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Patience again paying off for UNI’s Bennett

Former Dodger state champion turns adversity into achievement

Photo courtesy of UNI Athletic Communications Drew Bennett, a former Fort Dodge state champion, wrestles for the University of Northern Iowa as a freshman. Bennett will be in the starting lineup at 141 pounds this Sunday for the Panthers.

CEDAR FALLS — Drew Bennett is an expert in patience.

Frustrating moments. Devastating losses. Debilitating injuries.

The University of Northern Iowa’s redshirt sophomore is ready to prove his time away from the mat will lead to bigger and better things moving forward as the 2021 season begins on Sunday at South Dakota State.

Bennett, a 2018 Fort Dodge Senior High graduate, is almost three full years removed from his state championship campaign with the Dodgers. After dealing with back trouble and going through hip surgery during his early collegiate days, Bennett feels healthy and ready to go as the Panthers’ starting 141-pounder this weekend.

“Making the lineup was a good feeling, but expected,” said Bennett, a marketing: advertising and digital media major. “The past two years, I’ve been battling injuries around this point in the season. I moved up a weight to 141 so I’m cutting less weight, and I’m finally healthy, which is honestly an even better feeling than making the lineup.

“My biggest goal coming into the season was taking care of my body, so that I’m 100 percent healthy when it comes to the start of competition.”

This isn’t the first time Bennett has been forced to wait his turn. As a freshman at FDSH, Bennett bided his time as a 106-pound understudy to four-time Dodger state champion Body Teske. He cracked the varsity lineup for his sophomore year and enjoyed successful back-to-back state tournament runs, but was forced to settle for third place in both 2016 and ’17 after crushing overtime losses in Des Moines to current UNI teammate Kyle Biscoglia.

Bennett’s state title as a senior helped Fort Dodge capture its first team crown in 33 years. He closed his high school career with a record of 153-8, which still ranks in the Dodger program’s all-time Top-5 for both victories and win percentage.

After hitting the reset button in Cedar Falls, Bennett went right to work, compiling a record of 14-4 while competing at 133 pounds during his redshirt freshman campaign. Adversity struck again late that season, though, as Bennett was forced to the sidelines in February of 2019. His injury required surgery to repair an impingement, bone spurs, a fracture, a broken piece of bone and a torn lumbar in and around his hip area.

Bennett didn’t see action in 2019-20. Last weekend, he secured UNI’s starting position at 141 — one of four former Fort Dodge standout to do so for the Panthers. When they take the mat this Sunday, it will mark the first time since the 1940s that a quartet of ex-high school teammates has cracked the same Div. I wrestling lineup in Iowa.

“When I was little, I would lay down blankets in my basement and transform them into a wrestling mat,” Bennett said. “I would have my dad print out brackets, and I’d fill it in with the top guys in college wrestling. I would stay downstairs all day and wrestle the whole bracket.

“I’d have the Big Ten wrestling duals playing on the TV. I’d be in my singlet, and continuously beat my opponent, who happened to be a stuffed Dopey doll from ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ at the time. So, my dream ever since I was a little kid was to wrestle at the collegiate level.”

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