Big Ten

Quentin Wright Delivered When Penn State Needed Him Most

Quentin Wright Delivered When Penn State Needed Him Most

Quentin Wright’s 2011 revenge tour culminated with Cael Sanderson’s first NCAA team title as Penn State’s head coach.

Jun 19, 2023 by Kyle Klingman
Quentin Wright Delivered When Penn State Needed Him Most

How is this for an improbable ending? 

You enter the Big Ten Championships seeded eighth with a 13-6 record after getting pinned during the final dual of the season. You win the Big Ten Championships, which gives your team a one-point win over Iowa.

You enter the NCAA Championships seeded ninth and win all five matches, becoming Cael Sanderson’s first NCAA champion as the head coach at Penn State. Your victory also fuels the Nittany Lions to their first NCAA team title since 1953 and the first during Sanderson’s tenure. 

If your name is Quentin Wright, then that’s the story of your sophomore season at Penn State. 

“I’m (Cael’s) first (NCAA champion) only because David Taylor and Frank Molinaro lost,” Wright said.

Wright is right. Taylor and Molinaro — eventual NCAA champions and Olympians — lost in the finals that year. So did eventual three-time NCAA champion and World teamer Ed Ruth, who lost in the quarterfinals and came back for third. 

For Wright, it was part of a tumultuous season that saw him lose six times but avenge five of those losses at the Big Ten Championships and the NCAA tournament. The season started with a 4-3 loss to Lehigh’s Robert Hamlin during a Nov. 14, 2010, dual, then it derailed when he tore his AC joint during the finals of the Nittany Lion Open on Dec. 4. 

The Wingate, Pennsylvania, native was out for six weeks, which included the Southern Scuffle. Penn State and Cornell tied for first, but Wright’s participation might have led to a stand-alone victory.

“I was miserable with how I was wrestling and I hated my wrestling self because I was trying to (wrestle like) Cael Sanderson,” Wright said. “I was having problems at home and school work is tough — and now I’m with one arm. I’m busted. I’m broken. All I could do is move forward.”

Moving forward meant changing his perspective. He went from trying to emulate his coach to wrestling his own style. 

“I had a conversation with myself,” Wright said. “If I’m going to lose, I’m going lose my way going forward. My philosophy changed. I have a blast double and I like to throw people, so that’s what I’m going to do.”

Wright ended the regular season on a three-match losing streak and lost to Iowa’s Grant Gambrall during a home dual on Jan. 30, 2011. The Hawkeyes handed Penn State a 22-13 loss — the only dual setback on the season. 

“I went into the Big Ten tournament with the strategy of not letting anyone take me down, get one takedown, and get off from the bottom,” Wright said. “And that’s what I did. I had a few calls go my way but sometimes you get lucky.”

No team wins a title alone, but Wright’s contributions made the ultimate difference — especially since he wasn’t expected to win either tournament. Penn State defeated Iowa by a point at the Big Ten Championships and Cornell by 14 points at the NCAA Championships.

None of that would have happened without Wright’s championship runs at both tournaments.

Quentin Wright’s 2010-11 vindication tour
LOST to Robert Hamlin (Lehigh), 4-3, on Nov. 14, 2010 (dual)
WON over Robert Hamlin (Lehigh), 5-2, on March 20, 2011 (NCAA finals)

LOST to Grant Gambrall (Iowa), 8-3, on January 30, 2011 (dual)
WON over Grant Gambrall (Iowa), FALL 3:53, on March 19, 2011 (NCAA semis)

LOST to Tony Dallago (Illinois), 8-7, on February 11, 2011 (dual)
WON over Tony Dallago (Illinois), 8-5, on March 5, 2011 (Big 10 semis)

LOST to Kevin Steinhaus (Minnesota), 10-1, on February 13, 2011 (dual)
WON over Kevin Steinhaus (Minnesota), 4-3, on March 6, 2011 (Big Ten finals)
WON over Kevin Steinhaus (Minnesota), 8-4, on March 17, 2011 (NCAA R16)

LOST to Travis Rutt (Wisconsin), FALL 4:41, on Feb. 18, 2011 (dual)
WON over Travis Rutt (Wisconsin), 4-3, on March 5, 2022 (Big Ten quarters)

Quentin Wright’s 2011 Big Ten Championships (seeded eighth)
R16: WON - Hunter Collins (Michigan), 10-2
Quarters: WON - Travis Rutt (Wisconsin), 4-3
Semis: WON - Tony Dallago (Illinois), 8-5
Finals: WON - Kevin Steinhaus (Minnesota), 4-3

Quentin Wright’s 2011 NCAA Championships (seeded ninth)
R32: WON - Jon Fausey (Virginia), 8-4
R16: WON - Kevin Steinhaus (Minnesota), 8-4
Quarters: WON - Chris Honeycutt (Edinboro), 7-3
Semis: WON - Grant Gambrall (Iowa), FALL 3:53
Finals: WON - Robert Hamlin (Lehigh), 5-2

2010 Southern Scuffle Results
T1: Penn State - 151.5 pts.
T1: Cornell - 151.5 pts.
3: Oregon State - 132.5 pts.
4: Michigan - 132.0 pts.
5: Minnesota - 126.5 pts.
6: Kent State - 76.0 pts.
7: Edinboro - 72.0 pts.
8: Penn - 71.5 pts.
T9: Hofstra - 65.5 pts.
T9: Virginia - 65.5 pts.

Iowa 22, Penn State 13 — January 30, 2011
125: Matt McDonough (IOWA) pinned Nathan Morgan (PSU), WBF (4:16) 0-6
133: Tony Ramos (IOWA) dec. Andrew Long (PSU), 3-2 0-9
141: Montell Marion (IOWA) dec. Andrew Alton (PSU), 11-9 0-12
149: Frank Molinaro (PSU) dec. Mark Ballweg (IOWA), 10-3 3-12
157: David Taylor (PSU) maj. dec. Derek St. John (IOWA), 12-4 7-12
165: Aaron Janssen (IOWA) dec. Jake Kemerer (PSU), 6-2 7-15
174: Ed Ruth (PSU) dec. Ethan Lofthouse (IOWA), 10-3 10-15
184: Grant Gambrall (IOWA) dec. Quentin Wright (PSU), 8-3 10-18
197: Luke Lofthouse (IOWA) maj. dec. Justin Ortega (PSU), 17-6 10-22
285: Cameron Wade (PSU) dec. Blake Raising (IOWA), 1-0 13-22

2011 Big Ten Championships
1: Penn State - 139.0
2: Iowa - 138.0
3: Minnesota - 109.5
4: Wisconsin - 103.5
5: Michigan - 86.5
6: Illinois - 64.0
7: Northwestern - 62.0
8: Ohio State - 57.0
9: Purdue - 51.0
10: Indiana - 50.0
11: Michigan State - 49.5

2011 NCAA Championships
1: Penn State - 107.5
2: Cornell - 93.5
3: Iowa - 86.5
4: Oklahoma State - 70.5
5: American - 65
6: Arizona State - 62.5
7: Minnesota - 61
8: Lehigh - 68.5
9: Boise State - 57.5
10: Wisconsin - 54.5

Penn State’s 2011 NCAA tournament line-up
125: Brad Pataky, DNP
133: Andrew Long, 3rd
141: Andrew Alton, R12
149: Frank Molinaro, 2nd
157: David Taylor, 2nd
165: DNQ
174: Ed Ruth, 3rd
184: Quentin Wright, 1st
197: DNQ
285: Cameron Wade, R12