Pennell Speaks Out

Jan. 29, 2004

When Oregon State wrestles against Wyoming on Saturday at 2 p.m. in Gill Coliseum, it will be the final home meet for Beaver 174-pounder Jed Pennell. Last weekend, Pennell moved onto OSU's all-time top 50 lists for career wins and career pins; he's 63-40 with 13 pins at Oregon State.

Pennell was named the Pacific-10 Newcomer of the Year as a freshman, going 17-12, placing fifth in the Pacific-10 and qualifying for the NCAA Championships. As a sophomore, he was 18-13 but slipped to sixth in the Pac-10 and didn't reach the NCAAs.

His junior year found Pennell behind Matt Ellis at 165 pounds, but when Dan Pitsch suffered an injury in mid-January, Pennell moved up to the 184-pound class; his first weekend there saw him pin his first opponent and then beat a nationally-ranked wrestler the next night. He went on to place second in the Pac-10 and had an 11-9 record - all while still weighing in at 165 for most of the season to retain the chance that he could move back to that weight.

Pennell goes into his Gill Coliseum finale riding an eight-match winning streak; so far this season he's 17-6 with six pins. He's also a three-time Pacific-10 All-Academic first team honoree, and last season he was named to the District VIII All-Academic first team.Earlier this week, Pennell shared his thoughts on his career with Kip Carlson of the OSU Sports Information Office.

Q: You've had an up-and-down career - do you look back on how it's gone sometimes and wonder how all that came to pass?

PENNELL: Up-and-down is kind of a nice way of saying I'm inconsistent. That's what I've had trouble with all along. I come into the practice room and get beat by everybody, basically, but come match time I seem to be ready most of the time. I think if I'd been able to practice better in my career, it might have helped me.

Q: Have you learned some things from the inconsistency during the last three seasons that you can put to use during this last half-season?

PENNELL: I'd like to think so.

Q: You're on an eight-match win streak, the longest of your career - is that a sign you're gaining a little of that consistency?

PENNELL: It's a sign that the second half of our schedule is easier than the first. But the only way to think is positively - of course it's a sign.

Q: Even when things weren't going great for you on the mat, you still looked like you enjoyed wrestling and you were putting the effort out there.

PENNELL: That's definitely fair to say. It's not all about fun, but it's been fun along the way. I just enjoy it - being with the team, the camaraderie of it, working hard and getting good workouts.

Q: What do you enjoy most about the sport?

PENNELL: Definitely the competition - traveling, getting to compete. Not the practice.

Q: Assistant coach Jeff Cardwell once said the trick with you is to let you know a ways ahead that you're going to be competing. True?

PENNELL: Yeah - having a goal, something to shoot for. Every day, coming to practice, sometimes you don't see the light at the end of the tunnel. Especially at this point of the season - it feels like a long, long season with all the practice, but having the competition and getting up for that is what keeps the tempo of the season going.

Q: It must have been tough last season when you were behind Matt Ellis at 165 pounds and Dan Pitsch hadn't been hurt yet to open up the spot at 184 pounds - you're on the bench there for a while; what keeps you going then?

PENNELL: I wasn't going, so when I had that opening, that was like the beginning of my season right there. It wasn't hard to get it going then - you're fresh and ready to go. Everybody else is in the long haul, and I'm just excited to be wrestling; I wanted to hold on to it. I thrive for the competition of it, so once I could get on the mat and was able to compete, that was great.

Q: You were still weighing in at 165 pounds most of the time that you were wrestling at 184 pounds - was it kind of fun being an underdog like that?

PENNELL: I've always done well in underdog situations; it's worked to my benefit. I don't necessarily think it's having the pressure of being ranked, but I like being the underdog. In high school, when I won my first state championship I was the underdog. Coming here my freshman year, a lot of the big matches I won I was the underdog.

Q: What's kicked it into gear for this team lately?

PENNELL: We've come together. I can't really put my finger on what it's been, but that's how you want it to be, everybody coming together and stepping up at the right time. It's the guys' effort, and everybody's been putting out more effort.

Q: Oregon State finished the dual season strong last year, as well, but didn't do as well as it had hoped in the postseason. Were some lessons learned from that?

PENNELL: We'll see. Nothing's a given.

Q: Any thoughts on going into your last meet at Gill Coliseum?

PENNELL: I'm going to miss it. We have a real loyal following - not the biggest of everywhere, but good sized. Compared to the rest of the Pac-10, we have one of the biggest fan bases.

Q: When you were growing up, did you follow OSU wrestling much? Does it mean anything to be on the school's career leaders lists with some of those names?

PENNELL: It's an honor and a privilege. I can't say that I followed it too much, but I came to some OSU meets when I was in high school, and a couple at Oregon. The first big meet I watched was with John Smith when they wrestled the Russian team at Gill Coliseum in the late 1980s - I was like 9 or 10. I got John Smith's autograph and a T-shirt. It's been something to go from watching John Smith to competing against his guys (he's now the head coach at Oklahoma State) and shaking his hand after a match.

Q: What's next for you after the wrestling season ends?

PENNELL: Wrestling-wise, it will probably be the end of my competitive years but I might go into coaching. I've applied for the masters of teaching program here at Oregon State, so I'll probably end up doing that for another year and getting my masters degree and then teach probably secondary education and maybe coach.

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