Rutgers’ Jackson Turley likes to believe he is the most dangerous man in the room, and he certainly was deadly at this year’s NCAA Championships. The sophomore turned lots of heads with his in-your-face wrestling style and ability to turn just about anyone from the top position.
The Richmond, Virginia native was a decorated wrestler in high school for St. Christopher’s School. He secured four state titles, a 2019 National Prep title and was a 2018 Fargo All-American. Even with all of his accolades, he still desired to improve and level up his style by wrestling D1.
Leveling up His Style at Rutgers
Before committing to Rutgers, Turley visited Virginia Tech, Iowa State, Maryland and Indiana. He decided to make New Brunswick his new home because, “It was the style I needed to up my game.” Having gone to a private school, he felt that the rough, gritty, hand-fighting-focused approach that Rutgers offered was what he needed to toughen himself up.
The Scarlet Knights are led by head coach, Scott Goodale. Since taking the position in 2007, he has accrued 183 victories, crowned two national champions and fifteen All-Americans. In addition, he has fostered one of the most exhilarating competition atmospheres in college wrestling at the RAC, scoring top-five finishes in national attendance over the last five seasons.
The stellar coaching staff also includes two-time NCAA champion and world medalist, Donny Pritzlaff, as well as four-time All-American, 2019 NCAA Champion and Rutgers alumni, Anthony Ashnault. Turley loves having such a star-studded staff at his disposal, stating, “We have different styles, different mindsets, different techniques all around.”
Learning Different Technique from Different Coaches
Turley feels that the multitude of viewpoints has helped shape his wrestling style. “I wrestle with Donny Pritzlaff and it’s a fight for an hour. Then there’s other days where you go with coach Goodale and he’s got some nice old school technique, that you don’t see that much, but you can throw in every now and then. So, you’ve got different styles around you, but they’re all really hardcore about it. Being tough is like the main point of our team.”
New Jersey is known for the dog-fight style of wrestling they bring to the mat, and that’s one of the things that Turley claims his team emphasizes upon. “We want to be tough. We want to be gritty. That’s what I got from New Jersey. It’s a weird mindset, like as a culture.”
Next season, Jackson Turley will even have another New Jersey native to train with him, with NCAA Champion Anthony Ashnault hired as Rutgers’ new assistant coach.
Lessons from the Big Ten Championships
Due to the COVID-19 restrictions on the 2021 wrestling season, Turley was not able to wrestle any out of conference competition, resulting in a 3-1 record heading into the Big 10 Championships. Turley opened the tournament with a major decision over Drew Hughes of Michigan State then fell in a close 11-9 bout with Micky Labriola of Nebraska.
On the backside, he was pinned by Jake Allar of Minnesota, whom he teched during the regular season dual meet. When reflecting on his loss to Allar, Turley felt that he went out there, guns blazing. “I didn’t really pull back on my reigns and I should have relaxed a little.”
In retrospect, Turley claimed he is thankful for the loss. “Every time you lose, you think ‘Okay, we got to fix something.’ It woke me up, kind of. Like, we got to wrestle smarter now.”
Changing His Approach for NCAAs
The Big 10 allocates nine spots for the NCAA tournament, and Turley decided to utilize his time in the 9th place bracket to focus on a more conscientious approach to his wrestling, rather than his normal high pace. “It was a little bit of a practice for me to not go crazy. I took those matches to wrestle smarter. I tried to make sure my technique was crisp in a real match setting.”
In preparation for the NCAA Championships, Jackson Turley followed all of his coaches’ orders, stating, “Once postseason comes around, I’m basically a piece that my coach moves.” He put all his trust in his coaches, and they told him how he needed to train. “They told me how I needed to work some days and some days I needed to take off. They had a really good plan set up for me.”
The Most Dangerous Man in the Building
Heading into the tournament, Turley was the 26th seed, but his mindset was just as it was for any other tournament: pure confidence. “I always walk in there like, ‘First person, we’re gonna mess them up. Next person, we’re gonna mess them up. Next person after that, we’re gonna mess them up. You know? If it’s anything but that, I don’t wrestle well.”
Unfortunately, Turley’s match did not go the way he planned in the opening round, where he fell to Kaleb Romero of Ohio State. After that loss, he told himself, “I’m not going 0-2, that’s definitely not happening. If anything, I’m gonna show people that I can do something.” On the backside, Turley’s mindset was, “Lets relax but be dangerous.” This was instilled in him by coach Goodale. “Before every match he would tell me, ‘You’re the most dangerous man in this building.’” To Turley, he thinks things just clicked.
Battling Back for a Spot on the Stand
With his back against the wall, Jackson Turley went on a tear. He claimed a first period pin over Oklahoma’s Anthony Mantanona, a technical fall over 9th seed Donnell Washington of Indiana, another first period pin over Army’s Benjamin Pasiuk, and a 7-5 victory over 6th seed Andrew McNally of Kent State in the round of 12. This win streak secured him All-American status at his first ever NCAA Championships.
In the consolation quarter-final match, Turley wrestled Logan Massa of Michigan. He suffered a knee injury that caused him to injury default out of the rest of the tournament and claim 8th place.
Not Cocky, But Confident
Turley claimed that he was not surprised by his stellar performance at his first trip to the big dance. “I looked at my bracket, and I don’t want to sound cocky, but I wasn’t that impressed. I was kind of like, ‘I can win this’. You always go in thinking you’re going to win a tournament. You can’t think that you’re not, and you’re definitely not if you don’t think that you are. I’ve never heard a story of anybody not thinking they’re going to win a tournament and actually winning.”
This season Turley proved his ability on the biggest stage in college wrestling. When asked how much confidence his performance gives him for the upcoming season, he stated, “Nothing more than I already had.”
Trusting in His Training
With his father being his coach from a young age, he ingrained a champion-like mentality into Jackson. “He was always like, ‘Believe you’re the best. You are the best. You work hard. You have the ability.’, all that stuff.” Turley is a firm believer that trusting in your training will take you a long way. “I do trust in my training. I do trust that I work hard. I do trust that I put in the effort and I put in what needs to be done to win.”
Jackson Turley has proved that he can scrap with the best guys in the country at one of the highest levels and has an NCAA trophy to show for it. But, most importantly, he has shown that he is in fact one of the most dangerous people in college wrestling.