C.J. Cobb made a splash last season. Now, he’s ready to reign.
The junior Penn wrestling captain is coming off a stellar season — his first full campaign — in which he ripped off a team-high 25 wins and posted an 11-2 record in dual meets.
The Williamstown, N.J. native is fearless and confident — as reflected by his performance on the biggest stages his sophomore year. Last season, the 141-pounder was the Keystone Classic champion, the runner-up at the EIWA championships and an NCAA qualifier in his weight class. Cobb also led Penn last season with seven wins against top-20 opponents.
“He’s one of the most talented people we have on the team,” fellow captain Andrew Lenzi said.
Cobb’s success last season caught many by surprise, as he entered the year coming off a knee injury that had forced him to miss the majority of his freshman season. He wrestled with a chip on his shoulder — Cobb was out to prove himself and move up in the ranks.
“We knew we had something special in C.J. last year,” coach Rob Eiter said.
Cobb enters this season as the third ranked wrestler in his bracket and a respected team leader, quietly shouldering the burdens that come with rapid success.
He has a new perspective on his wrestling — one of a smarter, more experienced grappler.
“I don’t really care so much about rankings and what people think about me,” Cobb said. “I’ve realized that I can beat anybody in my weight class. I can compete with anybody.”
Even in this preseason, Cobb has faced plenty of competition.
Cobb’s freshman year roommate, junior Jeff Canfora, has bulked up to 141 pounds in an effort to unseat Cobb from his starting spot. A unanimous First Team all-Ivy selection at his old weightclass of 133 pounds, Canfora has pushed Cobb all offseason while the two have trained together.
The captain realizes that there is still room for improvement.
“I did well last year, but I wasn’t at the top of my game,” Cobb said. “There were a lot of matches I lost that I shouldn’t have lost.”
Another way Cobb has changed for the better as both a person and a wrestler is by focusing more on academics.
“I’ve started to focus a lot more on school,” Cobb, a computer science major, said. “Personally, something that would really hold me back [before] was I would overthink things. Now, I’ve become so busy with [school] that I don’t have time to overthink things. I don’t have time to worry. And it’s really benefitted my wrestling a lot.”
Earlier this year, Eiter felt it would benefit Penn wrestling to name Cobb, an “all-encompassing Ivy athlete,” captain.
“His wrestling skills are natural and so are his leadership skills,” Eiter said. “He’s got that X-factor. It was natural to make him a captain.”
As captain, Cobb has preached the idea of focus and dedication in all aspects of life — whether it is academics or athletics. At the same time, the junior has stressed leading by example.
“[Speaking] doesn’t motivate people as much as when you lead by example,” Cobb said. “As a captain, I try to win the sprints, and when I wrestle in the room, I just try to wrestle hard with whoever I’m wrestling with. I just try to lead by example on and off the mat.”
Similar to the balance Cobb has found in the classroom and on the mat, CJ and fellow captain Andrew Lenzi’s different leadership styles complement each other nicely.
“We have very different personalities,” Lenzi said. “He’s more laid back, and I’m more intense. I think we work very well together as captains.”
Much praise has been given to Cobb for his skill, leadership and determination as a young wrestler, and consequently, expectations are sky high.
“We’re expecting All-American,” said Eiter. “He should be expecting that as well.”
With Cobb’s refined, focused mindset, don’t doubt it.
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