A Closer Look at Askren's National Title
Ben Askren came into the NCAA championships with an undefeated record and a number-one ranking in the country. It was in the finals where he met another undefeated wrestler in Northwestern's Jake Herbert.
"Until I get that national title, you know, it's what I'm here for it's what I want to do. Nothing means anything right now, you know," Herbert says, "Second place just doesn't cut it."
The Wildcat sophomore finished third at last year's NCAA championships, and was excited about his first collegiate match with Askren.
Herbert continues, "He's the only one in the weight class I haven't wrestled. I've basically wrestled almost everybody and beaten everybody. And I haven't gotten a shot at him yet, and he's probably one of the best out there pound-for-pound."
The showdown with Herbert was Askren's third trip to the NCAA finals. He finished in second place during both his freshman and sophomore campaigns.
Missouri head coach Brian Smith says, "It's just disappointing, especially the last two years with Ben, because you know how much time and commitment he puts in. You're just frustrated for him."
This year, Askren entered the Championship with 44 wins and no losses. Herbert came in with 36 wins and no losses.
Herbert says, "I don't know what my record is, it's something and 0. I know the same is with him. The only winning streak that really matters is the five matches here at nationals."
The fifth match belonged to the Missouri junior, who scored three takedowns and three near-falls, and brought Missouri its first national wrestling championship.
Askren says, "It was a battle. I mean, he didn't stop wrestling. I give it to him, he never quit. But in the same respect, you know, i was never worried."
Smith adds, "Kids in the state of Missouri, youth kids that are gonna see that, that have something to look to now. You know, he's the national champ, and who's gonna be the next? But we've done it."
Coaches from all of the schools at the tournament elected Askren Most Outstanding Wrestler, the sport's equivalent to the Most Valuable Player award.
"It's great because all the other coaches told me, when i was gonna come here, they said, 'you can't do it there. No one has ever done it there, the coaches haven't done it. They don't know how to do it,'" Askren says, "I'm just glad to prove everyone wrong and show that it can be done."
Askren leaves the championships with a national title, the Most Outstanding Wrestler award, and a promise of more to come. Askren says he looks forward to defending his title next season. Sophomore Tyler McCormick also became an All-American when he captured seventh place at 133 pounds.