Drawing motivation from a severe childhood accident, Clarinda senior Jakob Childs has tackled any challenges that stood in way to becoming a successful three-sport athlete for the Cardinals.
When he was 6 years old, Childs was playing on a riding lawn mower and fell off when the mower was put in reverse. The machine backed over him resulting in his left leg being amputated just below the knee. Despite that obstacle, Childs has gone on to play baseball, football and wrestle for the Cardinals.
“It has motivated me to be better than everybody,” Childs said. “I always find myself wondering how things would be different if I had the leg. My friends mention how much better I would be with the other leg, but I stop them because I remember then I may not have had the drive to do as much.”
That drive enabled Childs to reach the pinnacle of high school wrestling in Iowa last season as he qualified for the state tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines as a junior. Also qualifying for the Cardinals last season were Tyler Halloran and Storm Howard.
“The state wrestling tournament was an amazing experience, especially because of the two guys that went with me. We definitely got a lot closer,” Childs said. “That was the biggest accomplishment of my sports career.”
Childs started wrestling when he was in seventh grade. Within two months of his accident, Childs had been fitted with a prosthetic leg. However, after some trial and error, Childs determined he would be more affective on the mat without the prosthetic.
“With the prosthetic, we worried there was more chances for injuries in wrestling. They could twist it wrong or break the bone that’s down in there, so we felt it was a safer call to go without it,” Childs’ mother, Stephanie, said.
“It was a little nerve-racking because you are not looked at the same. You are looked at as an easy person to wrestle since you are not standing up like everybody else and not in the same stance. They think they can beat you quick. But if you have ever sat in on a wrestling practice, you know when you shoot you want the lower level. I’m already lower, so I have a better chance to pick an ankle or do whatever I have to do,” Childs said.
Although Childs had faced a lack of respect for most of his wrestling career, he said that was not the case at the state wrestling tournament. In fact, Childs said he received some valuable words of encouragement from top seeded Kyler Fisher of Southeast Valley (Gowrie) after their 182 pound match in the opening round of the tournament.
“At the state meet they don’t look at you any different than any other kid that steps out on the mat. The first guy I wrestled was one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. He told me not to look past everything I had done to get there. He told me I was a good wrestler and not to let this hold me back,” Childs said.
Still, for all the success he has had on the wrestling mat, Childs said his first love was baseball. In fact, his father, Dan, is such a fan of the Cleveland Indians he named his son after their home stadium, formerly known as Jacobs Field.
“Baseball was the sport I grew up watching and was the first sport I went against my dad in. I enjoy the atmosphere and the game in general,” Childs said.
With the aid of his prosthetic, Childs began playing baseball in second grade. He cracked the varsity lineup for Clarinda as a sophomore and turned in a strong junior campaign last summer.
In 24 games for the Cardinals, Childs hit for an average of .286 in his 49 at bats. He also provided 10 runs batted in and had two doubles.
Childs credited his success to a key change he made at the plate. A natural right handed player, Childs switched to hitting left handed.
“Batting was one of my biggest challenges. It took a while to figure out because my prosthetic was my lead leg and it would not flatten out when I would stride. So it caused me to uppercut or miss a lot. I decided switching to being a lefty hitter was the best way to fix that. I definitely hit better doing that. I had been working on it kind of as a joke, so it was kind of an instant success when they told me I could,” Childs said.
Childs also proved himself to be valuable for Clarinda on the mound last year. He made eight appearances for the Cardinals, including six starts, and notched two wins. Over his 29 and two-thirds innings, he held opponents to only 15 hits and 31 strikeouts.
When Childs did get into trouble, it was usually because of his control. He issued 23 walks and hit 12 batters on the year.
“Normally, when a pitcher is extended they are landing on their heel. Since that is my prosthetic, I have to get more drive off my back leg and roll over onto my left leg to get to a normal position. I had to learn to balance on the base of my foot and start farther over on the first base side of the rubber because I shift to the right more,” Childs said.
“You can tell if he missteps because he’ll probably hit a batter. He has had to work to find his own technique in everything,” Stephanie said.
