Iowa Wrestling Recruit Ben Kueter Wins Junior World Championship

By RossWB on August 16, 2022 at 10:07 pm
@USAWrestling (Twitter)

Under Tom Brands, the Iowa wrestling program has been dominated by the lightest weights. At 125 lbs, stars like Matt McDonough, Thomas Gilman, and the incomparable Spencer Lee have racked up NCAA finals appearances (7), Big Ten championships (4), and national championships (5). At 133 lbs, Dan Dennis, Tony Ramos, Cory Clark, and Austin DeSanto have been fixtures on the All-America stand and in the Big Ten and NCAA finals (with several wins, to boot). But during that time Iowa hasn't had quite as much success at the upper weights -- though one incoming recruit may be looking to change that when he gets to Iowa City. 

Ben Kueter was a big-time recruit when Iowa landed him 11 months ago; he was 35-0 and a two-time Iowa state champion at the time (having won at 160 lbs as a freshman and 195 lbs as a sophomore) and he hasn't really slowed down since then. He mowed through the prep ranks as a junior; his record now stands at 72-0 and he's a three-time state champion, having won at 220 lbs this past season. And as of today Kueter is not just a state champion -- he's a world champion

Kueter won the gold medal match in men's freestyle at 97 kg at the 2022 Junior World Championships (U-20) in Sofia, Bulgaria -- and he did it in style, overwhelming his opponent, Turkey's Rifat Gidak, and pinning him in 1:40. 

In his post-match interview, Kueter, a potential future Iowa star, shouted out a current Iowa star: 

"I tried to use my folkstyle background," Kueter said in his USA Wrestling interview. "They don't wrestle folkstyle, but we do. He's not used to bar-arms, but I am. I put the bar-arm in, like a Spencer Lee tilt. I rolled through and he couldn't defend it."

The win makes Kueter the fifth Iowan to win a Junior World Championship, the first overall since Dominique Smalley in 2000, and the first man since Jeff McGinness (another former Iowa great) in 1992. That's pretty heady air for Kueter -- but it's not even the most impressive company his latest accomplishment has put him in. 

That is a truly astounding list. All of those wrestlers except Aaron Pico have gone to not just be successful college wrestlers -- but among the very best college wrestlers of the 21st century. (And Pico may have joined them had he opted to attend college instead of turning to an MMA career shortly after turning 18; he was a serious blue-chip wrestling recruit in high school days.)

Snyder redefined heavyweight wrestling en route to three NCAA championships and an Olympic gold medal; Steveson may have been even more dominant on his way to a pair of NCAA championships and an Olympic gold medal of his own. Aaron Brooks is a two-time NCAA champion (and counting) who's lost a grand total of twice in college. And Spencer Lee is, well, Spencer Lee -- I think we're all pretty familiar with his collegiate accomplishments. Being in their company guarantees nothing for Kueter's own collegiate career -- but it is indicative of the incredible potential he has on the wrestling mat, which is an immensely exciting proposition as an Iowa wrestling fan. 

Kueter outscored his four opponents at this event 45-17 on his way to the gold medal -- and most of those points came in his semifinal match. He outscored his first two opponents 18-1 and had opened up a 10-2 lead in the finals before securing the fall. But his semifinal match was a battle, one that required him to dig deep and come back from a massive deficit. 

Kueter went down 8-0 to Khutchua in the first 30 seconds of the bout (and remember: a 10-0 deficit is a match-ending technical fall in freestyle competition), but he stormed back to tie the match at 9-9 after the first period before opening up a 15-10 lead in the second period and ultimately winning 17-14. What. A. Comeback. 

It's fair to say Kueter had a pretty successful summer vacation -- he also won a gold medal at the U20 Pan American Games. 

The next step for Kueter? Back to Iowa City High for his senior season -- which starts on the football field this fall. In addition to being a superstar wrestling recruit, Kueter is a 3* LB recruit and one of the best in-state prospects. And, of course, his plan is to compete in both football and wrestling at Iowa. Hawk Central's Cody Goodwin recently explored how that might work for Kueter when he's at Iowa in a good article.

It seems like sort of an impossible dream -- football season could preclude Kueter from wrestling until January and who knows how the wear and tear of football could impact his ability as a wrestler -- but Kueter has also been producing wildly impressive athletic achievements for a while now, so he certainly deserves the opportunity to try and make it work. It's also a "problem" for Kueter, Tom Brands, and Kirk Ferentz to sort out a few years from now. For now, we're happy to just celebrate his current brilliance and congratulate him on becoming a Junior World Champion. Helluva job, Ben. 

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