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Stroh makes it four in a row

 


Chinook's Ben Stroh (right) locks up with teammate Rob Klingaman at the start of the Class B-C 189-pound state championshiip match Saturday night at the Rimrock Auto Arena in Billings. Stroh pinned Klingaman in the first period and became the 20th Montanan to win four individual state titles.

BILLINGS — When Chinook senior Ben Stroh stepped to the middle of the mat for the start of the last high school match in what has been a storied career, it was somewhat of a surprise that he was wrestling a teammate to make history.

What came 39 seconds later was a surprise to no

Ben Stroh warms up before his historic final high school match Saturday night in Billings.

one.

Saturday night at the Rimrock Auto Arena in Billings, Stroh became the 20th wrestler in Montana prep history to achieve winning four straight individual state championships, defeating teammate Rob Klingaman by pin in the 189-pound Class B-C championship match.

As expected, Stroh received a huge ovation from the 7,000-plus fans in attendance, including a group of Chinook supporters wearing a bright orange t-shirt which read: "I'm Ben Stroh's Biggest Fan."

By night's end, three more wrestlers were crowned as four-time state champions, but perhaps none did it in the dominating fashion in which Stroh reached his. His pin of Klingaman was his national high school record 101st in a row, and it also ran his season record to 48-0.

His four state championship season's included just two losses, both coming to former Havre High state champion and good friend Ethan Hinebauch his freshman year. He also helped lead Chinook to four straight Class C championships during his career.

"I guess everybody expected it, but nothing's given to you," Stroh said. "You just look around and everybody's here to support everybody. They all want to watch you win, but not everybody can win. It's great. Everybody's cheering for their own people, but they all come together when somebody wins."

Stroh was the star of the tournament and he'll go on to star at the University of Wyoming, where his brother Robert, who was a three-time state champion for Chinook currently wrestles. Robert was one of the many people in attendance Saturday night to watch Stroh make history. He joined the likes of Chester's Colin Lybeck and Havre's Matt and T.J. Cambell as four-time winners from the Hi-Line.

"Ben is just a special kid," Chinook head coach Perry Miller said. "He's got all the talent, he's a gifted athlete and a great wrestler. But his best attribute is his attitude. Coaches coach, but the kids bring the attitude and work ethic and Ben's is special. Through his positive attitude, his great family and his desire to work hard, he's been able to achieve every goal he's set. He's accomplished some really special things and he's made everyone in our program better along the way. This is a very special night and one we're all very proud of."

Over two days inside the Metra, Stroh spent just 3:12 on the mat. That's not a lot of time, but that's what Stroh has been doing to opponents for years now. He pinned Thompson Falls' Eric Miler in :33 in the first round and wrapped up his Friday by pinning Fort Benton's Austin Reichelt in :46. In the semifinals Saturday morning, he pinned Ronan's Colby Roberts at the 1:16 mark in the first period before ending his career against Klingaman.

Stroh earned the "Quick Pin" Award for the weekend and ran his overall record to a staggering 156-2. Of his 156 victories, only 10 came by way of something other than a pin.

"Watching Stroh was awesome," Havre High senior Eli Hinebauch, who won his second consecutive Class A state title Saturday night, and who's participated in the finals all four years said.

But as quickly as he closed the book on his prep career, Stroh always the competitor starting looking ahead, but also relished in all he'd just done.

"This was a great way to end my high school career," he said. "It was a lot of fun to do it here in front this great crowd, to have that support, and to wrestle Robbie in the finals, it's really amazing. It's an amazing night. And when I look back, my freshman year seems like so long ago. But I know a lot has happened since then and I've put in a lot of time into this. So it's definitely something I'm proud of.

"But I also understand that part's all over with now," he added. "I've got to get myself to a new level, because now I'm going to be competing with the college-level guys and it's going to be all new challenges. I've got to get myself ready, get back in the weight room and hit that hard and get out and compete in some big tournaments this summer. This has been an awesome four years, but I'm also excited about all the new challenges in front of me."

 

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