UB wrestler James Benjamin having breakout season
James Benjamin came to UB for academics initially. But when John Stutzman came into the picture, Benjamin decided to wrestle.
UB wrestling head coach John Stutzman used to coach at Bloomsburg University before he came to UB. At the time, he was trying to recruit Benjamin, a senior 197-pounder, to Bloomsburg. However, Benjamin didn’t like the school. After Stutzman came to UB, Benjamin decided to wrestle for him.
“He’s just a very humbled kid and just works really hard and is very grateful for the opportunity,” Stutzman said.
UB wrestling is currently 1-2 on the season. This record isn’t indicative of how their matches went though. They faced a nationally ranked Cornell where they almost won. The final score was 18-15. They faced a nationally ranked Princeton, where the final score was 28-12. To prepare them for these tough matches, Stutzman has an interesting way of getting their mindset right.
“To be quite honest with you, I tell them you’re not supposed to win, you’re from the University at Buffalo,” Stutzman said. “Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that, I know we’re gonna win, but a lot of people don’t believe that we’re supposed to win.”
Whether or not you believe this system works, it’s been showing results. Currently, UB wrestling has two nationally ranked wrestlers. These wrestlers are 133-pounder Bryan Lantry, and Benjamin. They are both ranked 17th in their respective weight class.
“We got two nationally ranked guys and a handful of others who are on the cusp of being nationally ranked,” Stutzman said. “I think we’re faring well.”
Stutzman likes the success, but he doesn’t want his wrestlers to become too high, so to speak. It’s only December and the season isn’t close to ending.
“We can’t let our highs get us too high. We gotta stay humble and keep progressing,” Stutzman said.
With respect to Benjamin, he has recently been ranked and received a lot of praise for his Princeton match. He scored an upset against a wrestler ranked in the top five. At the time of the match, Princeton wrestler Brett Harner was ranked fourth nationally. Benjamin won the match 7-5 in overtime.
The match ended pretty quickly. Brett Harner took a sloppy shot, which allowed Benjamin to finish with a takedown. Stutzman saw the initial shot from Harner, but knew the match was over.
“It was over. I knew we won…The guy had literally 10 seconds of energy left in his body, so after he shot we knew we were gonna get it,” Stutzman said.
After the match, Benjamin became ranked nationally. He was also named MAC wrestler of the week, FloWrestler of the week and TheOpenMat’s wrestler of the week. He wrestled Harner last year, as well.
However, the match ended differently.
“I mean coming from last year, he beat me pretty bad. He pinned me,” Benjamin said.
Coming into the match, he knew he had to focus on what he was best at doing. His style is described as being unconventional though.
“He’s a goofy wrestler. He’s hard to wrestle,” Stutzman said, “Where he’s good at, nobody is good at, so it’s very unorthodox.”
He’s an unorthodox wrestler because he’s flexible. He finds himself in scenarios where he has the opportunity to hit moves that no one practices. Stutzman lets him run with his skill set because he has success with them.
“We don’t drill them, we don’t teach him, it’s something he’s learned from I think, the type of athlete he is,” Stutzman said.
Originally in the match, Herner was winning 7-5, but he had points from a takedown called back. This gave Benjamin the opportunity to win the match in OT.
“Really came in and really just decided that I was gonna win this one this year,” Benjamin said.
Although this match helped Benjamin become nationally ranked, he’s still focused on the bigger picture. He doesn’t really care for the national rankings if the ultimate goal isn’t achieved for college wrestlers.
“It’s nice having some recognition, but in the end, it’s not going to matter. What’s going to matter is winning the national championship,” Benjamin said.