When there are no missteps, however, Childs showed he could be a dominate force on the mound. Red Oak found that out when Childs led the Cardinals to an 8-0 road win over the Tigers last season.
Childs went the distance to earn the shutout victory. He allowed only two hits and two walks over his seven innings of work, while fanning eight Red Oak hitters.
“That was by far the best pitched game I’ve ever had. They couldn’t hit anything,” Childs said.
The baseball diamond is also where one of the most bizarre incidents Childs has encountered during his sports career took place. While in sixth grade, Childs was playing a game against Earlham when the wheels suddenly came off for him.
“He was on first base and Parker (Rock) hit a double into right center. Jake came around third and his leg flew off. It hit the fence and he did a tuck and roll. He came up looking around like, ‘What just happened?’ The other team just had a look of terror on their faces because they didn’t know he had a prosthetic and didn’t understand why all the Clarinda people were laughing,” Dan said.
Keeping his prosthetic leg securely attached and in playing shape has also been challenging for Childs on the football field. A defensive lineman for Clarinda, he can be seen on the sideline between series removing the leg and working to dry off his sock, stump and the liner of the prosthetic.
Although he was playing baseball, Childs said he never thought about playing football or wrestling until he was in seventh grade. Childs said he always watched his friends play youth tackle football, so after he was medically cleared to compete in contact sports he decided to give it a try and has never looked back.
“Since football is such a contact sport, we were worried about his knee as he grew. He had to have a reduction surgery to shorten the bone that pencils out into the prosthetic. After the surgery they said his knee was strong enough to take on contact sports,” Stephanie said. “I became a very overprotective mom after the accident. Finally, they told me I couldn’t do that. I had to let him do what the other kids were doing.”
“The first time he told me he wanted to play football he said, ‘wouldn’t it be funny if I was running down the field to score a touchdown, someone tried to tackle me and my leg came off?’ Still, I have seen some pretty serious injuries in all three sports, so you always have that concern. You never want to see your kid get hurt,” Dan said.
Even though he wanted to play football like his friends, Childs said he did have some apprehension about stepping on the field the first time. Since he would be playing with a prosthetic, Childs said he was worried about the potential of injury or even being paralyzed. Those worries were reinforced when a teammate suffered a severe injury.
“We had a kid who broke his tibia and fibula, so that put the image in my head and made me wonder ‘what if that happened to me?’ It ended his football career, so that really stuck with me,” Childs said. “But as I stuck with football, I realized you can’t really think about it. You have to focus on playing and not the consequences that come with it. You have to think about the good things that come out of the sport.”
Playing on the defensive line for Clarinda during the 2019 season, Childs recorded 28.5 tackles and 1.5 sacks. As a result, he earned honorable mention all-district honors for the Cardinals.
Childs also almost had a defensive lineman’s dream come true when the Cardinals hosted Atlantic. He leaped into the air to pick off a pass attempt by the Trojans at the Atlantic 18 yard line. It appeared he could return the interception for a touchdown, but was tackled at the six yard line.
“Something I always wanted to do was a get a big turnover that helped us win a game. Getting that interception kind of sealed it and I almost had a touchdown,” Childs said.
Although he still does not like to talk about the accident itself, Childs said keeping a good sense of humor as he grew up allowed him to come to terms with the use of the prosthetic leg. He said he has picked up quite a few nicknames over the years.
“It’s good to keep a sense of humor about it. I don’t joke about the accident itself and some people push it to the limit on the jokes, but I try to look at it as motivation,” Childs said.
“I think the nicknames helped the other kids be a little more comfortable with it. It was also good he grew up with the same kids,” Stephanie said.
After graduating from high school in the spring, Childs hopes to attend Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, Missouri. He would like to play baseball for the Bearcats and study criminal justice to prepare for a career in law enforcement.
If that plan does not work out, Childs said he has also been contacted by a few colleges about continuing his wrestling career.
Based on his own experiences, Childs has learned there is no limit to what he can achieve in life if he sets his mind to it. He said that is an important idea for all amputees to remember.
“Don’t look at yourself as different. If someone says you can’t do it, go show them you can. Show them you have as much drive, if not more, than any other person. Don’t let it hold you back. Keep your head up,” Childs said.