(Quinn Wilson is a 2010 graduate of Riverside High School at Oakland and a member of the Iowa State University wrestling team. This story was written the summer prior to his senior year at Riverside).
Athletics are a year round pursuit for Quinn Wilson of Oakland and so is his commitment to excellence in wrestling.
The Riverside High School senior is a four-sport standout who became hooked on wrestling about the time he started kindergarten. His wrestling seasons almost don’t end. He’s on the mat from the first high school practice in November through his final competition in July. In between, there are informal matches with any teammates he can recruit for wrestling room sparring.
A three-time state qualifier, Wilson placed seventh in 2009. He is approaching his senior season with goals of a 171-pound state championship and a school wins record. His future includes wrestling in college.
Wilson was mentored in wrestling by older brother Cole, a three-time national qualifier at Morningside College, and encouraged by the constant support of parents Dan and Kaliegh Wilson.
“Wrestling kind of came naturally to me. I always had a little talent for it,” Wilson said. That talent produced a lot of victories. He lost fewer than 20 matches from his first kids tournament through middle school.
Along with his collection of trophies and medals, Quinn’s passion for the sport grew. “Once I got into high school I knew I wanted to do it in college,” he said.
The 18-year-old also plays football (wide receiver and nose guard) and baseball (first baseman) and runs track (state qualifier). But of all the sports he has experienced, he thinks wrestling offers unique challenges and benefits.
“Wrestling is the only sport that teaches you more than athletics. It teaches you self-discipline more than any other sport. It pushes you mentally and physically more than any other sport.
“Football is probably right up there next to it. You have to have the mindset that you can do anything. But I think wrestling takes more mental work,” Wilson said.
“I like the challenge. The more hard work you put in the more it pays off and the better it feels when you win that match that you were working for or you win that place at the state tournament you were wanting. It’s a team sport, but at the same time it’s an individual sport. You can go as far as you want as an individual. In football, you can be all-state and never make it to the playoffs. I like being mentally challenged and physically challenged.
“If you’re not prepared you’re probably not going to win. Anyone can beat anyone on any given day, so you have to prepare for every match,” Wilson said.
“I don’t do anything without trying my hardest and setting goals. The least favorite thing I do in sports is probably track. And even there I set goals and I expect myself to do well every time I compete.”
Wilson observes that having a wrestler’s attitude shows in other sports.
“When we’re running sprints or doing pushups in football you can tell who the wrestlers are. We’re always finishing first. In sprints we’ll be the first ones back waiting in line for everyone else. I think it’s more mental. Most people may know they can do it. But they think they can’t. Wrestlers know they can. Wrestlers are mentally challenged at every practice. You have to make it through.”
Wilson credits his coaches for a tough practice and training regimen that produces an “I can” mindset. Head coach Mitch Anderson is assisted by Phil Reed, Aaron Gordon and Alex Oliver.
“During the season on Mondays and Wednesdays we come in early before school for conditioning. Tuesdays and Fridays we come in early and lift. Then we have practice after school. Basically we’re doing two-a-days. During the season we have another practice on Sunday nights. During the summer we try to get a few guys in the wrestling room to do freestyle. There are no coaches here to push you. You’re trying to make yourself better,” Wilson said.
Wilson is a believer in off-season freestyle competition. “We try to get more people to wrestle freestyle because it makes you an all around better wrestler. I personally think it’s fun. It’s more relaxed. You don’t have coaches in the corner. You just go out and wrestle and have fun.”
He qualified for the Junior Nationals Freestyle Tournament in Fargo, North Dakota, but chose not to participate because it would take him away from baseball. He competed in the Iowa Games folkstyle meet instead.
Wilson is also an ardent weight lifter. “I didn’t take lifting seriously until the summer going into my junior year. It really hit me that if you want to be good, be a state champ, you have to lift. I’ve put on a lot more muscle the past two summers. I like lifts that you use your whole body. I like clean squats. I like working my upper body, but you’re legs are where all the power and explosion come from,” Wilson said.
Early success on the mat has continued through high school. He starts the 2009-10 season with 125 wins, which puts him on course to surpass the school’s career wins record of 159 set by Jimmy Rogers in the late 1990s.
Wilson takes an aggressive attitude into his matches. “I’d say 90 percent of the time I get the first takedown.” He prefers the single leg.
And if his opponent scores first? “You might make a mistake and they get the first takedown. It happens. I don’t let the first 20 seconds of a match dictate the next 5 minutes, 40 seconds. Someone might be ahead 6-0 and I’m still trying to win that match. I’m not going to lay down and give up.”
Wilson looks for openings to attack. “I try to notice if they have a cadence in their stance. I try to figure that out. That’s when I take my shot. You’re always thinking, ‘How can I score next?’ ”
The Riverside team is “tight-knit” and parents are supportive, Wilson noted. “Normally after Saturday tournaments we have a get-together. All the parents bring food. Kids sit around, talk and play video games,” he said.
“Occasionally on Sundays, since our assistant coach lives near a rock quarry, we go down there and play hockey. It helps team bonding-wise, getting to know each other. When you play hockey you get to know each other and you get in an excellent workout.”
Wilson has found that the camaraderie extends beyond teammates. There is a degree of mutual respect and friendship among all wrestlers, and that is unique to the sport, he said.
In addition to athletics, this town kid participates in FFA and shows chickens at the county fair. He teaches Sunday school at St. Paul Lutheran Church.
His faith is important, so much so that he proclaims it conspicuously on his tattooed right side: “With God, all things are possible.”
Wilson compiled a 55-1 record en route to the 2010 1-A State Championship at 171.
Red-shirted 2010-11 season at Iowa State University.
2011-12 season: 9-4 record at 174. 1st at Kaye Young Open, 4th at UNI Open, 5 consecutive victories at Harold Nichols/Cyclone Open.
Iowa State University
Riverside High School
class of 2010
High School Wrestling Record
High School Highlights
2010 1-A State Champion
Four-time state qualifier
State place winner
School record: 30 pins
School record: 51 season wins
Qualifier, Junior Nationals Freestyle Tournament
High School Career: 181-34
St. Paul Lutheran Church
Text / Photos Chuck Signs