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Inspired by setbacks

NC standout Quintanilla says ‘I needed those losses’ and vows to refocus

North Central's Izaec Quintanilla, left, a returning State 3A champion, takes control of teammate Bryson Pierce during practice. (Dan Pelle)
North Central's Izaec Quintanilla, left, a returning State 3A champion, takes control of teammate Bryson Pierce during practice. (Dan Pelle)

Izaec Quintanilla had the option of dropping a weight class at the challenging Rumble tournament near Salt Lake City last weekend.

By doing so, the North Central junior would have most likely kept his 60-match winning streak and undefeated record this season intact. Instead, he chose to compete at 160 pounds with a possible semifinal match against the defending Greco national champion.

A State 3A champion last year, Quintanilla had that fateful showdown, and the Greco national champ scored a third-period pin. Then Quintanilla faced off with a three-time state champ from Colorado for third and fourth places, and the NC standout fell 7-2.

Izaec Quintanilla (pronounced I-zay-ic kent-a-nezzia), whose parents were born in Guam, will be a much better wrestler for not backing away from the challenges last weekend. And pity the poor souls in his weight class in Washington that run up against him in the final month of the season.

“I hate losing,” Quintanilla wanted to establish right off. “But I needed those losses to see what I need to work on. Now I’ll refocus, train a little harder and have an edge. I expect to go into state and dominate.

“I’ve wrestled against the best in the nation and I know what I have to do.”

Quintanilla wasn’t a natural at wrestling immediately. In fact, his parents put him in the sport to work off extra energy.

“I was very hyper,” said Quintanilla, who started when he was 5. “My parents hoped it would calm me down. I hated it at first. I started loving it about the fifth grade. At first I didn’t like the other kids being aggressive.”

Now Quintanilla is the aggressor.

“He’s the full package,” NC coach Luke Leifer said. “He’s a good citizen and has good character, and he’s an outstanding leader. You wouldn’t know how nice a kid off the mat he is because he’s so aggressive on the mat. He’s pretty brutal on kids.”

And he’s finally healthy. Last year, Quintanilla competed with a torn labrum in his right shoulder and one on the verge of tearing in his left.

“It was painful. It probably popped out 30 times,” Quintanilla said.

It happened most often in practice. At state, he wore a brace. It limited his arsenal.

“I couldn’t extend my arm on shots,” Quintanilla said.

He started this year wearing the brace but quickly discarded it because it wasn’t comfortable.

“He’s back to where he was before the injury,” Leifer said.

Quintanilla had surgery last summer and rehabbed the left shoulder. He had to miss the junior national Greco and freestyle tournaments in Fargo, N.D.

That was good as far as Leifer is concerned.

“He wrestles nonstop,” Leifer said. “The summer going into his junior year after nationals, I told him to take the month of August off and we’d get going again when school started. A month later I found out his parents had taken him to four camps.”

Quintanilla, who is 98-11 overall, readily admits he lost to a better wrestler in the semifinals last weekend. But he also pointed out that he’s light for his weight class. He could easily cut to 152 but decided to be at 160 for the team. The Indians have another quality wrestler, Cody Kiourkas, at 152.

When Quintanilla squared off against the national champ, he figures he was giving up 10-15 pounds.

“He was really big for that class,” Quintanilla said. “I’m really light. I don’t have to cut weight. I’m usually under weight.”

There’s another key reason why Quintanilla decided to wrestle up this year.

“I like to eat,” he said.

Of course he’s a healthy eater. Being up allows him to eat bigger portions of vegetables, fruits and proteins.

He finished 43-1 last year. His loss came in a season-opening tournament. He avenged that loss the following weekend when he won at Tri-State. He repeated at Tri-State last month.

“I was a changed wrestler after that early loss,” Quintanilla said.

Quintanilla is ranked No. 1 in the state at 160 pounds. His brother, Clai, a freshman, is ranked No. 1 at 106.

Leifer marvels at the older brother’s abilities.

“He’s got God-given talents,” Leifer said. “He’s got quicks you can’t teach, and amazing technique and speed.”

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