TROY — In spite of everything, Carlos Quintero never gave up.
“It was pretty tough, but I feel like everything happens for a reason,” the recent Troy High School graduate said.
Quintero, who qualified for this year’s Division I state wrestling tournament only to see it canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic, also nearly saw his chance at continuing his wrestling career vanish when the university he planned on attending abruptly closed permanently. In the end, though, he found another chance in Thomas More University, an NAIA school in Crestview Hills, Kentucky, and the former Trojan will now get to wrestle and play rugby.
“I was originally going to go to Urbana (University),” Quintero said. “This was kind of like a last-minute thing. It feels pretty good. I’m kind of grateful. I’m grateful that I found a good college that will be good for me.”
Quintero had a big senior season for the Trojans last winter wrestling at 160, winning an individual Miami Valley League Championship and then winning his 100th career match in the go-to-state match at the D-I district tournament, eventually placing third and qualifying for the state meet for the first time in his high school career, as well as becoming the first Troy wrestler to qualify since 2014.
But he never got the chance to wrestle there, as that week the tournament was postponed indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic, and then it was eventually canceled. Still, he had a chance to keep wrestling at the next level in college, as he planned on attending Urbana University.
Urbana, however, shockingly announced that it was closing permanently on April 21, citing declining enrollment as well as challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving Quintero looking for a new school.
“There is no worse situation to be in as an athlete than the spot he was,” Troy wrestling coach Doug Curnes said. “He had his season, and he accomplished a ton — but then that abruptly ends. Then your institute of higher learning shuts down, and that’s No. 2, so you’re like, when is strike three coming?”
“I don’t know. I was still in shock because of the pandemic,” Quintero said. “Corona just had my mind in shock, so I didn’t know what to expect. But I didn’t doubt that I’d find another college.”
Through it all, Quintero never gave up hope or stopped trying.
“And that’s him. That’s his personality,” Curnes said. “The way he can adapt and go with the flow … when state got canceled, he said ‘man, this stinks,’ and then there was immediately a smile and ‘we’ll see what happens.’ And the same after Urbana closes. Most of us would have been panicking and throwing things and saying things we shouldn’t have, but he never gets to that point. He’s always calm, cool and collected.”
And he found a home with Thomas More University’s Saints, where he will not only wrestle but also play rugby. During high school, Quintero was a captain on Troy’s club rugby team, the Miami County Bombers.
“It’s good that I found Thomas More, because I’ll be wrestling and playing rugby there, as well,” Quintero said. “Both sports will keep me busy.”
Thomas More also had a few other advantages, making Quintero feel that he’d found the school he was meant to be at.
“It’s not too far away from home,” Quintero said. “My other options were kind of far. I’ve also had upperclassmen buddies that have gone there, and they liked it. It has a good business program, as well, since I’m going to study business management.”
“I’m tickled to death for him. That kid deserves the world,” Curnes said. “I’m glad he’s getting the chance to move on.”
And just in time, too, as Quintero leaves for school in mid-August. But with the pandemic still not contained and many college conferences delaying or canceling their fall sports, there are still questions about his freshman winter season.
“Yeah, I am. I’m ready,” Quintero said. “I’m ready to get to moving. Hopefully we actually have a season.”