The more you talk to Chinook senior Ben Stroh, obviously the more you learn what a remarkable student-athlete he truly is.
And when it comes to high school wrestling, not just in Montana, Stroh is truly a man amongst boys.
Stroh has been wrestling for over a decade, and over the last four years especially, he has dominated his sport with almost no challengers. With only two losses over his entire prep career, Stroh’s domination over his opponents is what has kept him motivated. Stroh holds an overall record of 152-2 at Chinook, and is sitting at 44-0 this season. He hasn’t lost since his freshman season, where he dropped his only two matches of his career.
And though Stroh has had plenty of great prep wrestlers who have came before him, it seems he's been chasing history from the first time he put on a singlet. He's already made some that history — a lot of it actually. But he's about to reach the absolute pinnacle of Montana high school wrestling joining the elite list of high school wrestlers who have four individual state championships.
“When you go out onto the mat,” Stroh said. “It is you against him. One person is walking away the winner, and the other person, well, they are walking away sad.
“And the way I always looked at it,” Stroh added with a laugh, “The guy that wins, he should be able to walk around and if he sees that kid he beat in the stadium, he should be able to say ‘hey go get me a water, or go get me a Gatorade,’ and that kid better go do it. You show your dominance over your opponent, it is the oldest sport we have, and it is one man trying to take down another man. It shows skill and it shows strength.”
In his senior season, Stroh isn’t done showing his strength. If he cruises through the state tournament this weekend in Billings, like expected, he has just four matches left to stamp his name even deeper into the history books.
As a freshman, Stroh took the state title at 160 pounds, followed by a title at 171 pounds as a sophomore. As a junior, Stroh grabbed his third title at 189 pounds, and now is just four matches away from the coveted four-peat. Stroh hopes to join the group of 19 past prep wrestlers in Montana history to win titles in each of their four seasons.
And the history of wrestling in Montana is something Stroh, who will join his brother Robert, who is extremely close with, next season at the University of Wyoming, is something he has a tremendous amount of respect for.
As a freshman Stroh was able to meet Collin Lybeck from Chester, one of those 19 four-timers, and that helped push him ever since. And as his career winds down, Stroh’s longtime high school coach Perry Miller is glad to have been a part of it.
“Somebody introduced me to Collin Lybeck and told me that he had won four state titles. I looked at him and thought ‘holy cow, how did he do that? That is almost unthinkable’. I have been pushing for that forever, and I hope someday some kid looks up to me like that, like I did when I was younger," Stroh said.
“He is obviously very deserving of this,” Miller added. “He has put in the extra time, the extra work and has dedicated himself to the sport to be the best he could possibly be. To be a part of that, and I mean part, because Ben has supplied all of the main ingredients, it will be great to be there with him when he wins. To the victor go the spoils, and I have just been able to go along for the ride.”
And though Stroh’s high school career is almost over, he hasn’t even thought about slowing down.
He has four more matches to try and add to his 97 consecutive pin streak, as well as to his 139 total pins.
“It’s nice to pin the guy,” Stroh said. “But more importantly, I am thinking about just going out there and getting the win, that is ultimately more important. If I catch a guy on his back I will take the pin, but I can’t worry about getting the pin before thinking about just winning, or I will get caught up and won’t be able to wrestle. As long as you get the win, it doesn’t matter, a win is a win.”
And as of now, hswrestling.net has Stroh as the No. 2 195-pounder in the United States, which means he wins a lot. Intermatwrestle.com has Stroh as the No. 3 195-pounder in the nation. But just being in the top three, and not being No. 1, that too turns to motivation.
“It is a good feeling being nationally ranked,” Stroh said. “But at the same time, the bulls eye is on you when you are ranked, and I am still the No. 3 wrestler. There are two guys still ahead of me and I am looking for those guys and a tournament that I can go to and make them prove they are No. 1 and No. 2 above me.”
Before Stroh can travel the nation, hunting down the two wrestlers ranked above him, he has unfinished business at the Class B-C State Tournament in Billings.
Stroh will attempt to track down his fourth straight individual title Friday and Saturday in Billings.
Some things you need to know about Chinook's Ben Stroh
1. His career record is 152-2.
2. His consecutive pins now totals 97.
3. His season record is 44-0.
4. His current win streak is 143
5. He is in the top three in the national ranking for 195-pounds.
6. His total number of pins is 139.
7. He has 11 wins by way of decision.
8. His last win by decision was a 10-7 over Adam DeBruycker of Choteau his sophomore year.
9. Stroh’s first loss came from Havre High standout Ethan Hinebauch in Havre. It was Stroh’s first ever high school match.
10. Stroh’s only other loss came to Ethan Hinebauch, also Stroh’s freshman year in Great Falls at CMR.
11. Stroh placed sixth at the Fargo National Tournament last year as a junior, in Fargo, North Dakota. He was the only Montana wrestler to place a season ago.
12. His 97 consecutive pins is a current state record. The outstanding mark also surpasses the previous national record of 67 consecutive pins (this according to USA Wrestling statistics).
13. Stroh has had great success at tournaments across the nation, including the Tulsa Nationals, Reno Worlds, USAW Regionals and the Fargo Nationals.