Justin Ortega's stepfather, Harry Griswold, walked outside of Rec Hall during November's Intrasquad Dual to seek a place to collect his thoughts.
He needed to absorb what just happened.
Griswold's stepson defeated David Erwin, who is now No. 12 at the 184-pound weight class, for the starting wrestling spot at 174 pounds.
Griswold thought Ortega would eventually be a starter but not this quickly. Not as a redshirt freshman.
"Last year and this year," Griswold said, "he's excelled so much."
Laughing and making no excuses along the way, Ortega has stepped into the spotlight as a starter. The redshirt freshman, who holds a 6-10 record this season, hasn't beaten a ranked opponent yet this year but came close at the Virginia Duals against then-No. 8 Jeff James of Oklahoma.
With James leading 2-1 in tiebreaker overtime, Ortega appeared to get a takedown, which would have given him the lead. Ortega's mother, Tammy Ortega, was convinced her son scored the takedown, as were the Penn State coaches, whom she saw jumping and yelling at the referees for a call.
"We have it on tape," Tammy Ortega said. "Clearly, he beat that No. 8 kid."
Justin Ortega blamed himself for the loss. For him, it wasn't the referee's call that lost the match. He lost the match. He could have wrestled better.
Tammy Ortega remembers giving her son compliments after matches but said all the redshirt freshman focuses on is what he doesn't do.
"He's very humble," she said.
"He doesn't give himself credit for anything."
Tammy Ortega said her son went to the cardiologist Tuesday because he had been suffering from fatigue since September. The 174-pounder was found to have heart abnormalities and must wear a heart monitor for 30 days. But despite suffering from the heart condition all season, he didn't give excuses. The redshirt freshman even looked forward to wrestling against Illinois and Ohio State this weekend
His mother said he broke down at one point during the season -- yearning for a way to increase his deflated energy. Tammy Ortega tried consoling her son. She told him he couldn't do anything about it because of the ailment.
But sickness was never a viable excuse for Justin Ortega.
Griswold said his stepson only called an injury timeout once during his high-school career -- after he tore his meniscus.
"He won't tell you if he's sick or injured," Griswold said. "He sucks up the pain and just keeps going."
His intensity is forged in pre-match preparation. When the Oxford native is bobbing his head before a match with his iPod on, Griswold won't even bother the wrestler. Griswold said he can't give his stepson his inhaler before matches because the 174-pounder is too focused. Instead, Griswold has to give it to him before he gets into his focused state.
"He actually gets mad if he wrestles a partner in the wrestling room that doesn't give 100 percent," Griswold said. "He wants to make himself an All-American and eventually a national champion."
Vallimont, who often wrestles Justin Ortega, said the redshirt freshman wakes up early every morning to wrestle-off. Vallimont takes afternoon classes and can't attend practices, but Justin Ortega has no problem competing during morning hours. After wrestling the emerging starter on multiple occasions, Vallimont said he has seen the 174-pounder improve on his feet and in shooting this season.
These improvements have come a long way since Justin Ortega became a Lion in 2008. The 174-pounder thought he would be a practice dummy when he first came into college. It wasn't until after his match with Erwin that he realized he could compete with the best.
But unlike Griswold, the realization didn't require the 174-pounder's departure from Rec Hall.
"I actually had a lot of potential that was going to waste," Ortega said, "so I started using it."