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Benick emerging as next breakout wrestler from Minnesota

Benick wrestles on the first day of Greco-Roman competition at the 2013 ASICS/Vaughan Cadet Greco-Roman National Championships. Photo by John Sachs.

FARGO, N.D. – The state of Minnesota has a rich history of Greco-Roman wrestling. Recently it has become the unofficial hub for the traditional Olympic style with the names like Dan Chandler, Jordan Holm and Chas Betts thriving from the state.

Sixteen year old Lance Benick is looking to burst onto the scene as the next wrestling star out of Minnesota.

In 2013, Benick has already won a Minnesota state championship, a Junior Folkstyle championship and qualified for the Freestyle Cadet World Team that will compete at the Cadet World Championships in Serbia in August.

“Lance is an extremely gifted athlete,” Dan Chandler, state coach for Minnesota USA Wrestling, said. “He works hard in practice and always pays attention. He’s really easy to coach and is absolutely a top shelf wrestler.”

Benick wasted no time making a name for himself last year in his first year competing at the Cadet level. After winning a 2012 Cadet Folkstyle championship, the 15 year old was adouble champion in his first trip to Fargo winning both Cadet Greco-Roman and Cadet Freestyle titles to secure a coveted Cadet Triple Crown.

“Winning it as a first year was really cool,” Benick said. “It was my goal for the year to win the Triple Crown and it felt good achieving my goal.”

After an impressive showing in Fargo, Benick carried his momentum in back into the practice room to prepare for his sophomore high school season.

“I was definitely a lot more confident, knowing that I had wrestled at a whole other level than most kids,” Benick said. “I was going to Nationals while most kids were just sitting at home.”

Cadet Director for Minnesota USA Wrestling, Jim Moulsoff acknowledges that Benick’s great work ethic rubs off on his teammates in the practice room.

“He works hard; when he competes he’s just a big competitor,” Moulsoff said. He’s always in the match and he really believes in his teammates and they believe in him and his attitude just gets contagious to the people around him. He doesn’t think of himself as any more than just Lance.”

To improve even more, Benick sought out tougher competitors which the majority of the time meant wrestling much older competitors.

“I started training with more senior level guys,” Benick said. “I worked out with Jordan Holm a lot, working on the small things that I wasn’t doing well in like controlling ties and just improving what I needed to. I get my butt kicked a lot, but it’s fun. You need to get your butt kicked to get better.”

Benick has often trained at the Minesota Wrestling Training center with 2012 USA Wrestling Greco-Roman Coach of the Year Dan Chandler.

“He’s the best coach in the Nation,” Benick said. “I’m in there all the time with him and he’s a big part of the reason I’m where I’m at right now.”

“Jordan Holm has been training there at the Minnesota Training Center with Jake Fisher and Brian Graham and Lance will come in and work with those guys along with Coach Chandler,” Moulsoff said.

Benick continued his trend of wrestling older competitors at the 2013 Folkstyle National Championships where he chose to wrestle at the Junior level rather than compete against kids his own age at the Cadet level. This move made Benick ineligible to win a second straight Cadet Triple Crown.

“Last year I walked through the Cadet tournament a little bit and didn’t have too much competition,” Benick said. “My coaches talked to me and wanted me to go for the Juniors just to get pushed a little bit more than I would have at the Cadet level.”

Wrestling up an age division hardly made a difference as Benick won the 195 lbs. title at the Junior Folkstyle Nationals, but then made the decision with his coaches to drop back down to the Cadet level for the Greco-Roman and Freestyle National Championships.

“Lance has got the World Championships coming up here in September and we felt that it would be in his best interest to wrestle in his age group right now, have some fun and use it as basically more training for him,” Moulsoff said. “It would help prepare him for Worlds and reduce the risk of getting injured for probably the biggest tournament of his life so far.”

Benick also made the decision to wrestle up at the 220 lbs. weight class at the Greco-Roman and Freestyle Nationals.

“Once I decided to wrestle cadets I didn’t really want to cut weight and I’m wrestling 220 lbs. when I go over to Serbia so I thought why not get used to how big the guys will be over there,” Benick said.

Despite moving up a weight class, Benick has still been dominant early on in Fargo, winning all four of his matches on the first day of Greco-Roman competition by fall or tech fall and not giving up a single point in the process. His quickest win of the day came when he pinned Shane Coombs of Colorado in 12 seconds. His longest match of the day hardly lasted half of the first period when he won by tech fall at 1:33. Benick has already secured a spot in the 220 lbs. Greco-Roman finals.

“He’s been very dominant, and I think he’s got a couple more tough guys on his side so we’ll see how tough he is,” said Moulsoff. “I know he’s going to compete hard, that’s just his nature.”

Benick will look to continue his day one dominance and repeat as a Cadet National Greco-Roman and Freestyle champion. After Fargo, he will set his sights on the 2013 World Championships in Serbia August 20-25.

“His goal is to be a World champion,” Moulsoff said. “I think it’s a very achievable goal with ability he has. He just continues to get better and better as he gets older.”

Benick has no plans on settling for anything less than gold.

“I want to be the best,” Benick said. “I don’t like being second, I like to win. I don’t like that number two, I like number one.”
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