Bennett Berge has enjoyed every second of what has been hectic over the past six months.
The Mantorville native got off to a strong start in his post-high school career, graduating from Kasson-Mantorville in March, shortly after winning his fifth individual wrestling championship.
He trained hard with his brother – Brady Berge, a former Penn State University wrestler and South Dakota State University assistant wrestling coach – in hopes of making the States U-20 wrestling team. -United.
That mission was accomplished when underdog Berge won the 86kg title at the United World Wrestling World Team Trials in early June to earn a spot on the 10-member U.S. squad for the World Championships on August 15 in Bulgaria.
On the international stage, Berge delivered a run to the championship game, where he fell in a hard-fought match by a 10-5 decision against Rakhim Magamadov of France. Berge also helped Team USA finish second as a team behind Iran.
He is now back in South Dakota, starting his college classes in the state of South Dakota. Pre-season camp is underway, but Berge is out for a few weeks and will wear a red shirt this season to recover from an injury he’s been struggling with for a year.
Post Bulletin: You pretty much graduated from Kasson-Mantorville (high school) and moved to SDSU as soon as you won your fifth state title in high school. What was that experience like and what’s it like living with your brother Brady again?
Bergé: It kind of gave me a boost for the rest of the kids in college, I feel like, and it was fun. I mean, I got to do things with my brother that I hadn’t done in a long time since he wasn’t around and so it was a really good experience for me.
PB: What was your daily life like at that time?
Bergé: My nutrition was a big part. Being here I wasn’t going to school so it was literally food, wrestling and then finding something to do in the evening. So I would get up, make a good breakfast, train, come back for food, and go back to training that afternoon. And my brother and I were going to do something in the evening, usually golf.
PB: Who is the best golfer? You or Brady?
Bergé: Certainly me. He definitely knows.
PB: A lot of that training was spent trying out for the USA Wrestling U-20 team. You earned your spot on the 10-member team by winning the 86kg title at the United World Wrestling World Team Trials in June. What were your expectations before that?
Bergé: I had a tournament before the selections, the US Open. And I didn’t rank there. I probably didn’t wrestle as well as I could have. I entered the trials as the eighth seed. I just showed up for tryouts, wanting to compete as hard as I could. And I started riding that day and I was pretty good. Obviously, I ended up winning the trials and made the team.
PB: What was going through your mind knowing that you were going to represent the United States?
Bergé: I don’t usually show too much emotion. But I would say that I showed a bit in this last game of trials. It’s just that it’s something I think, especially in the sport of wrestling, everybody wants to compete for Team USA, make world teams at the college level. So it’s definitely an accomplishment and it was one of my goals, but it’s not the ultimate goal either. The ultimate goal is to be a national champion. It’s still a year, a year and a half on the road.”
PB: How and where did you train for Team USA?
Bergé: We went to the OTC (Olympic Training Center in Boulder, Colorado) and I had a good seven weeks of hard training and then I backed off and started feeling good for the worlds . It was probably the best training period I have ever had. And I think I made some really good jumps in my wrestling.
PB: So the world championships took place in Sofia, Bulgaria. How long was the flight?
Bergé: Twenty-four hours there, 30 on the way back. We had three connecting flights. And I’ve never been abroad, so I really didn’t know what to expect from a sleep perspective. My sleep schedule was so messed up.
PB: How is this part of the world?
Bergé: Sofia is an old city. But we really only did short walks, not really tourist walks. We kind of stuck to our hotels and it was mostly business. I think we could have been out of town for 30-40 minutes and that would have been pretty cool. But we were there to fight.
PB: You’ve faced guys from France, Turkey, Hungary, what’s it like to face these international guys?
Bergé: They all have a little different feel, right? It’s still wrestling, so it’s not something completely different, but they also wrestle freestyle all year round. They know a few more things than the United States. Those first two games were good for me. To understand the feel before entering some of the best guys in the world. But they love to squeeze, love to come in and squeeze. But they wear out pretty quickly.
PB: Would you like to continue fighting for the American team?
Bergé: I will do the same thing next year. I will go to trials and I will have to win trials to make the team. One more year of U-20 eligibility. I’m excited for this. There is the U-23. They are high level guys. Once you get past U-20, even U-20, in some countries some of the U-20 guys are their best guys. Like this kid from France. He is the high-level representative for France. It is therefore no exception.
PB: How are you finding SDSU so far?
Bergé: I really like it here. We have a good group of freshmen in the class of 22 for the Jackrabbits and I get on very well with them. It’s a nice place here. …I’ll be off the mat for probably three more weeks. I will pick things up slowly and hope to be ready to participate in some of the openings early in the year.