Jake Morrissey wraps up Purdue wrestling career

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Wrestler had 3 state titles at Oconto Falls

Greg Bates, Times Herald correspondent

Purdue University wrestler Jake Morrissey, an Oconto Falls graduate, takes on a Michigan State opponent during his final season. Morrissey clinched three state titles during his time at Oconto Falls and advanced to the NCAA Division 1 Championships two times while at Purdue. (Photo by Purdue Athletics Communications)

Jake Morrissey left Oconto Falls with three state titles under his belt. He was one of the most dominant wrestlers in his era in Wisconsin.

When Morrissey went off to Purdue University, he had one goal in mind: win a national championship.

During his four-year career competing for the Boilermakers, Morrissey qualified for the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships twice but came up shy of his main objective. However, he had a strong career that ended in mid-March.

“After the match is over, it hits you and you kind of realize, that’s it,” said Morrissey, a 2013 Oconto Falls graduate. “I’ve been wrestling for 18 years and it’s time to move on. It’s almost bittersweet a little bit because, on one hand, I’m disappointed that I’m done wrestling, and I didn’t quite accomplish what I set out to do, but at the same I’m excited to start a career and a family and move on to other things.”

Morrissey finished his career with a 67-47 record, competing at the highest level against Big Ten wrestlers. In 35 of his wins, Morrissey notched bonus points (16 falls, 11 technical falls and eight major decisions).

After a 17-4 record at 174 pounds his redshirt freshman season in 2014-15, Morrissey was dealt a setback in early February the next season. He suffered a herniated disc in his lower back and ended up having surgery. That ended his sophomore campaign.

“That was a little speed bump in my career, because I was out for about six months,” Morrissey said. “Being off the mat that long and then coming back, but since I was off the mat for such a long time I was able to come back with the attitude that, alright, I’m ready to go. I’m really looking forward to getting on the mat and come back and work my tail off. I think it might have slowed down my career a little bit, but I’m not blaming anything on it, really. Injuries happen to everyone, it’s out of your control. You’ve just got to move forward and do the best you can from there.”

Purdue head assistant coach Tyrel Todd worked with Morrissey for four seasons. He wishes injuries wouldn’t have hampered his wrestler, but noted Morrissey never complained.

“I could tell sometimes he was hurting and he would never say he was hurting,” Todd said. “One of my frustrations was, ‘Man, you’ve got to communicate with the trainer and us and if you need a day, we’ll give you a day, but he’s a tough kid. He’s a super, super tough kid. He’s going to do really well moving forward.”

Todd watched Morrissey battle his entire career — a career that could have been even more decorated if it wasn’t for the back injury.

“He did some amazing things here at Purdue,” Todd said. “I honestly think injuries were a big hindrance to him. If he would have been injury-free, there’s no doubt he was capable of doing more. I think he should still be at peace in his head that he did everything he could when the opportunity was presented to him. He should have no regrets. I’m really proud to have coached him.”

After a 13-10 sophomore year, Morrissey came back even stronger and more motivated the next season. He started out 15-8 before losing five of his last six matches. However, Morrissey, who wrestled 174, qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the first time in his career. He fell to Zac Brunson from Illinois, ranked No. 10 in the country, by a 12-1 major decision, and lost to No. 7 Kyle Crutchmer from Oklahoma State by a 15-4 major decision.

After getting to nationals as a junior but not placing, Morrissey knew his senior year was his last shot to get on the podium. He put a lot of pressure on himself to succeed.

“I put a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself at the start of the year, and I think that really showed in some of my early matches,” Morrissey said. “I feel at the start of the year I didn’t perform the best — I dropped a couple matches I probably shouldn’t have.”

Morrissey cut weight and competed at 165 pounds all season. He went into winter break with an 11-8 record but had banged up his knee in the final dual. Morrissey wasn’t sure if he’d be able to wrestling at the Ken Kraft Midlands Championships at the end of December.

