116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Ben Kueter had a good-natured message for Iowa wrestling assistant coach Bobby Telford.
“Bobby Telford,” the Hawkeyes’ wrestling and football commit said to the former three-time All-American in a post-match interview with USA Wrestling and Flowrestling, “I’m the baddest man on the planet.”
His proclamation isn’t wrong. Kueter made claim to that distinction, winning the 213-pound men’s freestyle title at the United World Wrestling U20 World Championships at Sofia, Bulgaria.
Kueter scored 10 straight points before pinning Turkey’s Rifat Gidak in 1:40 of the title bout.
“Amazing, man,” Kueter said after the bout. “It’s something you dream of since you’re a little kid. When you start the sport that’s what you’re thinking of — World champion.
“I’m a World champ. It’s unreal to say that.”
Iowa City High Coach Cory Connell held a watch party in the team’s wrestling room. He estimated between 40 and 50 people witnessed the pin, including his dad, his son and daughter and Kueter’s younger brother, Colton, and teammate Colby Franklin. Connell said this was a day that none of them will forget.
“It was pretty cool,” Connell said. “There were a lot of people.
“We were all screaming. We were going crazy.”
Hopes for a World title were mentioned in February as Kueter became a three-time state champion for the Little Hawks. He didn’t imagine this feat coming to fruition a year ago, though. What a difference a year makes.
“It’s unbelievable,” Kueter said. “If you would have told me a year ago today I would be a world champ I’d be like, ‘You’re freaking crazy.’ I put so much work into this and for it to come true makes me feel so good inside.”
The 18-year-old praised his family for their efforts to get to this point. He expressed his gratitude for the opportunities they have provided him and complimented the local wrestling community.
“I have the best support system in the world,” Kueter said. “Iowa City is the greatest wrestling place on earth.”
Kueter gave up the first takedown but it didn’t take him long to take control. He was able to reverse Gidak to his back for two exposure. Once on top, he cinched up a trapped-arm gut-wrench and turned Gidak three times.
Kueter resorted to his folkstyle training and sunk in a bar arm, putting Gidak on his back and getting the fall. A trademark move of his mentor, Dan Gable, and of the City High program.
“They don’t wrestle folkstyle,” said Kueter, who hit something similar in his first match. “We do. They aren’t used to bar arms. I am. I put the bar arm in, almost like a Spencer Lee tilt. I just tried to roll through and he couldn’t defend it.
“I honestly thought I had him pinned a lot longer than what it was but I don’t know. I’m just super excited.”
Kueter becomes the fourth City High wrestler to win a Junior World freestyle title, joining Tim Riley, Jeff McGinness and Dominque Smalley.
Riley, a two-time state champion and three-time All-American at Iowa, claimed gold at 114.5 pounds in 1978. McGinness, a four-time state champion, two-time NCAA champion for the Hawkeyes and currently Simpson’s women’s wrestling coach, was the 127.5-pound titlist and Outstanding Wrestler of the 1992 World Championships in Cali, Colombia. He was 16 at the time and was the youngest U.S. wrestler to win a Junior World crown.
Smalley is Cornell College’s women’s wrestling coach and the 165.25-pound champion in 2000. She was a member of the U.S. Senior National Team in 1997, 1999 and 2000.
“I’m so proud of that kid and who he is, what he stands for, what he does and how he does it,” Connell said. “He’s an unbelievable person.
“We have three of the four junior world champions in Iowa. I thought that was amazing. It’s great for him and cool for our program. ... He’s a great kid from a great family.”