Bubba Jenkins has come to the desert to light a fire.
A transfer from Penn State, Jenkins, runner-up at the 2008 NCAA Championships, will spend his final collegiate season wrestling for ASU, and he hopes to bring immediate energy and leadership to a team aiming to improve under second-year coach Shawn Charles.
Jenkins, who will move up a weight class to 157 this season, has set his individual goals high, hoping to become the ninth individual national champion in school history. The Virginia native said he is also looking forward to taking on a role as teacher to younger teammates.
“They already know that I’m proven, so my words carry a little bit more and my leadership can carry a little bit more,” Jenkins said. “I’ve kind of been in a tougher conference than some of these guys, so I have experiences I can tell them [about] and just instruct them on things to do and things not to do. It’s not like I’m coming here as a freshman and I can’t really say anything.”
Charles, who was an All-American and two-time NCAA runner-up when he wrestled at ASU in the early ’90s, is optimistic his newest wrestler will have an immediate impact both on the mat and in the locker room.
“I expect [Jenkins] to contribute in a lot of ways,” Charles said. “One is being a leader in our program. He’s been in the NCAA finals and I’m looking for him to show and help guide these other young men to help them accomplish that same goal for themselves.
“I’m also looking for him to play a leadership role in our program and win matches. Obviously, we want him to come here and be very successful and be our ninth national champion at Arizona State.”
Jenkins has made his reason for leaving Penn State clear. He and coach Cael Sanderson failed to see eye-to-eye, the latter forcing the former off the team after Jenkins was academically ineligible last fall.
“I don’t like him at all,” Jenkins said. “He’s got his fans and people who are going to love him, but I’ve dealt with him as a person, and I know who he is as a person. He’s not someone I would send my kid to and not someone I would want leading my team, so it was time to move on.”
As a stipulation of his release from Penn State, Jenkins was unable to transfer to a school in the Big Ten or the Big 12, but the senior said landing at ASU and wrestling under Charles was “the perfect fit.”
But next season at ASU will be the last wrestling for Jenkins.
“Right when I get done wrestling, right after I win a national championship and get these guys a ring for themselves, I’m moving out of wrestling and starting to fight in the UFC,” Jenkins said of his future plans. “People are calling me left and right, saying you need to [wrestle] freestyle, you need to go freestyle, but it’s a new era and I’ve been doing this wrestling thing for a while, so I’m trying to evolve and get into UFC while I’m young and while my body can still do things I need it to do.”