11/21/12 — Rosewood's Quillen must keep focus while on the mat

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Rosewood's Quillen must keep focus while on the mat

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 21, 2012 9:53 PM

Nick Quillen has reached the pinnacle of his sport. The trick now is to stay there.

The Rosewood High senior grappler carries the bulls-eye on his back after capturing the 120-pound gold medal during the 2012 N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 1-A wrestling championships. Quillen became the first Wayne County wrestler to claim a state crown since Charles B. Aycock alum Ngu Tran in 2007.

"I just have to stay focused and not be happy about last year," Quillen said. "I'm looking forward to doing the same thing this year. I know that everybody is watching me."

Watching, indeed.

There have been 22 individuals among five county schools -- Goldsboro, Southern Wayne, Eastern Wayne, Aycock and Rosewood -- to combine for 27 state championships in four classifications since 1952.

Should Quillen successfully defend his state crown next February in Greensboro, he'll become just the second two-time state champion in Rosewood athletics history, and the sixth overall in Wayne County lore.

According to the NCHSAA, just four Wayne County wrestlers -- Irvin Hales, Phil Ellis, Bill Rutledge and Lester King -- have won consecutive state titles. The trio battled for Goldsboro High in the late 1950s and 1960s.

Quillen doesn't think much about history. In fact, he's not quite sure what goals Rosewood head coach Bill Edmundson has in mind for him.

The soft-spoken, dominating competitor carries a 61-match win streak into this season. He has 161 career victories and could become just the second county wrestler to either reach -- or break -- the 200-win plateau set by Eastern Wayne alum Chris Tesar, who graduated in 2007.

Those are all nice accolades, no doubt.

"We haven't had much time to sit down and talk about it because of football team being in the playoffs," Quillen said. "I just know I've got to stay on top, work hard and try to win another state championship."

Quillen attended summer camp at North Carolina State and wrestled in the annual Super 32 tournament. He picked up on a few things and realized he needed improvement wrestling in a neutral (standing) position.

New Rosewood assistant coach Marc Bascelli, who wrestled in Pennsylvania, has taken Quillen under his wing. Quillen also drills daily in the wrestling room with teammates Sam Drew and Matt Cruz.

"My bottom game is good," Quillen said. "Coach B has been teaching me how to be quicker on my feet, use my hips better and take somebody down to the ground. He's definitely helping me to get better and wrestle at a higher level than last year.

"If I stay strong and healthy at my weight (between 126-132 pounds), I think I'll be able to wrestle well."

And keep on re-writing the record books.