DES MOINES — Iowa Valley’s Ben Smith never received the customary acknowledgment reserved for milestone victories.
No waving signs or announcements when he reached 100 wins his sophomore year at the state tournament or when his 150th came at state as a junior.
For No. 200, the senior 160-pounder had to settle for a gold medal and perch on top of the awards stand at the Class 1A state wrestling tournament Saturday night at Wells Fargo Arena. Smith capped his career with a 2-1 victory in the overtime tiebreaker over Don Bosco’s Cade Tenold.
“It was pretty awesome,” Smith said. “It was a good feeling. I’ve been working pretty hard on it for 15 years now. That’s what I was working hard for.”
Smith earned the school’s 10th individual title. The Tigers have had finalists five straight years, receiving titles from Smith and Garet Sims, who won the 220-pound title last year. Iowa Valley crowned champs in consecutive years for the first time since 1991-92.
Smith became the second Tiger to notch 200 victories, going 200-21 and just four wins back of Sims. He was also the school’s third four-time qualifier, placing third and eighth the previous two seasons.
He traveled all over for competition with his father as a youth. His efforts cemented his claim as one of the program’s best.
“He did things the right way in high school, too,” Iowa Valley Coach Jeremy Kriegel said. “He put in a lot of time in the offseason, going to a lot of camps and wrestling freestyle. He just kind of paved the way to show our younger kids what it takes to be successful.
“On top of being a good wrestler he’s even a better kid. He’s been a great example to our kids.”
Smith (50-1) had to avenge his only loss of the season in the final against a familiar foe. Tenold beat him at a tournament earlier in the season. Last year, Tenold beat Smith in the regular season and Smith beat him for third.
The pair exchanged escapes in regulation. After a scoreless sudden victory where Smith’s scramble avoided a takedown, he rode out Tenold. Smith, who credited Sims and Loras’ Jacob Krakow for helping on his wrestling underneath, escaped with five seconds left in the period.
“It shows how far he has come throughout his career,” Kriegel said. “He wasn’t really a mat wrestler early on in high school and really worked hard.
“It comes down to guts, being able to get out or put that 30-second ride on, too. He was able to do it there.”
Adding to the situation, Smith won’t continue his wrestling career in college, which made going out on top even more important.
“I didn’t want to hold anything back,” Smith said. “I felt like I was having a pretty good career. I wanted to put the cherry on top of it with a state title.”
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