Photo courtesy of Larry Slater
Tomorrow night, Ben Askren will challenge one of the greatest American wrestlers in history, Jordan Burroughs, at the Beat the Streets “Grapple at the Garden” event at the Hulu Theater in New York City. Askren has primarily focused on the MMA cage and coaching at the Askren Wrestling Academy for most of the last decade, so it may be easy for some to forget just how remarkable and unique Ben’s career on the wrestling mat actually was. Here are some of his most notable achievements mainly during his career at the University of Missouri, but also as an international competitor and 2008 US Olympian.
Ben became the first NCAA Champion in Missouri wrestling history in 2006. That year he was also named the Most Outstanding Wrestler at the NCAA Championships.
His 45-0 record during his junior season (2005-06) made him the first undefeated wrestler in school history.
In 2006-07, Askren won his second NCAA title which made him the first Missouri athlete in any sport to become a two-time NCAA champ since 1998-99.
Ben was the first four-time All-American in school history going (2nd, 2nd, 1st, 1st) in his four years on the mat for the Tigers.
His second place finish in 2004, Ben was the first Missouri freshman finalist.
He finished his career with 153 wins (against only eight losses) which are still number one on the Tigers all-time list. J’Den Cox is second with 136. Askren is second to Cox on Mizzou’s all-time list for career winning percentage (.950)
Ben finished his career with an 87-match winning streak, having last lost in the 2005 NCAA Finals.
In 2005-06, Ben captured the first Hodge Trophy in school history and then won another in 06-07. At the time he joined Cael Sanderson as the only multiple-time Hodge winners. Since then, David Taylor and Zain Retherford have also won two.
Askren finished his career with 91 falls, which is tops on Missouri’s all-time list. 2019’s senior Daniel Lewis is second on the list 38 pins behind Askren. Ben has the two highest single-season pin totals in school history with 29 in 06-07 and 25 in 05-06. Of the 29 pins during the 2007 season, 23 of them came in the first period.
During his senior season, Ben pinned 18 opponents in a row, all of which came in the first period. During that streak, he won the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational and the Southern Scuffle. Some of the present or future All-Americans that were pinned by Askren during this time were Matt Herrington (Penn x2), Matt Stolpinski (Navy), Mike Letts (Maryland), Keith Gavin (Pittsburgh x2), Brandon Sinnott (Central Michigan).
In four years at the NCAA tournament, Askren amassed a 17-2 record with four falls, three tech falls, and three major decisions.
Over the course of his career, Ben scored 771 dual points which are a school record, as are his 227 dual points recorded in both his junior and senior seasons.
As a senior, in 2007, Ben led a Missouri team that won their first team trophy in school history after accumulating 80 points and finishing third in the nation.
Ben’s 2006 NCAA finals opponent Jake Herbert went on to win the Hodge Trophy in 2008 at 184 lbs and was undefeated heading into their match. Askren was victorious by the score of 14-2. The third-place finisher in that weight class was Mark Perry, who went down to 165 lbs and won NCAA titles in the next two seasons.
His 2007 NCAA finals opponent, Keith Gavin, was an undefeated NCAA champion in 2008 and a Hodge Trophy runner-up.
Ben was a three-time Big 12 Champion and was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler at the Big 12 Championships after upsetting the eventual NCAA champ, Chris Pendleton. Seven of his eight career losses came to Pendleton. This was the only time he defeated the Oklahoma State Cowboy.
In regular season action, Ben won the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational three times and the Southern Scuffle twice.
Askren was the US representative at the 2008 Olympics at 74 kg. He would go on to finish seventh after defeating Istvan Vereb (Hungary) by fall and losing to Ivan Fundora (Cuba) 3-1, 4-0. Ben became the first Missouri wrestler to make the Olympic team.
At the 2008 Olympic Team Trials, Ben defeated Donny Pritzlaff 3-0, 1-1 and then Ramico Blackmon 1-0, 2-1 to make the finals. For the championship and the spot on the Olympic team, Askren downed Tyrone Lewis 2-0, 1-0 and 2-6, 2-0, 1-0.