Quentin Wright has "dream" debut at Big Tens
By: Stephen Hennessey
Collegian Staff Writer
Each time Quentin Wright wins a match, he says it builds on top of the next one. This could never have been more evident than in the first day of his Big Ten tournament debut Saturday.
The true freshman pinned his first opponent, garnering a steady round of applause from the fans. In his next match, Wright wowed the Bryce Jordan Center crowd by what he described as "baby crawling" across the mat to earn a match-winning takedown as time expired.
If this hadn't won over the 4,093 fans in the stands yet, he did in his next bout, driving his body through the No. 3-nationally ranked wrestler in the nation, securing an 11-10 victory, and setting up a championship matchup with the No. 1 wrestler in the country at the 174-pound weight class on Sunday.
"He's got the biggest heart in this stadium right now," Bubba Jenkins said, after sprinting out to congratulate his teammate after his thrilling victory. "He's the most exciting wrestler I've seen all year. Being a true freshman, this kid is phenomenal."
Wright's 11-10 decision over Iowa's Jay Borschel garnered the loudest reaction from the fans during the entire 10-hour, two-session long day. The Bald Eagle Area high school graduate said the fans were instrumental in pushing him through his matches, and letting him believe he could pull off the victories.
Before Wright's last match, assistant coach Mark Perry pointed to his heart then pointed to the freshman wrestler, and Wright showed his recognition by nodding back at Perry. Wright was relentless from the first whistle as he attacked the Hawkeye wrestler with multiple double-leg shots right from the start, which were "beautiful" because Borschel is very tough to score on, head coach Troy Sunderland said.
"For the most part, he went out and executed his holds and he made it look easy," Perry said. "The score was 11-10 but the match wasn't that close. We didn't respect him. That was the thing we said coming in is, it's not about going out and taking two or three shots. The gameplan is to go out and beat him as bad as we can."
While Wright took the lead and held control from the start in his last match, his second bout did not play out the same way. In fact, he was taken down by Indiana's Trevor Perry with 18 seconds left in the match, leaving him down a point. It appeared at if Wright's storybook season would end disappointingly.
But he wouldn't let it end that way. Wright said he had a flashback to a match this summer, when a guy crawled on the mat and came back to take him down with seconds left.
Now it was his turn.
With his opponent's back turned, trying to run away, the Nittany Lion frantically crawled across the length of the mat, lunged for his opponent's ankles, and put Perry into an ankle lace, successfully propelling himself into the semifinals, and booking an automatic berth into the NCAA championships. The move sent the crowd into a frenzy -- including assistant coaches Perry and Aaron Anspach -- who were coaching Wright in his corner, but were also joined by Sunderland, who repeatedly pumped his fist in celebration.
"The way Quentin wrestled today was just phenomenal," Sunderland said. "It's exciting for the sport and it's exciting to be here at Penn State and have all our fans and the local community that he grew up in to be able to watch him perform at such a high level. It's just a great statement for him and all the hard work he has put in."
Wright remained humble after the thrilling day, as he has done all season. He said his focus is now on his semifinal matchup with undefeated Steve Luke from Michigan.
This is the mentality the coaching staff has preached all season.
"You're never out of a match," Wright said. "I remember when I was younger, I remember watching my brother be down 14-1 and he pinned the kid in the last 30 seconds of the match. So you're never out of the match and as long as you do your best, leave the rest up to God."
Going toward tomorrow, Mark Perry said he thinks Wright will beat Luke. Earlier in the season, Wright dropped a 6-4 decision to Luke in Ann Arbor, but Wright said he gave up a late point to Luke as he went for a takedown late. He said he would likely go back tonight and watch video of that match, to see where he could improve.
Following three impressive performances Saturday, it is hard to imagine Wright could one-up himself, but a victory over the undefeated senior, who is the returning Big Ten champion at the 174-pound weight class, would certainly do so.
As assistant coach Matt Dernlan said, Saturday's execution did not surprise the coaching staff. They expected Wright to beat Borschel.
"It gives me satisfaction to see kids achieve things that they've wanted their whole life," Mark Perry said. "He's working extremely hard and putting in a lot of time. He's a force now, but in a couple years, when he puts on some size, he's gonna be awfully tough to beat."
Tags: Aaron Anspach, Bubba Jenkins, Matt Dernlan, Quentin Wright, Troy Sunderland