When Tess Kinne was a seventh grader at Fire Prairie Middle School, a close friend had a special request.

“My friend Juliana Bauer asked me if I’d join the wrestling team, because she didn’t want to be the only girl on the team,” said Kinne, who soon became the face of female wrestling at Fort Osage High School.

“I went home and talked to my dad about it, because I was only playing softball and it sounded kind of interesting. But back then, if you were a girl wrestler you had to wrestle boys, and I wasn’t sure about that.”

Kinne and her family finally decided that she should give the sport a try and, because of that decision, one day she will likely be inducted into the Fort Osage Hall of Fame.

In 2019, she became the first female in Fort Osage history to medal at state. After winning the Class 1 District 4 championship, she went on to finish fourth at the state tournament.

This year, she finished third in the district competition at 135 pounds and made it to state, but because of ongoing shoulder problems, she did not earn a medal this time.

She is now resting at home following shoulder surgery earlier this week to correct a labrum tear and other issues that she had been secretly dealing with the past three years.

“I wore a brace at practice because my shoulder really got bad,” said Kinne, a National Honor Society and National Technology Honor Society member who has signed to wrestle at Missouri Valley College in the fall. “My teammates were the only ones who knew about my shoulder, because I didn’t want my opponents to know how much pain I was in and what I had to deal with.”

Her best friend soon became Fort Osage trainer Dawna Gilbert, who made her time on the mat as pain free as possible.

“Dawna and her staff were the best,” Kinne said. “I spent so much time on the stim machine [which sends mild electrical impulses to muscles to reduce pain]. They did everything for me and I couldn’t have made it through the past few years without them.”

She also credits her coaches and teammates, whose encouraging words would often seem to come at the right time.

“I’d be so sore, and so down, and Haley (Ward, an undefeated state champion as a freshman) would talk with me or one of our coaches or other teammates and it would just help so much,” Kinne said. “Looking back at all of this, I think my shoulder problems probably started back in my seventh grade year.

“I was wrestling a 120-pound boy – but they are much more muscular – and I think that’s when the tear probably happened, and I just had to deal with it. I wish it wouldn’t have happened, I know I would have been more successful, but I wouldn’t trade the past four years for anything.”

Ward, one of the premier female wrestlers in the country and a Pan American Games champion, lavishes praise on her former senior teammate.

“I love Tess, because she taught me everything about the high school and the Fort Osage wrestling team,” said Ward, who won the gold medal at 62 kilograms (136.6 pounds) in her age group last summer in the Pan Am Games.

“We traveled to a lot of tournaments last summer and we’ve really become good friends. I call her my mother hen because she looks out for me and takes care of me. She and the other wrestlers – our boys and girls – have made the transition to high school a lot easier for me and I really appreciate that.”

Now, the Indians’ “mother hen” is looking for ways to keep from going stir crazy as she spends six months on the mend – and while waiting out the coronavirus stay-at-home order – following her surgery.

“Well, first, there is my school work,” she said, which like all area students, she is doing online. “Then I try to do some painting, and there is always Netflix.

“If anyone has any good suggestions, please let me know.”