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A Championship Career

by on March 27, 2013 11:38 AM

The smile. The big throws. The handshakes and hugs. The signing autographs until every kid has one. The wins, the pins, the tough losses, too. Wrestling fans here will long remember all of this and more when they think back on the career of Quentin Wright.

There are so many memories for Wright. He was pulled out of what was to be a redshirt season his freshman year and went on to earn All-American honors. He saw a coaching change. He met the love of his life, Lauren Woodring, at a Penn State football game and married her this past summer. (They are expecting their first child, a boy, in June). He has won a national title and lost another title match in a heartbreaker to a childhood friend. He has suffered injuries, battled through tough times in and out of the wrestling room, met and influenced literally hundreds of others lives. His collegiate career ended on March 23 when he defeated Kent State’s Dustin Kilgore, 8-6, to win his second national title and clinch Penn State’s third consecutive national championship. Through it all — all of the challenges and all of the glories — there has been one guiding light.

His career was one of the most anticipated at Penn State when he came out of Bald Eagle Area in 2008 as a three-time PIAA state finalist and two-time state champion. Fans had been following him since his elementary school days in State College, and so many were looking forward to seeing what he could accomplish at Penn State.

He accomplished a great deal and made an impact on what’s now considered the dominant program in college wrestling. He will go down as one of the best and unquestionably one of the most popular wrestlers to ever don the Penn State singlet.

“I just hope they remember how exciting and fun it was,” Wright says of his legions of fans. “I hope they enjoyed not knowing what I was going to hit or what was coming next. I didn’t want the fans to be bored, I wanted to give them that excitement. I’ve tried to make it a point to make it enjoyable for the fans to watch.”

He has always competed with joy.

“It doesn’t take a lot to make him smile,” Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson says, “and those are the kinds of kids you want and need in and around your program.”

That joy comes from an inner peace.

Jim Buchy, youth pastor at Christ Community Church, which Wright attended while growing up, says, “What makes Quentin special is how his faith and his beliefs drive him to be successful in everything he does. He just exudes the things that are important to him. I remember at states his senior year, people were commenting about  how Quentin was the one wrestler who was always smiling and always seemed to be in a good mood. And even though he was competing and it was intense, he had this joy and happiness — and that comes from his faith. It just gives him this strength to approach everything in life with confidence and joy.”

“My faith is really everything for me,” states Wright. “To me, wrestling is kind of an act of worship. When I’m out there wrestling, it’s a time just between me and God where it’s something special.”

Before every match he wrestled since he was a little boy, Wright’s mom, Nola, would say to him — these days via text message — “Wrestle with the strength of Samson, the courage of King David, and the wisdom of King Solomon”

Wright tries to adhere to his mother’s wishes by praising God through his work on the mat.

“He’s put this desire to wrestle in me and it brings me joy,” Wright explains. “Whenever I wrestle my best, I feel that I’m honoring Him. If I hold something back, I’m a little disappointed. But even then, it’s a learning process. To me, wrestling is a way to grow my faith where sometimes I’ll be out there and I’ll get this feeling to try a certain move, and if I think about it, I’m like, ‘This is crazy. This won’t work.’ But then I’ll just trust my faith and I’ll go for it and the next thing you know, it’s a five-point throw. So, a lot of it is just listening to the inner voice inside of me, and

I think that’s just my faith. That’s my act of worship toward God, trusting in what He has given me and allowing it to come through.”

Wright’s head coach says his senior has certainly made good use of the tools God gave him.

“He’s had a ton of success and he’s fun to watch wrestle,” Sanderson enthuses. “He knows how to turn it on at the right times. This year has been his most consistent year. It obviously has been on the mat, but it’s also just his attitude and the way he’s been working in the room. He’s an extreme talent and he can do anything, really, on the mat. He can ride hard if he needs to, he can throw, he’s got great shots, his counteroffense is amazing, so people don’t take a lot of shots on him. He’s just got the whole package.”

While respecting God is the driving force in his wrestling and his life, Wright also believes that respect may be the word that best sums up his career.

Wright has picked up a lot of pins in his career — he ranks second on the all-time charts at Penn State with 36. After each of those pins, Wright has stayed down on the mat on a knee until his opponent rises. It is a show of respect he learned at a wrestling camp when he was in elementary school.

Doug Blubaugh, the 1960 Olympic gold medalist for the United States in freestyle wrestling, had been at one of the clinics Wright attended, and he told the campers to always show respect for your opponent by staying on a knee on the mat until he rises after a pin. It was a lesson Wright took to heart.

“I really think if you give respect, it will be shown to you,” the four-time All- American asserts. “I really try to make a note to myself to always respect my opponents. Wrestling is just a game — you have winners and losers and everyone can always try again tomorrow. So I try to really respect all of my opponents. With Penn State fans, I think they’ve enjoyed the moments I’ve given them but also the fact that when I lose, I don’t freak out — or at least I don’t show it out on the mat. I think fans in general respect the fact that win or lose, you conduct yourself in a way that shows respect to yourself, the sport, and your opponent. I try to give that respect both when I beat people and when I don’t. I think people respect that. You always want to be the man, but some days, it’s just not your day and you just have to realize that. Today may be his day, and you have to respect that. But then you have to make up your mind that it won’t be his day tomorrow. That’s the attitude you have to keep, and just keep working to get better every day.”

Although he has enjoyed a wildly successful college wrestling career, he’s excited about what his future holds.

“I’m looking forward to becoming a father, and, in the short term, that’s very exciting,” the senior surmises. “My major is human resources and employment relations with a double major in business management. So my goal is to eventually be a human-resource director for a multi- million dollar company, because the culture of respect that we’ve developed on our team is something I want to spread out into the business world and be part of a good company with a great culture, teaching people kind of how to respect each other and figure out ways to solve problems. Those are things I like to do.

“I’d also like to be a professor at Penn State or something down the road. I like teaching. So, there are a lot of different avenues I’d like to pursue. In the immediate future, I’d like to join the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club and wrestle through 2016. You never know and I’ll take it one year at a time, but right now those are some of the things I’m thinking about, some of the goals that I have. I want to wrestle out my career and take care of the little one for now. I’m just loving my life and the people I meet every day. I’m enjoying my faith and the opportunities my faith brings.” 

 



Jeff Byers has been the wrestling team’s traveling announcer since 1990.
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