ATLANTIC CITY – It’s not easy to become a state champion.
To reach the top step of the podium at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall a wrestler goes through years of arduous work. Intense six-minute bouts are worlds easier than the daily workouts in rooms that have walls drenched with sweat and an odor that can best be described as off-putting.
“Don’t believe for a second it’s easy,” said Kingsway head coach Mike Barikian, who knew full well why that thought would enter anyone’s mind on Sunday afternoon. “It’s not and, even though we all know it’s not, he can make it look that way.
“The fact is he has a drive that’s unmatched. He uses competition to make himself better. All I know is when he comes back next winter break after working out with the level of intensity that is (in the Ohio State wrestling room), I may not be able to wrestle with him.”
Of course, Barikian is talking about Kingsway senior Quinn Kinner, who on Sunday won for the 168th time in his career to lock up his second state title, this an 11-2 win at 138 pounds over Ocean Township’s Jake Benner. Benner, by the way, won a state title last season and his victory on this day may have been he never looked at the ceiling of the Hall.
“I knew he was a tough wrestler,” said Kinner, who is the top-ranked wrestler at 138 pounds in the country and went an impressive 5-0 this weekend with a pair of pins and a tech fall. “I knew he would choose top when he got the chance. My coaches knew he would choose top when he got the chance and I even looked at them and smiled when he did.
“Right now, I feel comfortable in any position. I just believe in myself and that I’m the best on top in the country, I’m best in neutral in the country and I’m best on bottom. I’ve worked hard to get to this place.”
On a day almost every wrestler looked a bit battered and bloodied, Kinner’s comfort level came across as he answered question with nary a hair out of place. All of which belies the fact he’s as competitive as anyone in the building every day of the week.
“He’s up for any challenge,” Barikian said. “You talk to him and you know he loves this sport. He loves the tactics, the matches, the practices. He’s a special kid.”
Kinner is also sentimental, fully aware that this stage of his life is now over.
“This has been the best four years of my life,” Kinner said. “This is really bittersweet. Luckily, I can go out the way I wanted to and did today.”
Quinn Kinner in charge of the 138-pound final on Sunday afternoon. Photo courtesy of Joe Warner
Kingsway senior Quinn Kinner raises his arms after winning his second straight state title. Photo courtesy Joe Warner.
Quinn Kinner gets in deep on Ocean Township's Jake Benner in the 138-pound final. Photo courtesy Joe Warner