(Editor’s note: MTN Sports began recognizing some of the best wrestlers in Montana history on Jan. 16 with the launch of the #MTTop20. Athletes will continue to be featured until Friday, Feb. 10 when No. 1 is unveiled.)
No. 18 – Benjamin Stroh, Chinook
Only seven athletes in Montana have ever won more than 100 consecutive wrestling matches, but only one grappler has strung together a streak of triple digit pins. Former Chinook standout Ben Stroh holds the Montana record for consecutive career pins, nearly 70 more than second place.
Ben Stroh stat sheet
A member of the 2012 four-timers club (Luke Schlosser, Luke Zeiger, Cole Mendenhall and Stroh), Stroh became the first Chinook athlete to capture four consecutive state championships, doing so in three different weight classes. He became the first four-time champion to begin his career above the 145-pound weight class, winning at 160 pounds as a freshman, 171 pounds as a sophomore and 189 pounds in his final two seasons.
Stroh capped his high school career with a record of 156-2, winning his final 147. Each of Stroh’s losses came during his freshman campaign, including a CMR Holiday Classic loss to Havre’s Ethan Hinebauch in the finals.
But Stroh’s greatest accomplishment came in how he won matches. The Sugarbeeter standout won 101 consecutive contests by pinfall, believed to be a national record and certainly a Montana record. The next highest Treasure State competitors are Sidney’s Josh Prevost, Byron Kuylen and Dan Collins who each managed 36 straight pins. His 42 pins in the 2012 season rank seventh in the Montana history books for single-season pinfalls.
Stroh continued is career at the University of Wyoming where he redshirted in his first year with the Cowboys, posting a 16-1 record. 10 of the wins were by pinfall and he won four different invites throughout the season.
Following a 7-0 start to his freshman season, Stroh won four tournaments and captured the 184 pound championship at the NCAA West Regional, qualifying for the NCAA Championships. He was named WWC freshman of the year and rookie of the year.
After posting a 62-28 career record at Wyoming, with 20 falls and two trips to the NCAA Championships, Stroh transferred back home to MSU-Northern, where he is currently ranked No. 2 in the nation at 184 pounds. He recently won the prestigious Reno Tournament of Champions and is expected to compete for an NAIA national championship, which would solidify his ranking in the #MTTop20. He is currently ranked second in the 184-pound weight class.
… on Stroh:
Chinook head wrestling coach Perry Miller: “That kid, from the time he was six years old, was probably one of the most tenacious athletes I’ve had the pleasure of coaching. He just did things right. We coach to wrestle for the win and if the pin comes, that’s a bonus. But Ben would wrestle for the win and the pin came pretty early in some cases.”
“The most impressive thing about Ben Stroh is his humility and the way he does things. For the six or seven minutes you have to spend on the mat with Ben Stroh, you’re probably never going to forget that if you’re actually fortunate enough to make it through the entire match. But the beauty of Ben Stroh is the human being that he is. Prior to the match and after the match he’s a very humble kid that’s appreciative of his gifts and the people around him. He’s a phenomenal young man. He gives back to the sport of wrestling every day, he gives back to the kids here in Chinook that look to him as a hero and role model. I’ve had the opportunity of coaching some great kids but the bottom line is Ben is a genuine human being and to me, you can coach Ben and you automatically become a fan, but it’s not just his ability to wrestle but the persona he has of being a good person.”
MSU-Northern wrestling coach Tyson Thivierge: “I’ve known Ben since he was in junior high and just watching him, his ability was second-to-none. You watch the kid and you’re in awe at what he’s capable of doing strength-wise, technique-wise and speed-wise. When he smelled blood and had somebody on their back, that’s all she wrote. I mean, he finished his high school career with 101 straight pins.”
“I definitely think Ben needs to cap it off by being dominant. I’m not talking about consecutive pins or technical falls or anything like that. Every time he’s stepped on the mat this season he’s put himself in a position to win every match. He almost seems like he was right out of high school, he’s super-motivated again. Look at his collegiate career at Wyoming, his redshirt year he goes 16-1, beats several guys ranked in the Top 20 at the Division I level. Then the pressure starts, he’s in the starting lineup. But he had a great career, great year as a redshirt when topping several Top 20 opponents. He was their wrestling conference freshman of the year, a national qualifier first time trying, he won their conference. I wasn’t there so I don’t know if it was injury-related or anything like that, but I think the pressure kind of got to him. Now it seems ot me like Ben is starting to have a lot of fun with wrestling again. He’s having fun, he knows what he needs to do to get to the top level. We just went to one of the bigtgest Division I tournaments in the west and he won his way through it, the Reno Tournament of Champions. He hadn’t won that since his freshman year at Wyoming. He’s capable of stepping on the mat against anybody. But for Ben to cap things off and solidify himself as one of the Top 20, Ben needs to finish his career the way it started. He needs to be dominant and he needs to keep focusing on one match at a time and winning one match at a time. There’s no doubt in our mind that coming into the room he’s not a lock to win a national title, it’s going to come down to work ethic and staying healthy and doing the right things. So far he’s done that. If he continues to do that, as a coach I firmly believe he will walk away with a national championship.”