With the first part of the season over and the Southern Scuffle behind him, wrestler Quentin Wright has been focusing on the heart of the season, starting with Sunday’s dual against Michigan State.
The senior rolled through his weight class at the Southern Scuffle, winning the 197-pound title by going 5-0, including a pin of Arizona State’s Jake Meredith at the 5:33 mark in the finals.
184-pound wrestler Ed Ruth said head coach Cael Sanderson has a good way of motivating his wrestlers, which has helped in Wright’s production this season.
“Cael comes in the back, he just comes up to us personally and puts a couple words of hate in our ears. It just fires us up a little bit, picks at your head,” Ruth said. “He pushes a lot of buttons, pulls levers, he's the master at that.”
Wright is No. 3 in the country with his 14-0 record that includes seven pins. While No. 1 Dustin Kilgore of Kent State and No. 2 Matt Wilps of Pittsburgh did not wrestle in the Southern Scuffle, Wright is focused on a potential matchup with either wrestler in the NCAA tournament.
Sanderson said potential matchups between top-ranked wrestlers can help the sport grow as it keeps the fans interested.
“The more competition, the better the story, more interest. It goes without saying, there’s a lot of parity as far as how many teams think they can win, how many individuals think they can win, it doesn’t really matter what school you’re from,” Sanderson said. “I think we’re seeing an increased amount of following and interest because of those matchups.”
Due to moving up a weight class to 197 pounds in the offseason from 184, Wright has had to focus on adjusting his style to wrestle the heavier guys. Despite the change, he still leads the team in pins, with Andrew Alton close behind him.
“These guys are a little bit tougher to pin but that’s the ultimate goal. I try to go out there and try to figure out which guys I can pin that doesn’t require so much strength,” Wright said to GoPSUSports. “I need to hit things a little bit better, my technique needs to be a little bit smoother in order to get the pin because these guys don’t roll over and it’s not like I can force them over either.”
To improve his technique and get these pins, the senior has taken to trying out new moves on the other Penn State wrestlers in his weight class. He has also practiced on the heavyweights, trying out new techniques while they provide resistance.
With four duals and two tournaments before the heart of Big Ten season, there’s little time to get techniques sorted out before the team enters the bulk of its conference schedule. To compensate for the lack of duals, the Lions put heavier emphasis on their practices.
“They like to lay it on us heavy and once it comes towards the end of the season, then they just back off,” Ruth said. “After awhile, it’s just come in, get what you need and it kind of just carries through. Not everybody is the same, everybody has different ways they prepare for hard tournaments.”
Five of Penn State’s eight remaining Big Ten duals will be on the road leading to what Wright says will be an intense atmosphere.
“In Big Ten play week after week, you’re wrestling good people, you’re traveling, doing school at the same time so that’s pretty tough,” Wright said. “First part of the season, it’s over, we got things figured out, we know who’s starting, now it’s time to go out and take it to a new level.”