Prose and Kohn: Ryan Kohn.
Ever return to work after a lengthy vacation, settle in with a fresh cup of coffee, and think to yourself, “What am I supposed to do?”
That’s been Brendan Bengtsson’s wrestling predicament the last few years. The Braden River High senior started in the sport as a sophomore. He was raw. The 285-pounder was getting by on his natural athleticism.
Besides, his main sport was football, where he started as an offensive lineman. He didn't have time to concentrate on his mat skills during wrestling off season.
So when he returned for his junior wrestling season a year ago, instead of entering the season with momentum, it was like he was starting over. Bengtsson forgot much of what he learned his first year.
“My coaches asked me to execute a ‘duck under’ (takedown),” Bengtsson said. “I forgot what a ‘duck-under’ was and how to do one. You don’t think about that stuff during football workouts and the season.”
His most challenging opponent was time management. In a sense, Bengtsson’s second season was a lot like his first, relearning moves and activating his muscle memory. He still was raw, but improved.
He actually improved a lot. Like, “reached the final match of Class 2A’s 285-pound division” improved.
"I believe if I go train hard in the (wrestling) room, I can excel," Bengtsson said. "I just have to do my job."
This never ceases to blow my mind. Great athletes like Bengtsson can try a sport, any sport, and after dedicating a short amount of time to it become dominant, even if he doesn't know what a "duck under" is. If I took four months of surfing lessons, stopped for nine months and tried to hop into a competition, the tide would drag me to Atlantis.
Bengtsson didn’t win his state finals match, falling to Riverdale High senior Cole Schneider. Still, the season was a confidence boost for the heavyweight. He finished 49-4 overall.
As Bengtsson’s senior season gets underway, is he more prepared than season’s past?
Well, not really, he admitted.
Braden River’s football season ended Nov. 17, which meant he didn’t think about anything else before then. Bengtsson joined the wrestling team the following week, hardly enough time to get into peak wrestling shape. He started daily 6:30 a.m. workouts at the school Nov. 29, and he’s consistently been staying after school until 5:30 p.m. to practice. The days are long, he said, but his focus this time of year is all on wrestling. It’s worth the work to get where he needs to be.
“I’m leaner and stronger,” Bengtsson said. “Just in better shape overall. I’m taking it seriously.”
Bengtsson is starting to think like a wrestler. There were no forgotten moves this time. He knows if an opponent is speedy, he will have to beat him with strength (and beat him quickly; the more strength you use, the faster you lose stamina, he said). It’s the opposite with a power wrestler: Bengtsson will use his own speed to get the edge.
He’s excited about helping Braden River’s younger wrestlers learn proper technique now that he knows it himself. He’s also excited for his potential. If he can reach the state championship match in year two, never having much time to train, year three should open more possibilities.
It will be fascinating to see how Bengtsson performs. Will wrestlers who have been perfecting their technique every day during their high school careers will be able to derail the big man before he maximizes his potential?
It’s Bengtsson’s goal to end his high school career with a state title. Don’t bet against him.
“I believe if I go train hard in the (wrestling) room, I can excel,” Bengtsson said. “I just have to do my job.”