Peak tries to avoid distractions before Greco-Roman worlds – WIN Magazine
Photo: Benji Peak qualified for his first Senior Worlds by defeating 2021 World Team member Pat Smith in three bouts at Final X Stillwater. (photo by Justin Hoch)
By Pat McDonald
As the 2022 Senior World Championships approach, Benji Peak has been told more than once that he is young and should just ‘fight hard’ when representing the Greco-Roman national team of the United States at 72 kilos.
However, for the 22-year-old Elkhorn, Wisc. native, the trip to Belgrade, Serbia is a business trip…and Peak, Inc.’s goal is to win.
“I just want to win. I just want to win every game. I’m the most competitive human on earth, I swear. I want to win,” Peak said. “You’re young” and just to go out there and fight hard, but I’m going there to win. I gotta win. I gotta.”
Winning is something Peak has done a lot over the years, including winning an U23 national championship in 2021, a year after winning the 2020 senior national championships.
The victory continued when he knocked out 2021 World Team member Patrick Smith two games to one at Final X Stillwater on June 3 to earn his spot on Team USA Greco.
But once the Final X competitions were over, the road to Serbia was a bit bumpy for the US Greco-Roman national team. Longtime coach Matt Lindland stepped down in July, and in recent weeks 2021 World Bronze Medalist G’Angelo Hancock announced his retirement and joined WWE. Then, on September 6, USA Wrestling confirmed that Final X champions Jesse Thielke and Ben Provisor were also not competing at Worlds.
“It was actually a bit weird because we had a big coaching change a month ago, but it’s going well,” Peak said.
Despite the changes and distractions, Peak said his focus never wavered.
“My training is going really well,” he said. “I’m getting back in shape. My technique is coming. My body is a little battered, but that’s part of the process. I’m going to take a short break here in a few days and get my body and mind back in order for (the world championships). »
Peak isn’t worried about Team USA’s focus as they prepare for Worlds, because the sport of wrestling is all about overcoming obstacles.
“We just have to adapt,” he said. “It’s a big thing in wrestling in general, just adapting to each situation. You know what I mean? Like injuries happen, stuff like that, so it just adapted to the situation.
Hancock has been a big voice in promoting Greco-Roman wrestling in recent years, and now that he has left the sport, Peak will continue to talk about the lack of support the style receives.
“I just don’t think he gets the recognition he deserves, ever,” Peak said. “It’s results driven, which it should be, I don’t blame it, but at the same time, for us to get those results, we need support,” Peak said. “We need people to see what we are doing so that people turn to the sport and come (to El Greco).”
Peak understands that one way to get more interest in the sport is to really put on a good show when people sit down and watch Greco-Roman wrestling.
“The only way to do that is to be entertaining and win big games. I think that’s what I’m going to do and we’ve got a group of guys in the squad who are going to do that, and I think this is going to be a big change this year for the Greco program,” he said.
Peak, a Wisconsin high school state champion at Elkhorn, said he was “a beast” at the folk style and added that the Greco-Roman suited his length and style better than the freestyle.
“I just liked going to Greco practice more than folkstyle and freestyle,” he said. “I was also just better at Greco all around. I was a really good leg catcher, but I always felt I was better at Greco.
Peak had the opportunity to compete for the Greco-Roman team at Northern Michigan University and is excited to represent the Wildcats on the world stage.
“I think it’s really important,” he said. “We’re a college program and when you look at the guys that make these senior world teams, they’re usually out of college and usually over 25 and fighting for the military or those other big programs.
“I think being part of this team is really important for the program in the North. Just so these guys see they can do it, and just so they have a little more confidence in themselves and trust in the process. I really think it’s important for guys like me and[Final X finalist]Alston Nutter to go out there and win those big games and get on those teams at a young age. It is important.”
Peak also thanks Sunkist Kids for helping it reach this level.
“They are doing a great job supporting us. I can’t even say how grateful I am to them. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them,” he said.
While he’s proud to represent Northern Michigan and the Sunkist Kids, Peak is also happy to make the people — and especially the young wrestlers — of his hometown proud.
“I always try to go back there whenever I’m home. Walk into the high school hall, wrestle with some of the younger guys and show off your technique,” Peak said. “I mean, when you get to a certain point (in your career), you have to make sure you give back.”
Now Peak will be heading to Serbia to finish the job so he can bring some pretty special gear to that Elkhorn wrestling room the next time he’s home.