Phil Anastasia: For Cobb, success means sharper focus

Williamstown's C.J. Cobb (left) flips Tyler Sentman of St. Augustine Prep's en route to a 23-8 win. The senior has a record of 31-1 and has been called perhaps the best wrestler in Region 8.
Williamstown's C.J. Cobb (left) flips Tyler Sentman of St. Augustine Prep's en route to a 23-8 win. The senior has a record of 31-1 and has been called perhaps the best wrestler in Region 8.
Posted: February 26, 2011

EGG HARBOR TWP., N.J. - C.J. Cobb has come to realize that the difference between a good wrestler and a great one is not a matter of quickness or strength.

It's not improved technique. It's not more training. It's not better conditioning.

It's simpler than that.

It's more complicated, too.

"I used to think there was some secret," said Cobb, a senior 145-pounder from Williamstown. "I used to think that guys that were good enough to be national champions or world champions had something that I didn't have, something they were born with.

"But that's not it at all. It's their focus. It's how much they care."

Cobb, the No. 1 seed, improved his record to 31-1 with a 23-8 victory over St. Augustine Prep's Tyler Sentman on Friday night in the quarterfinals of the Region 8 wrestling tournament at Egg Harbor Township.

It will be a big surprise if Cobb doesn't win his second region title Saturday night. He's probably the best wrestler at this competition, and maybe by a large margin, too.

Cobb has been good his whole career. He's a four-time District 30 champion. He is Williamstown's all-time leader in career victories with 123 and counting. He won the Region 8 title in 2009 and took second last year, when he went to Atlantic City and finished third in the state at 145 pounds.

But Cobb is a different wrestler this season.

He's not any stronger or faster.

In a twist, he believes he's better because he's more vulnerable.

Emotionally, anyway.

"I used to block my emotions out," Cobb said. "It was like protecting yourself by not caring as much as you could. I was like, 'I know I'm a good wrestler,' but I didn't want to get upset if I lost. People think it's a weakness to be upset."

Cobb said his whole approach changed last spring at a junior national meet in Oklahoma City. He lost a close decision to a top wrestler at 152 pounds and tried, as always, to suppress his frustration.

He tried to put on a brave face for his freestyle coach, former West Deptford coach Pete DiBiase.

"I was upset, but I blocked my emotions out," Cobb said. "I was afraid to show my sadness. My coach told me, 'No, no, no. I want to see that.' He made me realize that by blocking my emotions out, I was stopping myself from reaching my full potential."

It sounds stranger for a guy who has been a star wrestler for most of his life, but the 18-year-old Cobb said he felt as if he was starting over as a senior.

Physically, he was the same guy.

Intellectually, and emotionally, he was brand new.

"It's such a difference from last year it's amazing to me," Cobb said. "I'm not really any stronger. I'm not really any faster. I have the same technique.

"But my focus and my concentration have improved tenfold. Wrestling is all I think about. When I walk the hallways in school between classes, I'm working on drills in my head.

"It's like wrestling has revealed itself to me."

Cobb's improvement has been evident all season. His only loss was in December to Blake Roulo of Matoca, Va., at the Beast of the East tournament in Delaware. Cobb finished third in that national-caliber competition.

Cobb has rolled through the regular season. He beat 152-pounders Dymere Rappa of Paulsboro, Phil Bakuckas of Hammonton, and Ken Emmons of Pennsville, all of whom won at that weight Friday night to advance to Saturday's semifinals. He rolled through districts with a forfeit, technical fall, and first-period pin. He registered 11 takedowns in Friday's victory over Sentman.

Cobb has committed to attend the University of Pennsylvania and wrestle for the Quakers. He's not sure of his major, but he has narrowed it to four possibilities.

"Either philosophy, psychology, physics or biology," Cobb said.

Philosophy, psychology, physics or biology?

C.J. Cobb is a championship wrestler who already seems to be acing all four.

Contact staff writer Phil Anastasia at 856-779-3223 or

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