February 27, 2019 06:38 PM
(ABC 6 News) – For the first time since 2016, the Zumbrota-Mazeppa Cougars won’t win the Class A state team wrestling title, but a few Cougars still have a chance at winning championships this weekend—that includes senior wrestler Jacob Bennett, who has “unfinished business” at state.
“You couldn’t ask for a better kid to coach,” Cougars head wrestling coach Link Steffen said. “He’s a 4.0 student, a yes-sir type kid. He wants to please coaches, teachers, anyone that he’s working for.”
Physically, Bennett is literally built like a football linebacker—he’s the all-time leading rusher at Zumbrota-Mazeppa.
“There are no two sports which benefit each other more than wrestling and football,” Bennett said. “They go hand-in-hand. Football makes you a better wrestler, wrestling makes you a better football player. Wrestling teaches you how to stay in a low and athletic stance, and excel in weird positions like you would be in football.”
“He (works so hard and) does it with genuine passion,” Steffen added. “He doesn’t just show up to the weight room to show up, he shows up to get bigger and get better, and he has a purpose to his workouts.”
Bennett’s standout play on the gridiron in the fall has transferred to his play on the wrestling mats this winter, as Bennett boasts a 35-3 record this season.
“(I just try to be) offensive. My shots, my stuff, my movement, stick to my gameplan,” Bennett said. “I don’t want to wrestle down to (my opponent’s) level and I try to use my stuff.”
This weekend, after winning his second-consecutive Section 1A individual wrestling title in Rochester, Bennett will compete in his fourth-consecutive individual state wrestling tournament in St. Paul.
“He really wants to win it,” Steffen said. “He’s been working hard every day to do that. I really think it’s a motivational tool.”
After this weekend, Bennett will walk away from the wrestling circle—beginning next fall, Bennett will be playing Division II football at Minnesota State University, Mankato, where he said he’ll likely play running back or slot receiver on offense.
“It’s definitely going to be a tough thing to do. It’s all I’ve done my whole life,” Bennett said. “It’s the first sport I’ve ever tried, and it’s something that’s always been a part of me my whole life.”
“I hope he (wrestles in college also),” Steffen joked. “I hope Mankato can persuade him to try it out because I think he could do well. Football though is a big enough chore in college, so we’ll see.”
In his final run in wrestling, Bennett hopes to finish his career on top, a place where he’s finished one win short of in each of the past two seasons.
“It definitely leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It’s something I don’t like to think about, but it’s also motivated me to work harder,” Bennett said. “It’s definitely something I don’t want to feel again, and that’s why I’m gunning for the state title.”
Bennett is the no.2 seed in the 182-pound weight class of this weekend’s Class A individual state wrestling tournament—and state title or not, Zumbrota-Mazeppa won’t forget Bennett.
“There will never be another Jacob Bennett,” Steffen said. “We’re going to miss him.”
Updated: February 27, 2019 06:38 PM
Created: February 27, 2019 05:17 PM
Copyright 2019 - KAAL-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company