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Benefiel looking to get back to Division I wrestling

Andrew Hipps

5/22/2009
Andrew Hipps, InterMat Senior Editor
andrew@intermatwrestle.com, Twitter: @InterMat

Coming out of high school, Mike Benefiel was expected to deliver big things in college.

A 2007 graduate of Montini Catholic High School in Illinois, Benefiel compiled a high school record of 200-4. He won four Illinois state high school titles, becoming just the ninth person in Illinois state history to accomplish the feat. He won many of the most prestigious high school wrestling events in the country, including Cadet Nationals, Junior Nationals, and the Walsh Ironman. He also won the Dave Schultz High School Excellence Award. He was ranked as the No. 6 recruit in the country by InterMat.

Mike Benefiel was a four-time Illinois state champion with a 200-4 record while wrestling at Montini Catholic High School in Lombard, Illinois (Photo/BuckeyeWrestling.com)
Benefiel signed to wrestle at Northwestern … and for a year and half, he was a member of the Wildcat wrestling team. As a redshirt at Northwestern, Benefiel compiled an impressive record of 19-4.

Then some unfortunate circumstances led to Benefiel leaving Northwestern this past December. He enrolled at St. Louis Community College in Meramec, Missouri in January with the intention of transferring to another Division I school. But NCAA transfer rules, along with transfer rules that are unique to each school and conference, have complicated the situation.

"I've threatened to write a book about college athletic transfers for dummies because it has been a really tough situation," said Mike's father, Dan Benefiel. "None of the rules match up. The Big Ten rules don't match up with the Big 12 rules. The Big 12 rules don't match up with the NCAA rules. Each college is different with what classes transfer. It has just been a real mess. I'm sure everybody goes through the same thing, but I didn't realize it would be quite so complicated."

Benefiel has talked with many of the nation's top wrestling programs, including Oklahoma State, Minnesota, Iowa State, Nebraska, Missouri, Virginia Tech, Oregon State, Tennessee-Chattanooga, and several others.

As it sits now, according to Dan Benefiel, there is "a ninety-five percent chance" that Mike will be wrestling at Oklahoma State next fall.

Benefiel finished up his coursework at Meramec last Friday and began classes this past Monday at Northern Oklahoma College in Stillwater, Oklahoma. If everything goes as planned, Benefiel will enroll at Oklahoma State this fall and join the Cowboy wrestling program. However, because of transfer rules, Benefiel would not be eligible to compete for Oklahoma State until December 12, which is exactly one year after he took his last final exam at Northwestern.

Benefiel, a native of Aurora, Illinois, grew up wrestling at the Overtime School of Wrestling, an Illinois-based club run by Sean Bormet that has facilities Naperville and Crystal Lake. One of Benefiel's coaches at Overtime, John Kading, a four-time All-American and NCAA champion for Oklahoma, has nothing but praise for the wrestler he has worked with for the past eight years.

"He's an exceptional kid," said Kading. "Words can't really describe what the kid is really like. He's pretty much a coach's dream when it comes to being on the mat. He displays a tremendous amount of sportsmanship. But once he steps on the mat against his competition, it's all fair game. He's one of the most competitive individuals that I've ever been able to coach."

Mike Benefiel recently won the University Nationals title in Akron, Ohio (Photo/BuckeyeWrestling.com)
On April 26, Benefiel, won the University Nationals title in freestyle at 79 kg (174 pounds) in Akron, Ohio. He went 6-0 and defeated three NCAA qualifiers en route to winning the title.

"I didn't really expect him to do as well as he did at University Nationals because he didn't have anyone other than Deron Winn (NJCAA champion at Meramec) to get him going and motivated," said Dan Benefiel. "He kind of had to do it all on his own. I didn't think he was conditioned enough. I thought he might place, but I didn't think he would win it all. He wrestled better than I thought. I was extremely ecstatic because it was kind of all on his own."

Kading was also amazed by how well Benefiel competed after such a long layoff.

"I thought he did an exceptional job," said Kading, who coached Benefiel at University Nationals. "I think he has been away from competition for a year. As technically on as he was after being away from competition for a year or longer, it's amazing that he accomplished what he did at that tournament."

If Benefiel does in fact enroll at Oklahoma State in the fall, like he's expected to do, he will become the final piece of the puzzle in what is an already incredible recruiting class for the Cowboys. Oklahoma State has signed five wrestlers ranked in InterMat's top 100: No. 3 Chris Perry (Stillwater, Oklahoma), No. 11 Jon Morrison (Carl Sandburg, Illinois), No. 21 Dallas Bailey (Catoosa, Oklahoma), No. 53 Ladd Rupp (Perry, Oklahoma), and No. 71 Zach White (Woodward, Oklahoma). In addition, Albert White, who won an NJCAA title for North Iowa Area Community College (NIACC) in 2008, is transferring to Oklahoma State.

Benefiel is expected to wrestle collegiately at 174 pounds. Kading believes Benefiel has an extremely bright future.

"The sky is the limit with that kid if he continues to work hard like he has been lately," said Kading. "Mike is just one of those kids. He puts in the hard work and then wrestling becomes easy for him. Any time you are the man at Oklahoma State, you have a chance to win a national title. If Mike can battle through the competition in that room and be the man at his weight class for OSU, he's going to be right in the hunt for the national title. I think that may be his toughest hurdle."

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