Dominating is the best way to describe the first 16 matches of MU wrestler Ben Askren’s junior season. In each of those matches, Askren has completely controlled his opponent and earned a victory.
“I just tell myself before each match that if I wrestle hard for seven minutes, there’s nobody in the nation that can wrestle with me,” Askren said.
Askren, ranked No. 1 in the country at 174 pounds, has collected 13 falls this season including a record-breaking pin Friday at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational. His three pins there gave Askren 49 career pins, breaking J.P. Reese’s MU career mark of 47.
“It says a lot about my wrestling style,” Askren said. “With the way I wrestle, I’m going to get pins all the time.”
The most impressive part of the record might be the timing. Askren broke it just a few weeks into his junior season. He still has a season and a half to add on to his record.
“After the freshman year he had, I figured he was going to get the record,” coach Brian Smith said. “He wrestles at such a high level of intensity. He’s a great pinner. He wears down his opponents. And he’s great on top with his pinning combinations.”
None of Askren’s matches so far this season have been competitive. Only one, a major decision against No. 7 Mike Patrovich of Hofstra, was not a fall or technical fall.
“He’s wrestling like we knew he could,” Smith said. “Right now, I think he’s wrestling the best of anyone in the country, including all weight classes. Nobody is dominating more than he is, but that’s what he’s trained to do.”
Askren said he goes for the pin every match, no matter the score or the period. He did the same last year when he broke the MU season falls record with 20 during his sophomore campaign.
Askren hoped that would be good enough to win the Schalles Award, given to the top collegiate pinner in the nation, but Marcus LeVesseur of Augsburg College received the award instead. This season he is making it his goal to take the award in May.
“I’d appreciate other people’s recognition,” Askren said. “And them recognizing the style of wrestling I have. I thought I deserved it.”
Askren also has his sights on the national career falls record of 110 that heavyweight Al Sears of Southern Illinois-Edwardsville set from 1982-85. Askren said he doesn’t know if he will have enough matches to get there, though.
Still, he is almost sure to better his Missouri season falls record. He is well ahead of the pace he set last year. Smith said he thinks Askren will improve the mark this season and probably again next year.
“He just seems to get more and more each season,” Smith said.