He went to Oconto Falls over break and relaxed and re-focused, getting on the mat just once.

“I just kind of mentally told myself, ‘It’s just wrestling. At the end of the day, it’s just a sport,’” Morrissey said. “I need to go out there in my senior year and have fun with it. Just go out there, compete my hardest and just have fun. At the end of the day, it’s just a sport and you want to be great at it, but you need to be having fun when you’re doing it.”

Morrissey responded by going 4-2 at Midlands and placing seventh in his weight class.

“I think early on he was putting a lot of pressure on himself senior year and I think he was in his own head a lot,” Todd said. “He was not wrestling the way he was capable. He went home over break and I think a little time off can be good sometimes. He even said, ‘I just decided I wrestled because it’s fun and I love it.’ He came back kind of with a new focus and rattled off some really nice wins.”

In late January and early February, he pulled off four victories in a five-match stretch. Morrissey was back to his normal self.

He qualified for his second trip to the NCAA championships but lost both his matches. His first-period fall to Northern Colorado’s Keilan Torres ended his career.

Getting to compete in the Division I Wrestling Championships twice was a great experience.

“Just to make it there is hard enough itself and then to get on the podium obviously is even harder,” Morrissey said. “It was a great opportunity and I’m very thankful for it. I didn’t finish on the podium like I wanted to, but I can still hang my hat on that I went out there and I wrestled my best. I put everything out there and I didn’t hold back and what happened happened.”

Morrissey was an extremely dedicated wrestler who would text Todd at night to join him for early-morning workout sessions in the wrestling room.

“Jake has been one of my favorite athletes to work with,” Todd said. “He experienced a lot of adversity through his career, but he’s still one of the pinningest wrestlers in Purdue history. He’s extremely exciting to watch and coach because he was a pinner and he could get you from a lot of different places.”

Morrissey leaves the Purdue wrestling program but won’t soon be forgotten. He finished No. 6 on the career list for back points (272) and No. 7 for reversals (36).

“It’s a good feeling knowing that I’ll leave Purdue on some of the record boards,” Morrissey said. “I think it speaks to my wrestling, too, when I go out there and like to have fun with it and I might be down. I love exciting matches, getting the pin. I’m not going out there trying to win a 3-2 match, I’m trying to score points and get a pin.”

He was also named Academic All-Big Ten four times, only the 11th wrestler at Purdue since the mid-1980s to accomplish that feat.

After his wrestling career wrapped up, things haven’t slowed down for Morrissey. He got engaged in March and will graduate from Purdue in mid-May with a degree in law in society and a minor in political science and OLS (operational leadership skills).

Just like his dad, Matt, and older brother, Cullan, Morrissey will be a police office. However, unlike his dad and brother, who both work for the Oconto County Sheriff’s Department, Morrissey won’t be heading back to Wisconsin for employment. He had an interview the second week in April and got a conditional job offer from the city of Lafayette, Ind.

Todd knows Morrissey will do great in the professional world.

“The grit and determination that he has is going to really lead to success in life,” Todd said.

It’s going to be a little strange for Morrissey not having wrestling in his life. He’s going to miss the competition aspect of the sport.

“I’m used to getting in the wrestling room every day and working out and training with the guys,” Morrissey said. “I’ll keep wrestling close to me if I can. I might want to help out with a high school in the area or something like that. If I can, I’m going to try and still get in the wrestling room here at Purdue. It’s time to move on, but wrestling’s always going to be something I carry with me that taught me a lot of things in life – the hard work and dedication that’s going to carry over to everything else that I do.”

It was a quick five years at Purdue, but he’s ready for the next phase of his life. He’ll look back fondly on his days as a college wrestler.

“I think when I look back on my career at Purdue, I loved it,” Morrissey said. “If I could do it all over again, I would. At the end of the day I can hang my hat on the fact that I made the most of the opportunities that I had and I worked hard. Yeah, I might have fell short, but I gave it everything I had.”