Iowa City High's Ben Kueter qualifies for USA Wrestling's U20 men's freestyle world team
Ben Kueter's preseason football schedule might have to take a backseat to his wrestling obligations this year.
Kueter, Iowa City High's star senior athlete, won the U20 men's freestyle world team trials on Saturday evening in Ohio. He will represent the United States at the U20 world championships, set for August 15-21 in Sofia, Bulgaria.
The Iowa football and wrestling recruit swept the best-of-three finals series over 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 spot on the U20 world team.
Kueter is now the latest native Iowan to qualify for USA Wrestling's U20/Junior world team.
Tanner Sloan, an Alburnett native now at South Dakota State, made the 2019 team. Thomas Gilman made the Junior team in both 2013 and 2014. He attended Omaha's Skutt Catholic, but is originally from Council Bluffs. Rachel Watters, from Ballard, made the Junior women's freestyle world team three times, in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
Before them, Matt McDonough, from Marion, qualified in 2010. Jake Kerr, from Oskaloosa, qualified in 2007. In 2001, Greene's Tyler Nixt and Waverly-Shell Rock's LeRoy Gardner both made the team — Nixt in freestyle, Gardner in Greco-Roman.
The list goes on, but Kueter joined rare air by qualifying for U20 world team while still in high school — he turns 18 on Tuesday — which speaks to his preternatural talent.
He is a three-time Class 3A state champ for the Little Hawks with a 72-0 career record. He is considered the No. 6 overall prospect in the 2023 class by MatScouts. He finished third at last year's Cadet freestyle world team trials, second at last summer's Junior freestyle national tournament, and won the U20 men's freestyle national title last month.
Kueter is also a budding football star, an all-state linebacker who is nearing five-star status. He led the Little Hawks to the Class 5A state semifinals a year ago, when he racked up 41 tackles for loss, the most among all players on 11-player teams, and 11.5 sacks, the most in 5A.
Kueter has designs on becoming 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 reaches those heights, but he currently has plenty on his plate right now.
He will return from Ohio to a baseball season nearing the halfway mark. 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 practice 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 this all work, because he earned this trip to Bulgaria, and the right to represent the red, white, and blue.
How did the other Iowa wrestlers do at the U20 freestyle world team trials?
Kueter's world team berth was the highlight performance from the contingent of Iowa wrestlers who competed at USA Wrestling's U20 men's freestyle world team trials on Saturday.
Here's a quick rundown of the notable results from the others:
- Jack Thomsen — The Union grad who's now at South Dakota State also made the best-of-three finals, at 74 kilos (163), but was swept by current Penn State wrestler Alex Facundo, 10-0 and 12-0. Thomsen won his first three matches to make the finals, which included a 4-2 semifinal win over Waverly-Shell Rock's Aiden Riggins (who finished 1-2).
- Nate Jesuroga — The rising-senior for Southeast Polk went 2-2 and finished fourth in the challenge tournament at 57 kilos (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-bound senior from Iowa City West took second in the challenge tournament at 70 kilos (154), narrowly missing out on the best-of-three finals. Garvin took out South Dakota State's Cael Swenson 10-0, then beat Iowa's Caleb Rathjen 16-5 in the semifinals. In the challenge tournament finals, Garvin lost to Penn State recruit Levi Haines, 14-4.
- Paniro Johnson — The incoming Iowa State freshman was the 1-seed at 70 kilos, but lost his quarterfinal match to Rathjen (who finished 2-2). Johnson then won three in a row in the wrestlebacks and ultimately 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.