After two years waiting in the wings, redshirt sophomore Ben Stone is now the starting heavyweight for the Wisconsin wrestling team.
Stone came to UW as an accomplished prep wrestler. During his time at Cumberland (Wis.) High School he accumulated 140 wins, the second most of any grappler in school history, and broke the program record for single-season wins on two different occasions.
He was a three-time state qualifier who found the podium twice, placing third his junior year before winning it all as a senior.
As is common, Stone went through a growth period during his redshirt freshman season. He posted a 14-12 record while wrestling unattached.
“I wish I could go meet myself when I first came here. Everyone thinks they are top dog coming out of high school,” Stone said. “Obviously, I’m very proud of my accomplishments. But if I were to wrestle myself from back in freshman year, it wouldn’t even be close.”
The following season brought marked improvement. Stone went 11-3 on the year. The high point of the campaign came during his dual meet debut. He pinned No.16 Jacob Kasper of Duke in 1:18 to help the Badgers to a 25-17 win over the Blue Devils.
With the proper focus, a year of experience can go a long way.
“I’ve just learned how to push myself mentally and get into scrambles,” Stone said. “Positioning is huge.”
Last season, Stone had the benefit of working with former Wisconsin heavyweight Connor Medbery. A four-time NCAA qualifier and three-time All-American, Medbery capped his college career by finishing as national runner-up in 2017.
“Connor gave me that perfect template of what to be. The guy did amazing things on the mat and off the mat,” Stone said. “I was able to sit back and get a passenger seat view of what it takes to become a national championship-caliber wrestler, the extra work it takes, how you eat, how you manage your time. Nobody else gets that and I was able to. So I know I have to mirror what he did.”
Throughout his two-plus seasons in Madison, Stone has seen a variety of training partners. While each brings a unique style and strengths to the table, lack of continuity sometimes presents its own challenges. That’s where the coaches come in.
“People change in the room, but I find the one constant is our coaching staff,” Stone said. “There are a lot of things that will change, even outside of the wrestling room. Things in school, things in social life, things are always changing. But the coaches keep you accountable for that consistency. They have your specific drills, no matter who it’s with.”
Now it’s Stone’s turn to shine. He hopes to earn some national success of his own.
“Get on the podium (at the NCAA Tournament), that’s the goal all season,” said Stone. “We have dual season. We have pre-dual season. But we’re focused on March. That’s when it counts.”
Though his objectives have grown throughout the years, methodical, steady training remains the key.
“I have to start focusing now, setting the goal that I’m wrestling for March. Every day I have to be mentally there and I have to get better,” Stone said. “I can’t take any drops down. Heavyweight is a tough weight class. If I want to get to the podium, every day in practice I have to get a little bit better.”
Stone and the No.20 Badgers open the dual meet portion of their schedule Friday night as they take on No.23 Pittsburgh and host Cal State-Bakersfield as part of a tri-dual.