Ben Kueter’s pre-season football schedule may have to take a step back from his wrestling obligations this year.
Kueter, the star senior athlete at Iowa City High, won the U20 Men’s Freestyle World Team Trials on Saturday night in Ohio. He will represent the United States at the U20 World Championships, which take place August 15-21 in Sofia, Bulgaria.
The Iowa football and wrestling rookie swept the final three series against Georgia native Noah Pettigrew at 97 kilograms (213 pounds). Kueter won both matches handily, 5-0 in the first, 7-0 in the second, to secure his place in the U20 world team.
Kueter is now the latest Iowan native to qualify for USA Wrestling’s U20/Junior World Team.
Tanner Sloan, a native of Alburnett now in the state of South Dakota, was on the 2019 team. Thomas Gilman was on the junior team in 2013 and 2014. He attended Omaha’s Skutt Catholic , but hails from Council Bluffs. Rachel Watters of Ballard has made the World Junior Women’s Freestyle Team three times, in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
Before them, Matt McDonough of Marion qualified in 2010. Jake Kerr of Oskaloosa qualified in 2007. In 2001 Tyler Nixt of Greene and LeRoy Gardner of Waverly-Shell Rock both qualified is part of the team – Nixt in freestyle, Gardner in Greco-Roman wrestling. .
The list goes on, but Kueter joined the rare air by qualifying for the U20 world team while still in high school – he will turn 18 on Tuesday – which is a testament to his unearthly talent.
He is a three-time Class 3A state champion for the Little Hawks with a career record of 72-0. He is considered the No. 6 overall prospect for the Class of 2023 by MatScouts. He was third at the World Cadet Freestyle Team Trials last year, second at the National Junior Freestyle Tournament last summer and won the National Men’s U20 Freestyle title last month.
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Kueter is also a budding football star, an all-state linebacker who is close to five star status. He led the Little Hawks to the Class 5A state semifinals a year ago, when he had 41 tackles for loss, the most of any player on 11-player teams, and 11.5 bags, most in 5A.
Kueter intends to become an even rarer multi-sport star once he enrolls at Iowa, which speaks to his elite mindset. He wants to shine on the gridiron at Kinnick Stadium in the fall, then dominate on the mat inside a packed Carver-Hawkeye Arena in the winter.
Time will tell if Kueter will reach those heights, but he currently has a lot on his plate right now.
He will return from Ohio for a baseball season almost halfway through. City High is currently 13-3 overall and ranked No. 3 in Class 4A by the Iowa High School Baseball Coaches Association. The first day of football training for the 2022 high school season is August 8, exactly one week before the start of the U20 World Championships.
Kueter will adjust his busy schedule to make it all work because he’s earned that trip to Bulgaria and the right to represent the reds, whites and blues.
How did other Iowa wrestlers fare in the U20 World Freestyle Team Trials?
Kueter’s spot on the World Team was the best performance of the contingent of wrestlers from Iowa who competed in USA Wrestling’s U20 Men’s Freestyle World Team Trials on Saturday.
Here’s a quick rundown of notable results from others:
- Jack Thomson – The Union graduate who is now at South Dakota State also made the best of three finals, at 74 pounds (163), but was swept by current Penn State wrestler Alex Facundo, 10 -0 and 12-0. Thomsen won his first three games to advance to the final, including a 4-2 semi-final win over Waverly-Shell Rock’s Aiden Riggins (who finished 1-2).
- Nate Jesuroga – The rising Southeast Polk senior went 2-2 and finished fourth in the challenge tournament at 57 pounds (125). In the semifinals, he lost to Minnesota prep Jore Volk, 4-3. Volk went on to make the U20 World Team.
- Hunter Garvin – The Stanford elder from Iowa City West took second place in the challenge tournament at 70 kilos (154), narrowly missing out on the best of three finals. Garvin knocked out Cael Swenson of South Dakota State 10-0, then beat Caleb Rathjen of Iowa 16-5 in the semifinals. In the challenge tournament final, Garvin lost to Penn State rookie Levi Haines, 14-4.
- Paniro Johnson – Iowa State’s new freshman was the 1 seed at 70 pounds, but lost their quarterfinal matchup to Rathjen (who finished 2-2). Johnson went on to win three straight in the struggles and eventually finished fourth in the challenge tournament.
Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.