The 2022 college wrestling national championships are over … but the great...
Rested Jenkins ready to lead his way at Arizona State
By Mike Finn
Bubba Jenkins doesn’t mind the pressures of competing on the NCAA Division I level. The Arizona State wrestler just wanted a break.
After earning an All-American honor as a true sophomore wrestler at Penn State in 2008, when he lost in the 149-pound finals to Iowa’s Hodge Trophy winner Brent Metcalf, the native of Virginia Beach, Va., suffered through injuries in 2009 and went 0-2 at the NCAAs in St. Louis as the No. 2 seed in a very competitive weight class. One year later, Jenkins felt he needed a break, but the Nittany Lions — and new head coach Cael Sanderson — needed Jenkins to provide senior leadership during a coaching-transition season and to a team looking for a leader who had been successful.
That never happened as Jenkins eventually left the Penn State program.
“I felt like I did have a lot of pressure on me,” Jenkins recalled. “There were a lot of times when the team needed points here and there. (They) needed me in the line-up when I felt like I should have been redshirting. That weighed on me and the injuries seemed to keep piling up.”
Near the end of last spring, Jenkins, who was 73-21 at Penn State, headed to the warmth of Tempe, Ariz., and a more laid-back approach of the Sun Devil coaching staff, led by recently-hired Shawn Charles.
“I feel that I do well under pressure and like the pressure that I have here by coming in as an NCAA finalist, someone they really wanted and recruited once I was released by Penn State,” Jenkins said. “There is more pressure here but it is more comfortable. It’s the kind of pressure that I like; my kind of pressure.
“I didn’t necessarily need a fresh start. I needed a redshirt year where I could get recharged after feeling burned out from competing in such a tough division since I was 18. I needed to sit down and regroup. I didn’t necessarily feel that I had to go some place else to do that. Now that I have it, I’m grateful for it. It’s definitely helped me open up a lot more now.”
Jenkins also showed his new teammates not to let little setbacks get in your way in causing you to lose focus for the next match.
He did not open his career in spectacular fashion and in fact got beat by Embry-Riddle’s Tyler Chang, the No. 2-ranked NAIA wrestler, on the first day of the season, Nov. 13. But instead of feeling sorry for himself, Jenkins responded two weeks later with an impressive 12-4 major decision against Boise State’s top-ranked Adam Hall at the NWCA All-Star Classic in Fresno, Calif.
“I think it was important to let everyone know that I am going to keep wrestling, regardless of what happens prior,” said Jenkins, whose cement-mixer throw put the Bronco on his back. “I’m going to keep wrestling and fighting. It was a big win for our school.
“I don’t care how many I lose. It’s the next match that counts, whether it’s a nobody or against the No. 1 guy. I will continue to fight and my team should as well.”