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Ben Kueter advances to World Wrestling Championships finals, secures medal
Iowa City High senior goes 3-0 on first day, earns shot at World title Tuesday
Ben Kueter has taken the world by storm.
He did it by storming back to secure a medal.
The Iowa City High senior overcame an early eight-point deficit to defeat Georgia’s Luka Khutchua, 17-14, Monday and advance to the finals of the U20 World Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria. Kueter will wrestle Turkey’s Rifat Gidak in the gold-medal match at 97 kilograms (213 pounds) in men’s freestyle Tuesday.
“I just knew I had to push,” Kueter said in a post-match interview. “He was going to break, eventually. When he did, I was going to capitalize off that.”
The University of Iowa wrestling and football recruit rallied in the semifinal against Khutchua, who built an 8-0 lead in just 26 seconds with a takedown and three gut-wrench turns. He described it as one of the strongest clinches he has felt.
“It caught me off guard,” Kueter said. “I didn’t handle it the best. I’ll get better at it for tomorrow.”
The three-time state champion tied the match, 9-9, by the end of the first period, answering with a quick go-behind takedown and gut-wrench turn to cut the deficit in half. He added another turn and takedown before the break.
“I was so impressed by his poise when he was down 8-0,” said City High Coach Cory Connell, who held a viewing of the matches in the Little Hawks’ wrestling room. “He just came back and started chipping away at that guy. A lot of guys in his position would have freaked out when you’re wrestling at semifinals of the World Championships. He just went back to work.”
In the second 3-minute frame, Kueter scored six consecutive points to take the lead for good, using a high-crotch takedown and a leg-lace for four points. Another takedown made it 15-10 before Khutchua scored four to pull within one in the final minute.
Kueter reversed Khutchua to his back and held him there for almost the final 42 seconds. He remained composed throughout the bout.
“You’re in the World Championships semis,” Kueter said. “You can’t get flustered. So many things can go wrong. You have to stay within yourself and just worry about the next point.”
Dominance highlighted his first two victories, outscoring his foes by a combined 18-1. Kueter needed less than five minutes for a 10-0 technical fall over Moldova’s Dmitri Duscov. He beat India’s Niraj, 8-1, to reach the semifinal thriller.
“If I’m being honest,” Kueter said, “the India match was probably more physically demanding just with how hard he hand-fought.”
Kueter is one of three Team USA competitors in the finals.
“It’s crazy,” Kueter said in a post-match interview. “Everybody is so high-level and you don’t want to be that one guy that doesn’t make or that one guy that losses. I really hold myself to a high standard, especially being the youngest one on the team.”
According to Flowrestling’s Andy Hamilton, Kueter joins an exclusive list of Americans to reach the U20 Worlds Championships finals in men’s freestyle before the start of their senior year of high school since 2000. He is the first since Penn State’s Aaron Brooks did it in 2018. The others include Gable Steveson in 2017, Spencer Lee in 2015 and 2016, Aaron Pico (2014) and Kyle Snyder (2013).
“I am so proud of that kid,” Connell said. “He works so hard at everything he does. He is talented, but when talent and hard work meet up like it does for him, special things happen.”