NORTH ANDOVER — Jackson Quinn never saw himself as a clutch performer, particularly on a wrestling mat and especially heading into the final match of the day against Brooks School’s biggest rival, Belmont Hill.
The first-year freshman wrestler from Andover, who was 2-9 and taken more than his fair share of beatings as a rookie at the 110-pound weight class, was the last match of the day with the Independent Schools League championship on the line.
It was pretty simple as he walked onto the mat with Brooks ahead 34-32. He loses and Brooks loses the league title and its 10th straight against Belmont Hill. He wins and, well, as he witnessed, a party for the ages broke out.
“I was very, very nervous,” Quinn, 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 he failed to realize before that match on Saturday was the fact that nobody in that gym that day, was more ready for the challenge than he was. Nobody.
Three years earlier, Quinn had been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a treatable form of leukemia. And as his father, Richard Quinn recalled, it was a day he 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.’”
It wasn’t easy. There were many of days in which his son would vomit for hours. He’d get bloated, chubby cheeks. He lost his hair. And then there was the heavy legs.