Iowa City High's Ben Kueter wins gold at U20 Pan-American wrestling championships

Cody Goodwin
Hawk Central

Ben Kueter began authoring his international wrestling résumé on Sunday, and he started with a gold-medal performance at the Under-20 Pan-American Championships in Oaxtepec, Mexico.

Kueter, Iowa City High's star senior athlete, went 3-0 to win at 97 kilograms (213 pounds) in the men's freestyle competition. Representing the United States, Kueter beat opponents from Canada, Ecuador, and Mexico — twice by technical fall, once by pin.

In a round-robin format, Kueter outscored his three opponents by a combined 24-0. He ended all three matches in the first period, wrestling a combined 3 minutes, 57 seconds:

  • a 10-0 technical fall over Canada’s Samuel Pereira in 2:09;
  • another 10-0 technical fall over Ecuador’s Jean Paul Nazareno in 1:26;
  • then a 22-second pin over Mexico's Adrian Zapata Jacob.

Not a bad start.

The next opportunity for Kueter to add to his international wrestling résumé will be the U20 world championships, set for August 15-21 in Sofia, Bulgaria — where bigger prizes and tougher competition undoubtedly awaits.

Incoming Iowa women's wrestler Nanea Estrella wins Pan-Am gold

Kueter's gold-medal performance was part of a perfect showing for the United States' U20 Pan-Am men's freestyle team. All 10 U.S. wrestlers won gold in men's freestyle, and actually won 28 medals (18 of them gold) out of 30 total weights when adding in the results from women's freestyle and Greco-Roman.

One of the women's freestyle gold-medal winners was incoming Iowa wrestler Nanea Estrella.

Estrella, who is transferring to Iowa from NAIA's Menlo College, took first at 59 kilos (130) in the women's freestyle division. In another round-robin format, she went 4-0, all wins by technical fall, and outscored her opponents by a combined 47-4.

Estrella was one of four future Iowa women's wrestlers wrestling internationally this weekend. The other three — Nyla Valencia, Felicity Taylor, Reese Larramendy — were at the Senior-level Spanish Grand Prix.

Taylor and Larramendy both won bronze medals. Taylor went 3-1 for third at 53 kilos (116) and Larramendy, who will join Kueter on the U20 world team in August, went 3-1 for third at 65 kilos (143). Valencia finished 1-2 and took fifth at 50 kilos (110) just a week after she went 4-0 and won gold at the Canada Cup. 

That's a lot of good wrestling experience coming to Iowa City.

Nanea Estrella, left, won gold at the U20 Pan-American Championships this weekend in Mexico. She went 4-0 at 59 kilograms and won all of her matches by technical fall.

Iowa State's M.J. Gaitan wins Greco silver at U20 Pan-Ams

M.J. Gaitan and Jakason Burks were both part of the United States' Pan-Am medal haul after finishing second and third, respectively, in the Greco-Roman competition.

Gaitan, an incoming Iowa State wrestler, went 3-1 and took home silver at 77 kilos (169). He won his first three matches by technical fall, then fell to Brazil’s Guilherme Barros De Arruda Porto in the gold-medal match.

Burks, an All-American at Iowa Western Community College, went 2-2 and took third at 55 kilos (121). He won his first two matches by technical fall, then lost his last two to finish in the middle of a five-man round-robin.

Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.