a picture of a championship ring on his bedroom door. After losing on Friday night during the previous season and not moving on to place in the State tournament, he knew there was work to be done. Fans, coaches, parents, opponents and friends got to watch that hard work pay off this year.

“Working out with Coach [Luke] Triveline and doing a lot of personal lifting on top of club wrestling, like I always do, was a huge part of my off-season training,” Kleimola said.

Kleimola had a tough and exciting journey to the State final. He almost finished the season with an undefeated record until Chesterton’s Lucas Davison gave him his first loss for the DAC title. However, Kleimola overcame the rivalry at the Semi-State tournament and beat Davison to qualify for State. This was the official start of his run to the championship.

“I felt great [after winning against Davison]. Of course, there’s a lot of pressure on that match anyway, but on top of it, I had to wrestle someone that gave me my only loss of the season. So, to have won that match, it was a great feeling to have it out of the way and just be able to focus on moving forward and setting myself up for State,” Kleimola said.

On Friday, Feb. 19, Kleimola took on Garrett’s Beck Davis and won with a major decision of 15-4. During his first match on Saturday, Feb. 20, he faced Carmel’s Nick Fox and won with a 4-3 decision. During his semifinals match, sixth-ranked Kleimola realized he would have a bit more of a challenge with Indianapolis Cathedral’s second-ranked Ben Stewart, but he was prepared. Unphased by the ranking difference, he smoothly beat Stewart with a 6-2 decision.

“I always tell everyone on the team not to treat any match or any tournament or make anything special. I just tried to do that [in my match with Stewart]. I knew it was the semifinals and everything, but I just went out there and wrestled, like I always do. I made the mistake once of making a match special this year, and that was my only loss, so I learned from it,” Kleimola said.

Before the finals match, a strong fan section for Kleimola poured into the fieldhouse. He had family, friends, teammates, past wrestlers and school administration come to support him, while several others tuned in to watch at home. Even though Kleimola went into his match as the underdog, his supporters were confident in his ability to win.

“[Kleimola is] one of my really good friends. He’s been talking about winning for a while. He really wanted it, more than anyone I’ve ever seen, and I had the faith in him. I wouldn’t have missed [State] for [anything] in the world. I haven’t missed many of his meets, but that one was extra special,” Kameron Konopasek (12) said.

After several champions were already crowned in the lower weight classes, it was finally time for Kleimola to wrestle in front of 12,643 people. He took on Warren Central’s first-ranked Tristen Tonte in the finals match. Kleimola had a rocky start and was down by five points in the beginning of the match. However, he listened to his coaches and had the crowd on his side. Exhausted, Tonte never scored a point again after the first period. Kleimola stunned Tonte and quickly overcame the five-point deficit. He was awarded a stalling and escape point, and then he got a takedown at the 1:03 mark in the third period. Following that, Kleimola was given back points, making the score 6-5. With 19 seconds left in the third period, he scored even more back points, securing his win. Kleimola took the match with a 9-5 decision and became the new 195-pound State Champion. Victorious, he ran to hug his coaches and later climbed to the top of the podium. It may have been one of the biggest upsets of the night, but he proved that no one wanted it more than him.

“I knew I had to push the pace. I knew my conditioning was good to go the full six minutes, so I just tried to stay out of bad positions once I gave up that five points, so that I could work my way back. It’s one of the best things about the sport, you know. It’s not like football, where you’re down 30 points. You’re not gonna win with two minutes left, but that’s the best thing about wrestling. It’s never over until the clock runs out,” Kleimola said.