Kjar Finishes 4th at NCAA Championships
PHILADELPHIA - Utah Valley University senior Benjamin Kjar (125 pounds) put an impressive run together when it mattered the most as he placed fourth at the 2011 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships to become UVU's first-ever wrestling All-American. During his run the unseeded Kjar defeated three top-7 seeded wrestlers.
"Ben peaked at the right time and did his best wrestling of his career here. He was mentally and physically ready and knew what he had to do," UVU head coach Greg Williams said. "We're really excited for him and feel that it was appropriate for him to become our programs first All-American. All of his hard work has truly paid off."
"It all came together for him here this weekend. Everyone that he wrestled here at this tournament was very tough. For him to put this run together and to earn that All-American, that's the dream. Ben's been coming here for years and years dreaming about standing up on that podium and it will be an emotional time when he does that tonight."
In his first match of the day — the consolation semifinals that determined whether or not he would wrestle for third or fifth-place — Kjar kept his impressive NCAA tournament run going as he pulled off a 3-1 win over the No. 7 seed from Stanford Ryan Mango.
After a scoreless first period in that match against Mango, Kjar took the first lead when he picked up a quick escape point to start the second period. Later in the second Kjar got in on a deep shot and finished it off with the two point takedown to lead 3-0. Mango then got on the board with an escape point in the beginning of the third period but Kjar wrestled solid defense the rest of the bout to pull out the 3-1 victory.
Mango was the third seeded grappler that Kjar defeated at this year's NCAA Championships. He previously upended the No. 4 seed from Old Dominion James Nicholson on Thursday and the No. 5 seed from Minnesota Zachary Sanders on Friday.
With the win Kjar then took on the No. 3 seed and two-time All-American from Northwestern Brandon Precin in the third-place match. After it looked like the two would end the first period scoreless, Precin managed to get a late takedown to lead 2-0 at the end of one. In the second period Precin score three more points — off of an escape and a takedown — to go up 5-0. In the final period Kjar gave it everything he had as he tried multiple offensive attacks but Precin managed to hold on and win 5-0.
The loss to Precin resulted in a fourth-place finish for Kjar. Kjar went an unprecedented 4-2 at this year's nationals at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. His two losses came to the No. 3 seeded Precin and the No. 1 seeded Anthony Robles of Arizona State.
Kjar received another loud ovation from the more than 17,000 fans on hand when they announced that he had placed fourth to become UVU's first-ever All-American after his match against Precin.
Kjar was only one of seven unseeded wrestlers in the entire tournament to earn All-America honors and his fourth-place finish was the highest.
Kjar finishes his senior season with an impressive 30-8 overall record. After an outstanding four-year career, he will leave UVU as its most decorated wrestler in school history. He is the programs all-time winningest wrestler with a career record of 129-35 and the single-season wins leader with 39 (39-9) in 2007-08. He will also leave as a two-time NCAA qualifier and a one-time All-American.
Fellow UVU seniors Flint Ray (133 pounds) and Justin Morrill (141 pounds) too competed at this year's championships. Ray finished just one win shy of becoming an All-American as he went 3-2 and Morrill finished with a 0-2 record.
Note: Out of the 73 teams that competed at the NCAA Championships, Utah Valley is currently in 30th place with 18.5 points with tonight's finals still to come.