Caring is Creepy 2023: Have a Seat, Ben Kueter

By RossWB on September 21, 2021 at 12:15 pm
go hawks go
@Benkueter1 (Twitter)

The recruiting news has been a little quiet lately, but Iowa did get some interesting -- and pretty exciting -- news on the recruiting front over the weekend. And this particular recruiting news could impact not one, but two Hawkeye teams. Ben Kueter, a highly-talented local talent (and we're talking very local -- Kueter attends City High in Iowa City), announced that he was verbally committing to the University of Iowa in football... and wrestling. 

Kueter, listed at 6'3", 220 lbs, is considered a 3* prospect by Rivals and 247 Sports. He opted for the hometown Hawkeyes over (football) offers from the likes of Missouri, Minnesota, and Iowa State. He plays tight end and linebacker for City High, but projects as a linebacker at the college level. He had an excellent performance (8 tackles, 3.5 TFL; 4 receptions, 39 yards, TD) in City's upset win over West Des Moines Dowling on Friday. 

Kueter will probably be one of the top in-state football prospects in Iowa in 2023 and as a football prospect alone he would be a very fine pick-up for the Hawkeyes. It's not hard to look at him and see how he could plug in at linebacker in Iowa's defense in a few years. 

But what makes him a truly fascinating recruit is the wrestling angle -- and, specifically, his intent to try and compete in football and wrestling at Iowa. Iowa has long had plenty of football players who were former wrestlers (especially under Kirk Ferentz); many of them were very good high school wrestlers, in fact. But it's been a very long time since they had someone trying to juggle active competition in both football and wrestling. 

Over at The Des Moines Register, Cody Goodwin detailed Iowa's past history of football and wrestling two-sport standouts, headlined by Mark Sindlinger, a three-year football starter and two-time wrestling All-American. 

Iowa has a small history of athletes who have played football and wrestled in college. Mark Sindlinger, from Charles City, is perhaps the most notable. He played football under Hayden Fry, starting at center from 1984-86, during which Iowa went 27-9-1. He also wrestled under Dan Gable, and won two Big Ten titles and was a two-time All-American at heavyweight.

Others have done it, too, like Doug Benschoter, a four-year lineman for Iowa football and a 1976 All-American in wrestling, and John Oostendorp, a two-time All-American in 1992-93 and a football letter-winner in 1992. He made the 1995 U.S. Greco-Roman world team, and is now the head coach at Coe College. John Bowlsby is another, a three-time All-American wrestler from 1975-79 and a football letter-winner in 1975.

As Cody also noted, there have been a few players who have switched from one sport to the other while at Iowa. Most recently Sam Cook came to Iowa as a football player, but switched to the wrestling team after a redshirt year in 2016-17. The most famous recent example is probably Jordan McLaughlin, who spent three years as a fullback and linebacker for Iowa before moving over to the wrestling team and filling in for an injured Dan Erekson in a dual meet. 

But McLaughlin's move was borne of desperation not calculation; an injury to Erekson that season left Iowa with very few options in the upper weights that season. Iowa's options were either forfeiting a weight, fielding a (much) smaller wrestler at that weight, or giving McLaughlin (a former high school wrestler) a shot. 

Kueter's decision is interesting because while he figures to be a good football prospect, he's on track to be an outstanding wrestling prospect, which likely makes this commitment a bigger deal for Tom Brands than Kirk Ferentz. Kueter is currently 35-0 in his prep wrestling career, having won a state championship at 160 pounds as a freshman and at 195 pounds as a sophomore. He plans to compete at 220 pounds as a junior this winter. He's been very good outside the state of Iowa as well, winning a Junior folkstyle national championship last spring and finishing as runner-up at the Junior freestyle national championships over the summer. He's considered the 9th best overall prospect in the 2023 wrestling recruiting class by some services. 

Of course, 220 pounds is not a collegiate weight; the two highest weights at the NCAA level are 197 lbs and heavyweight (285 lbs). 197 won't be an option for Kueter -- for one thing he's already at 220 lbs now; for another, cutting that much weight would be disastrous for his efforts to compete in football at Iowa. So Kueter projects as a heavyweight at the college level. I imagine he'll be in the 230-240 lb range for football. At that size he won't be the biggest heavyweight on the mat, but we've seen plenty of heavyweight wrestlers in college in recent years that weren't close to 285 lbs and still had excellent careers. (Kyle Snyder would be the gold standard here.) Quickness and skill can go a long way in negating some size or strength disadvantages. 

The odds of Kueter successfully competing at a high level in both football and wrestling at the college level are very small; there's a reason something like this basically never happens -- it's very, very, very hard to pull off. But his ambition is also inspiring and it's going to be a hell of a lot of fun to watch him try to excel at both sports. Kueter looks like he could be an exciting addition to Iowa football or Iowa wrestling -- the fact that he could be an exciting addition to both of them makes this whole process extra-fascinating.

Welcome to Iowa, Ben. We truly can't wait to see what you can do in black and gold. 

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