Mercury All-Area: Owen J. Roberts' Quinn uses style all his own on way to PIAA medal stand

by Jeff Stover, Pottstown Mercury

Posted on April 9, 2020

Article originally appeared here:

He has a wrestling style that defies classification.

Categorization aside, Connor Quinn's approach to life on the mats has worked quite well for him. It helped the Owen J. Roberts senior wrap up his final scholastic season in a big way ... a campaign highlighted by his first state-level medal and selection as the 2019-20 Mercury All-Area Wrestler of the Year.

Quinn's farewell season included championships in the District 1-AAA North and South East AAA Regional tournaments, capped by a fifth-place finish in the PIAA Class AAA bracket's 160-pound competition. It was all part of a 34-5 year whose .872 win percentage was the highest of his four varsity seasons - three of them as a member of the OJR program, following a freshman season at Malvern Prep.

And it was secured by a wrestling style Quinn described with such adjectives as "untraditional," "unorthodox" and just plain "funky."

"Whatever feels best at the time," Quinn explained. "I don't select a move. I go with the flow. It's not how strong you are, it's your wrestling IQ."

His head coach, Steve DeRafelo, likened Quinn's style to "a kid wrestling in his living room."

"He has a unique feel for the sport," DeRafelo said, "and the confidence to wrestle that way. It's frustrating to watch, but fun to coach."

Use of his hips, in tandem with employment of an "elevator" move, is at the core of Quinn's strategy. It played a big part in his inspired post-season, during which he scored victories over every opponent who had previously bested him during the winter.

The run started at the South East AAA Regional when Quinn scored a 4-3 decision of Council Rock North's Dillon Sheehy, who had edged him at the Jan 4. Rock Yard Duals, in the quarterfinal round. Sheehy, a returning regional champion, was part of a power-packed 160-pound bracket that included another regional champ, a regional runner-up and a two-time state qualifier.

Quinn then got the better of Bellefonte's Ethan Richner in the PIAA Class AAA States' blood round, posting a 5-3 decision to answer Richner's two previous victories in December's King of the Mountain and Buckskin Classics. His ultimate moment of glory came in the fifth-place bout at states, when Quinn rallied from a four-point deficit against nationally-ranked Luca Augustine of Waynesburg Central, forcing an overtime situation that saw him post an 11-7 sudden victory one day after Augustine won their quarterfinal pairing, 7-5.

"I saw how he (Augustine) attacked people, and there was a way to elevator him," Quinn recalled. "The second time, there was a different game plan. He didn't use the headlock. I hit him with the elevator twice."

"He did that on back-to-back weeks," DeRafelo added. "In the regional semifinal, he was down 7-2. He's never out of a match."

Adding luster to Quinn's accomplishments were the injury situations with which he had to contend.

Tearing a labrum in his shoulder during his junior year, Quinn underwent surgery two weeks after the season ended. But he suffered a setback during the Jan. 4 Rock Yard Duals and was held out of action until Roberts' Jan. 22 match with Spring-Ford, missing PAC Liberty duals with Boyertown and Norristown, the league's individual tournament and the prestigious Escape the Rock competition at Council Rock South.

"When it first happened, I was in the middle of a match," Quinn recalled. "When I came off, I felt the same pain as when I tore the labrum. Sometimes working out, some motions hurt it. The pain level ranged from seven to 10.

"It took a little bit to get it out of my head and push through."

"Wrestling the way he does, it always put you at risk," DeRafelo said. "He lets it go, puts himself in that position. He's a competitor who lets it fly."

Undergoing preventive rehabilitation (loosening of the shoulder) on a daily basis got Quinn through the season. He then allowed a week to let the shoulder cool down and recover.

Another obstacle in Quinn's post-season came in the regionals' semifinal round, when he sustained a sprained ankle while wrestling Bensalem's Talon Pisarchuk. He went on to post a 9-7 overtime decision, then claimed his first South East AAA title in a 7-3 decision of Lower Merion's James Lledo.

"He decided to wrestle the finals," DeRafelo recalled. "It was all on him."

Among Quinn's other credits this year was hitting the 134-win mark for his scholastic career, tied for sixth place in the Owen J. program and 134th in The Mercury coverage area. In the course of his state-tournament run, he scored a 6-5 decision on Carlisle's Colton Zimmerman, himself a fifth-place state medalist the previous year.

"My obvious goal was to be on top of the podium at Hershey," he said. "What I did under the circumstances was big."

"I think he was very much under the radar," DeRafelo added. "Injuries kept him out of the lineup two years. In a lot of ways, people didn't get the see the best of him because he wasn't fully healthy."

Quinn's involvement in wrestling started with Norchester Wildcats Wrestling, for whom he participated until Grade 6. He then competed for the Owen J. Roberts Middle School team for two years, transferring to Malvern Prep for a freshman campaign that saw him go 42-10 competing primarily between 113 and 126.

Connor's development in the sport was influenced by a unique family dynamic: Both his parents competed in the sport.

His father, Matt, wrestled scholastically for Pioneer (Mich.) High School and collegiately at Eastern Michigan, Missouri Valley and Kutztown universities. His mother, Angela - she attended the University of Michigan after one year at the United States Naval Academy - was a member of the United States' National Team in 1997-98.

"It was unique, having a mom and dad who wrestled," he said. Quinn recalled how Angela would be in his corner at youth matches while Matt was with his brother at another match.

"People must have thought it strange, her being in my corner, until they saw she knew what she was talking about," he said.
While Angela advised Connor on nutrition, dieting and the sport's mental aspects, Matt offered timely guidance as he progressed through wrestling.

"He never let me sell myself short," Quinn recalled. "He had high standards, and told me to work to be where I wanted to be. He was always was honest with me, whether I did bad or good."

Quinn's future plans are to wrestle in college. Nothing is definite at present, though he's aiming to make a decision around mid-May.

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