Truschel has one last hill to climb


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Armed with only the most basic knowledge heading into his first practice — work hard — Ben Truschel began his career as a wrestler. He was drawn by the physicality of the sport, and something far more tangible if less noble: He liked the “Tiger Wrestling” sweatshirts he saw around school and wanted one of his own.

That was in sixth grade. Since then, Truschel, now a senior at Brentsville, has improved drastically and now understands the sport. And he’s one of the favorites to win a state title this weekend at the Group A state championships at the Salem Civic Center.

Back then, Truschel didn’t anticipate the success he’d have. Neither did his mother, apparently.

“She said, ‘I don’t think you need to go out for wrestling.’ It was too dangerous,” Truschel said. “But I convinced her.”

Even if it took a year, it was a good thing he did. After several years of that hard work, he won a Bull Run District and Region B title last season, and followed that up with district and regional titles this year too.

“He’s done everything,” said Brentsville coach Mark Smaltz, “except one thing.”

That one thing is win a state title.

In 2001, Truschel finished in sixth place after losing in the championship bracket to J.J. Kelly’s Steven Fryatt, who won the state title. Last season, he lost to eventual champion Michael Jordon of Northumberland in the championship semifinals and finished in third.

This weekend will be Truschel’s last chance at that elusive state championship. He’ll graduate this spring, and then he’s off to West Virginia University to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering.

He’s not sure if he’ll wrestle up there — the Mountaineers are currently ranked 11th in the country — and if he doesn’t, he’ll miss the sport.

“I know I’ll always miss it, and I’ll probably gravitate towards it wherever I go,” he said. “But it’ll definitely be hard to let it go.”

But that’s all in the future. In the present, there’s his third state tournament to attend to. That he’s made it three years in a row is a testament to his only knowledge of the sport when he first began.

“If I work hard, I figure that will take me wherever,” Truschel said.

That work ethic made an immediate impression on Smaltz from the beginning.

“He’s the hardest working athlete I’ve seen in 12 years, especially in the wrestling room. It’s unbelievable,” said Smaltz. “Even when he was 112 [pounds], he was the smallest in the room by far. But it was always work, work, work, work. Sometimes it was too much.”

All that hard work, for better or for worse, comes to a conclusion this weekend. While his previous experiences at the state tournament haven’t netted a gold medal, it has helped him deal with the tournament’s atmosphere.

While he may want to enjoy the fleeting moments of his career, he said he’ll try not to get too caught up in all the emotional stuff.

“Every day this week, I’ve thought this is my last week wrestling, my last state tournament,” Truschel said. “If I focus on wrestling, I’ll know I’ll be fine.”

As the favorite, he’ll have to take care of the other wrestlers who’d rather make this weekend one that Truschel will want to forget.

“Everybody’s out gunning for you, and you see upsets year after year after year,” said Smaltz. “The No. 1 guy, the favorite, and especially the underdogs — the four or three seeds — anything can happen on any given day.”

Truschel is hoping that Saturday is his day. Fryatt and Jordon both beat him on the way to state titles, something Truschel would like to have too.

It’s not so different than the sweatshirts of seven years ago.

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