Jenkins poised for conference championship run
By: Stephen Hennessey
Collegian Staff Writer
A full-length, 5-foot-8-inch cardboard cutout of All-American Bubba Jenkins appeared Tuesday at the Student Book Store and Thursday at The Corner Room.
In an attempt to promote this weekend's Big Ten wrestling tournament, the Penn State marketing department created a life-size body double of the undefeated junior.
The cutout may recreate his physical features, but it cannot duplicate the fire and passion in his eyes evident two days before the conference tournament.
With his eyes focused straight ahead on his wrestling partner, Jenkins is meticulously breaking down his teammate in the front center of the practice mat of the Lorenzo Wrestling Complex.
This is the biggest tournament of his life, the junior captain said Thursday. As he talked after practice, with sweat streaming down his brow, his eyes were still focused straight ahead.
He's not impatient, nor is he antsy -- he simply cannot wait to wrestle some of the best 149-pound wrestlers in the country this weekend.
"I'm just so ready to go, so ready to wrestle," Jenkins said. "That one day left, one practice left, it just feels long as hell. It feels like an hour weigh-in wait because it's going to be so long until Saturday."
Despite a season riddled with injury, Jenkins is undefeated going into this weekend's Big Ten tournament at the Bryce Jordan Center, but with a chip on his shoulder. Admittedly, he's the underdog at his weight class against Iowa's No.1-seeded Brent Metcalf, Jenkins' biggest rival.
Five of the top seven 149-pound wrestlers will battle this weekend for the Big Ten title. This is his biggest competition of the year -- with wrestlers who are coming into his home venue this weekend -- and an opportunity to win his first Big Ten title.
"When I start to wrestle and I start going, there's not too many people that can match my speed and quickness," Jenkins said. "But when it comes down to conditioning, guys get close, guys start keeping the match close because I just feel like I can't push the pace."
Jenkins said his ankle is currently at 95 percent.
Assistant coach Matt Dernlan quickly responded by saying "he's good" when probed about his undefeated wrestler's health.
Dernlan and Jenkins have been working together all season, fine-tuning what needs to be done to "fix the critical points in his matches." In the past week, Jenkins said the coaching staff has focused on his conditioning, because he said he hasn't really lost a match because of his wrestling abilities.
"He's pretty much at peak right now," said Colby Pisani, Jenkins' wrestling partner Thursday and fellow 149-pounder. "I know he was injured and stuff but he looks good. He'll be ready."
Throughout the past week, Jenkins said random people have come up to him, telling him they're going to come watch the tournament Saturday at the BJC.
The excitement and the enthusiasm has Jenkins ready to conquer his opponents.
Jenkins text messaged Joseph Boyd (junior-marketing), the creator of the cutout, early Thursday morning, asking where the cutout would be. Boyd said he specifically wanted to promote Jenkins because "to be at a big school and a top wrestling program in the country, it sucks not getting the recognition he deserves."
"Physically, there's no question in my mind, he's the best kid in the country," Dernlan said. "Now we have to go out and show we have the biggest heart in the country too. If we can combine his physical talents with his heart, and his mind, then he can beat anybody."
Tags: Bubba Jenkins, Colby Pisani, Matt Dernlan