IOWA CITY — The roar of the crowd becomes deafening as the match nears the end. Three more seconds, two, one. The referee blows his whistle and City High freshman Ben Kueter slowly gets to his feet.
Another match won.
“(I like that wrestling is) an independent sport. It’s all on you,” Kueter said. “You don’t have to rely on other people. You are the one who’s out there.”
Kueter started wrestling with his brother at home until their parents decided to send them to City’s MatPac program when Kueter was 4. They met City High Coach Cory Connell at that time.
“Ben is (a) very hard worker. He’s a kid that loves to do a lot of sports, but he always comes back to wrestling and I think that’s kind of where his true love is,” Connell said. “He loves working hard, he loves learning new things. He just enjoys the process.”
Kueter went on to wrestle at West Liberty and then at Sebolt wrestling club before going to City wrestling practices during his years at South East. The junior high wrestlers are invited to work out with the high school wrestling team and Kueter took advantage of the opportunity.
“I’ve seen him grow since he’s been here,” Connell said. “His first year here, I saw him in the program. I have seen him wrestle and have known him ever since then.”
Kueter is a five-time Iowa Amateur Athletic Union champion, 2019 Iowa USA Wrestling Triple Crown winner, 2019 folkstyle All-American and 2019 United World Wrestling All-American. He also is ranked in The Top 50 Freshmen Pound for Pound in the Country by FloWrestling.
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Kueter is excited to finally be on the City High team and hopes to win both high school districts and state championships this year.
“I think he is going to fit real well,” Connell said. “Last year, he was training with some of our best wrestlers on the team. They were seniors and he was doing really well against them.”
During this year’s football game against Davenport North, Kueter injured a leg after getting tackled. He has to wear a boot and use crutches to move around, but is expecting to start practicing again in a few weeks.
“(It is important to keep) trusting yourself, understanding that you might not be able to wrestle or train for a month or two months at a time, but understanding that you’re not going to forget how to wrestle within that time, especially somebody who has done as much wrestling as (Kueter) has,” Connell said. “Just trusting your mind, trusting your body to get back out there, and compete at your highest level (is key).”
The first varsity meet for City High is on Dec. 5. Districts and state are in February. Kueter looks forward to wrestling again, but first wants to make sure his foot heals correctly.
“(Wrestling has taught me to) just stick with things.” he said. “It’s a tough sport and there are a lot of times where you want to give up and this sport teaches you not to do that.
“That really helps, because (in life) a lot of times you don’t want to do something but you have to do it anyway.”
Editor’s note: Second in a four-part series looking at top freshman at Iowa City by Little Hawk sports editor Julianne Berry-Stoelzle.