Skyview’s Jackson McKinney finds a new sport and finds his true calling

Storm wrestler has become one of the best in the state

VANCOUVER — One of the best wrestlers in the state never figured wrestling would be part of his life after the third grade.

He tried the sport back then, but it did not really take.

“Only thing I remember is I had felt green shoes. I loved those,” Skyview senior Jackson McKinney said. “I remember the felt green shoes and I had to run a lot.”

Skyview wrestler Jackson McKinney, now a senior, made it to state for the first time last season and finished second. His goal is to finish the job this season, by winning a championship. Photo by Paul Valencia
Skyview wrestler Jackson McKinney, now a senior, made it to state for the first time last season and finished second. His goal is to finish the job this season, by winning a championship. Photo by Paul Valencia


47th Clark County Wrestling Tournament

Skyview High School
Friday and Saturday

Boys first and second rounds, plus consolation begins at 4:30 p.m. Friday

Girls first round begins at 9:30 a.m. Saturday. Second day of boys competition begins at 10 a.m.

Finals for boys and girls matches tentatively scheduled for 5 p.m. Saturday.

Cost: Tickets are $10 per day for adults, $5 for students and senior citizens, or $20 for a family of four with two children under 14.

Note: This is the eighth year for the girls tournament


It just was not his thing. Instead, he turned to basketball, playing that sport all the way up through middle school, dreaming of playing high school hoops.

Until that dream was crushed.

“I did basketball forever and ever,” McKinney said.

He was cut after tryouts his freshman year at Skyview.

“I was just devastated,” he said.

Not anymore, In fact, he said getting cut from basketball was the best thing that could have happened to him. Nowadays, he is one of the top wrestlers in Washington and will be wrestling at Oregon State University next academic year.

McKinney and the rest of the Storm are set to host the 47th Clark County Wrestling Tournament this week. The opening rounds are Friday, with wrestling all day Saturday and the finals Saturday evening.

Just a few years ago, wrestling was not even a thought for McKinney.

“I remember my mom saying to me, ‘You know what Jackson? I don’t know why you didn’t make it (in basketball), but you’re destined for great things.’”

Basketball did not want Jackson McKinney. He was cut from the sport as a freshman at Skyview High School. A few days later, he found the wrestling room. Since then, he has dedicated himself to the mat, becoming one of the best wrestlers in the state. Photo by Paul Valencia
Basketball did not want Jackson McKinney. He was cut from the sport as a freshman at Skyview High School. A few days later, he found the wrestling room. Since then, he has dedicated himself to the mat, becoming one of the best wrestlers in the state. Photo by Paul Valencia

 

Within days, Skyview wrestling coach Dave Armstrong and assistant coaches encouraged McKinney to give their sport another try.

“First day, I fell in love with it,” McKinney said. “Second day, I knew I was never going back.”

That’s a cool story in its own right. Making it even more special is how the sport changed the direction of his life. He had natural talent, of course, but he then dedicated himself to becoming elite.

He did not make it to state his freshman and sophomore seasons, but his workouts intensified prior to his junior year. He went to camps, clinics.

“I was fully immersed,” McKinney said. “I just went to my club, wrestled and lifted weights. Every day.”

He got so good so fast he was invited to national events that summer. He worked on different styles of his sport. He came back to Skyview for his junior year and it all clicked for him during the high school season.

Making it to the Mat Classic for the first time, McKinney got two pins on the first day, then cruised to a 9-2 victory in the semifinals on Day 2 before falling by a point in the state championship match at 180 pounds.

“I was mad. I remember thinking it was the end of the world,” McKinney said. “I snapped out of it, though. That Monday, I was right back to wrestling. I doubled my training.

“I could either mope around and say, ‘I lost by a point’ or I could get back up and get to work so he can never beat me again.”

This season, wrestling at 195 pounds, the goal is to get that state championship.

Jackson McKinney (right) said he feels at home on any wrestling mat. Here he is training with Skyview teammate Tiajaie Allen. Skyview is hosting the Clark County Wrestling Tournament this week. Photo by Paul Valencia
Jackson McKinney (right) said he feels at home on any wrestling mat. Here he is training with Skyview teammate Tiajaie Allen. Skyview is hosting the Clark County Wrestling Tournament this week. Photo by Paul Valencia

Last month, McKinney won at the prestigious Pacific Coast Wrestling Championships, one of the biggest tournaments of the regular season.

This week, it is a smaller tournament in terms of number of teams, but it is still special. Especially for a team that is hosting the event.

“It’s a bragging rights tourney. Each of the locals wants to knock you off,” McKinney said. “But if you win Clark County, you’re a big shot. Bragging rights tournament.”

After Clark County, wrestlers will finish out the regular season in preparation for district, regionals, and then state championships. McKinney will be among the top seeds in his weight class every step of the way.

Basketball’s loss was wrestling’s gain. That day his freshman year really did change his life. What he has learned in his new sport he will take with him wherever he goes.

“Whatever I can overcome in the wrestling room, I can overcome outside of the wrestling room,” McKinney said.

Wrestling is his sport.

“I can be at any mat at any school, and it will feel like home to me.”

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About The Author

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Paul Valencia joins ClarkCountyToday.com after more than two decades of newspaper experience. He became the face of high school sports coverage in Clark County during his 17 years at The Columbian. Before moving to Vancouver, Paul worked at Oregon daily newspapers in Pendleton, Roseburg, and Salem. A graduate of David Douglas High School in Portland, Paul enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving three years as a soldier/journalist. He and his wife Jenny recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. They have a son who has a passion for karate and Minecraft. Paul’s hobbies include: Watching the Raiders play football, reading about the Raiders playing football, and waiting to watch and read about the Raiders playing football.

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