By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Fearless on the soccer pitch, goalkeeper Jessie Flynn never shied away from contact or going to the ground — also ideal training for high school wrestling.
Flynn was a quick study as a grappler at Middletown, winning a section title and twice reaching the state tournament.
Also a distinguished student and longtime Future Farmers of America member, Flynn is the North Coast Section Female Scholar Athlete of the Year.
“It’s really cool,” Flynn said. “When I filled out the paperwork I didn’t think I would get it. I was really surprised and happy.”
The honor comes with a $2,000 award Flynn will use to attend Lyon College in Arkansas, where she will wrestle on an athletic scholarship.
“Jessie’s strong academics was the number one factor. She meets our expectations,” said Kevin Carter, the Lyon men’s and women’s wrestling coach. “We want our athletes to grow and understand college is a way to distinguish and brand yourself as not only an athlete, but a student.”
College wrestling in was not her expectation when Flynn joined the Middletown program her sophomore year. While she enjoyed being on a team with friends, Flynn soon relished the competition.
“I stuck with it because I liked winning and I enjoyed my wrestling family. I could see my progress and I liked that feeling of knowing I’m getting better,” she said.
In a mostly successful first season, Flynn concluded with two losses at the section tournament. She was determined to reach the podium the next wrestling campaign.
“Wrestling is a lot of hard work. When you beat somebody, it’s a personal accomplishment,” Flynn said.
That junior season, Flynn was runner-up at sections for 165 pounds. Flynn enjoyed her first CIF State Girls Wrestling Championships despite losing both matches.
“She really started putting it together. Her match awareness really improved,” Middletown coach Brian Hunt said.
Quickness was always an asset for Flynn as she showed in soccer.
Middletown’s varsity goalkeeper two seasons, Flynn anchored the Mustangs defense that yielded only one goal in the section playoffs to capture the small school title her junior season. Middletown was runner-up in Flynn’s final soccer campaign.
When not playing soccer, Flynn was training hard and wrestling with male teammates preparing for her senior season. Gaining strength and improving technique would complement her speed in matches.
“My second year, I got my head in the right place,” Flynn said. “This year, I knew what it took to win. I could focus my energy into that effort.”
Moving up to 189 pounds, she proved to be an even tougher matchup. She weighs around 170 pounds, giving her an advantage in speed and agility.
“She came in just focused and driven. She didn’t require much coaching at all. She knew how to go out and control the tempo of a match,” Hunt said. “She was dominant in her matches. She was a delight to watch.”
After winning the section title, Flynn was favored for a state medal. But illness sapped her strength and any shot at the podium.
Still, the Lyon College coach noticed Flynn’s possibilities while watching the state championships.
“She had a lot of fight and potential in her. She has a huge learning curve and we want to develop that,” Carter said.
Equally important, Flynn is smart and a good teammate.
“Jessie is coachable and wants to be successful,” Carter said. “She has the right mental attitude to be a champion in all aspects of her life.”
A quiet leader on the Middletown team, Flynn helped draw more girls to wrestling. She was voted most valuable player by both the boys and girls as a senior.
“We will definitely miss her,” Hunt said.
With the fall college season looming, Flynn is working this summer on fitness training, running, and even some swimming.
She also holds three part-time jobs. Flynn likes to keep busy.
“It’s a bunch of responsibility. I’ve maintained a good grade point average with all my sports. I just know what I need to do and I do my work to the best I can,” she said.
Going away to be a student athlete, in northeast Arkansas, is a challenge Flynn welcomes. She said Batesville is a nice college town and she likes the small-school atmosphere.
In the classroom, she wants to major in veterinary science. Flynn has raised sheep, goats and steers through FFA, and job shadowed a veterinarian in high school.
On the wrestling mat, Flynn wants to win.
“Once I start something, I don’t like quitting it. I like growing and getting better at stuff,” Flynn said. “I really like the sport. I think if I keep going I can get better. Plus getting a scholarship to get my education is really good.”
You can reach Staff Writer Michael Coit at 521-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.