Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Sports

February 13, 2014

Hundred-pound hero

After beating cancer, Andover's Quinn saves the day for Brooks wrestling

Heroes reportedly come in all shapes and sizes.

The Brooks School wrestling team didn’t realize that, at its biggest meet of the year recently, its hero would take the form of the smallest kid on the team,

Enter 5-foot-3, 103-pound Jackson Quinn of Andover.

The freshman wrestling at 110 pounds — “I can’t eat that much to get to 110 (pounds),” Jackson said — took the mat with everything on the line, including the match between rival Belmont Hill and the Independent School League championship.

Add in the fact that Brooks hadn’t beaten Belmont Hill in a decade and, well, you get the picture.

Brooks led 34-32 before Jackson stepped to the mat as the last match of the day. He wins, Brooks wins. He loses, Belmont Hill wins.

The irony is that Jackson never saw himself as a clutch performer, particularly on a wrestling mat. The first-year wrestler was 2-9 and had taken more than his fair share of beatings.

“I was very, very nervous,” Jackson, 14, recalled. “I was almost sick to my stomach when I realized it would all come down to my match. But I had to find a way to not think about that.”

What Jackson failed to realize before that match was the fact that nobody in that gym that day was more ready for the challenge than he was. Nobody.

Three years earlier, Jackson had been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a treatable form of the disease.

It was a day his father, Richard Quinn, will never forget.

“My wife and I were nervous as we told him about the diagnosis, that he had cancer and leukemia,” he said. “He looked us in the eye and said, ‘I can’t wait for the day when I will say I beat cancer.’ I looked at him and said ‘That’s the greatest gift anybody ever gave me in my life.’”

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