Most high school athletes could only dream of a shot at becoming a state champion, this is true in any sport. Tell those same high athletes that they would have a shot at achieving four-peat state wrestling title, as well as a back to back football titles, they would call you crazy.
But for one Montana prep standout, this is not a dream at all; in fact it is the exact opposite.
When it comes to the history books, Chinook senior Benjamin Stroh has already cemented his place in the pages amongst the best prep athletes this state has ever seen. After his junior year he holds an astonishing wrestling record of 105-2, and has already achieved state supremacy at 160 pounds as a freshman, 171 pounds as a sophomore and 189 pounds as a junior. Stroh’s two losses came as a freshman. The first was in his first ever high school match, and his second later that season in the CMR finals.
And with a shot at another individual wrestling title this year, as well as a shot at going back-to-back as state champions with the Sugarbeeters football program, the doors to Stroh’s future are wide open
“It’s interesting,” Stroh said. “I will have a chance to go out and look at some bigger colleges that not a lot of people get to look at. But at the same time I have to remember where I came from, and all of these guys (Chinook coaches, wrestlers and football players) have helped me get to this point.
“And I haven’t completely made up my mind yet,” Stroh added. “I am leaning towards wrestling in college, but if a school offered me a good scholarship in football I would have a hard time turning that down. I have been talking to some different schools for wrestling, but for football it is still pretty wide open.”
Stroh’s success and hard work has brought him to this point. While his senior season has just begun, he has more on his plate than most other seniors around the state.
Chinook’s football season is underway, and many consider the Beeters the top team to take the Class C title for the second straight season. The Beeters’ strong running game and hard-nosed defense is what has everybody talking. And with Stroh right in the middle of things as the team's top running back and linebacker, Stroh is well aware of the team's capabilities for a repeat and just what that repeat would mean.
“A repeat would mean everything,” Stroh said. “That is every senior's goal, to win a state title and the team is looking at that goal just as much as we were last year. We have a lot to do, but it’s still out there and definitely not out of the question for us.”
And while the team will heavily rely on what Stroh can produce with the ball in his hands, Stroh remains team oriented rather than individual goal oriented.
“Personal statistics don’t mean as much to me in football as the ultimate team goal,” Stroh said. “I don’t even pay attention to what the statistic sheet says until that 12th game of the season is over. Every time I touch the ball I just want to look to get to the end zone and try not to get cut short. But also, if the team needs four yards, I hope I am the man they can trust to give the ball to and get those four yards.”
With just one game done and out of the way for the Beeters, there is still a lot of football to be played this season. But for Stroh, wrestling is still on the mind as well. He is giving football everything he has, but with so many eyes on him and his wrestling career, the pressure is on to perform.
“I guess there is some pressure going into every match,” Stroh said. “I always know who the really good guys are and the guys who aren’t so good, but the pressure is always there. Some of it is the fear of losing, as well as the will to win, but at bigger tournaments I just don’t want to mess up and do something wrong and get caught.
“Playing Football levels out wrestling for me,” Stroh went on to say. “You can only strictly wrestle, an individual sport for so long before you want to work with somebody again. Having to trust the guy next to you, and knowing he is going to do his job is something completely different, but fun at the same time. In football you just have to rely on the other guys playing. You can’t play the whole field, but you can play the whole field in wrestling.”
In Stroh’s first game with the Beeters this season, he rushed 18 times for 185 yards and scored four touchdowns. He helped propel the Beeters to a 58-20 win over Scobey in week one. As a junior, Stroh played fullback for the state champion Better offense, but still rushed for over 800 yards, and he played his best football in the playoffs. This season, he'll see even more carries in the Chinook backfield, and as he gains ground, he'll continue to garner attention from collegiate scouts for both the fullback and linebacker psition.
And with the 2011 wrestling season still on the horizon, Stroh will also look to step up his game, hoping to keep his pin streak alive, currently at 61 consecutive pins, as well as keep his almost flawless record continually getting better. Stroh pinned every opponent he faced last season and will look to do the same thing this year.
But for now, Stroh is focused on football. He's focused on helping Chinook continue its magical ride in Class C football and he's focused on each and every game the Beeters play.
For this Chinook senior, the time is now and he's not letting any of the moments slip past him.