Ben Askren's Wrestling Highlights
Ben Askren is one of the highest profile wrestlers of his generation, enjoying an incredible amount of success through the mid-2000's as a dominant and innovative wrestling champion in folkstyle and freestyle. As he prepares for his UFC debut against Robbie Lawler this weekend, let's take a look at his career highlights.
After a successful high school career, Ben committed to the Missouri Tigers, one of the most coveted signees at that point. With a highly unorthodox style, an outspoken nature, and a big afro, he was easy to spot and impossible to forget on the mats. In 2004 and 2005, he reached the national finals but lost in both to Chris Pendleton of Oklahoma State. Once Pendleton graduated, and after Ben had improved in the areas that plagued his losses those first few seasons, Ben reeled off two straight unbeaten seasons, winning national titles and pinning more than half his opponents during an 87 match unbeaten streak. These seasons both earned him the Hodge trophy, and he would defeat such greats as Jake Herbert and Keith Gavin in his last two finals appearances. He also received the pin-based Schalles award, the WIN Magazine wrestler of the year award, and an ESPY nomination for best male college athlete. His career as a college athlete is elite among elite, and he did it in a unique way (something even more unusual in the grind-focused sport of wrestling).
In 2008, Ben defeated Tyrone Lewis to become the 74 kilogram representative for the US at the Beijing Olympics in freestyle wrestling. Despite good international success, there were some questions about how Ben's unorthodox approach would translate from folkstyle to freestyle. At the Olympics, Ben went 1-1, pinning Hungarian Istvan Vereb before falling to Ivan Fundora in the second round. With most of his usual defenses outlawed by international exposure rules, he wasn't able to generate the offenses he needed to score and advance in the tournament. Maybe with more time to transition, he could (and in this writer's opinion would) have launched into the global elite, but Ben would transition to MMA after the Olympics, where he enjoys an undefeated 18-0 record.