Boys Varsity Wrestling
11/28/2018 11:18:00 AM
Continuing the popular series that began in 2016-17, each Wednesday MGoBlue.com will highlight a Michigan student-athlete and their academic pursuits. These are our Scholar-Athlete Stories, presented by Prairie Farms.
By Brad Rudner
The sport of wrestling, by nature, is extremely physical. Since ancient times, it's been a sport that's predicated on one thing: dominance over another.
It's what University of Michigan senior Ben Lamantia and every wrestler in the world strive for. Every time he steps on the mat, be that in a tournament, during a dual or just at a practice, his goal is to get the other guy on the ground any way he can. That never changes.
To be a wrestler is to be physical. Growing up in Commack, New York, at the center of Long Island, Lamantia is certainly that. But every wrestler -- and every athlete -- needs an edge, and his comes from the work he's put in between the ears.
"To me, wrestling is 90 percent mental," he said. "Anyone can run on a treadmill. It takes a different mentality to run while you're hungry or hot, cutting weight with extra layers on. While other people are out partying, you're in here grinding it out in an 80-degree room with 30 other people who want to chop your head off."
Lamantia crafted his mental edge through experience but also through his studies as a biopsychology, cognition and neuroscience (BCN) major. It's a course of study that deals with the body and its coexisting relationship with the mind.
Growing up, he wasn't much interested in math or English. But sciences -- particularly biology and psychology -- were fascinating. By his sophomore year at Michigan, it was all he wanted to learn about. Lamantia is currently taking classes on neuropsychology and linguistics, as well as a genetics lab.
"What makes a person drive? Why does someone do what they do?" asked Lamantia. "I want to better myself and understand why I do something different than other people do. With these classes, I can better understand why people react to certain situations. That's all interesting to me."
Lamantia started wrestling in the third grade, the first in his family to become heavily invested in the sport. He went 158-14 during his prep career at St. Anthony's High School, finishing second place at 126 pounds as a senior at the New York State Championships. That after he was third at 120 pounds as a junior.
Through four seasons at Michigan, Lamantia holds a 42-19 record and is listed on the roster at 149 pounds. All but three of his matches have come in tournaments, and of those three in duals, just one was a win. But boy, was that one memorable.
Back on Nov. 18, Michigan faced No. 6 Lehigh in its home opener at Crisler Center. With the starter at 157 pounds, two-time All-American Alec Pantaleo, out of the lineup, Lamantia moved up a weight class and stepped into the spot, knowing he'd be at a physical disadvantage against his Mountain Hawk opponent, Kent Lane.
After trading takedowns in the first and second periods, Lane took a one-point lead with an escape early in the third, but Lamantia responded with the deciding takedown midway through the period en route to a 9-7 decision.
It was Lamantia's first collegiate dual-meet win. Getting his hand raised in front of nearly 3,300 fans -- with his father, Joe, among them -- was a feeling he'll never forget.
"As soon as you show a sign that you're tired or fazed by something the opponent has done, you're vulnerable," he said. "My constant thought process was to keep going forward: calm, cool and composed. And to keep attacking.
"That moment ranks pretty high."
For every dual meet, only 10 wrestlers are chosen to compete. On a roster of 33 student-athletes, it's rarefied air. Every week is a team-wide competition and it's truly every man for himself.
"I was very competitive as a kid. I didn't like losing. Nobody does," Lamantia said. "Take football or soccer. You can give 100 percent and still come up short. There's still a team in college wrestling, obviously, but I get to control my fate a little more. On the mat, it's just you. I don't want to put my fate in someone else's hands."
The injury bug hit Lamantia twice: once as a sophomore (wrist surgery) and then again early in the spring (torn labrum). He got back on the mat in September, but it meant having to get back into the swing of things slowly.
"It's a long road with a lot of ups and downs, mental blocks," he said. "I use all of that as fuel. I'm reminded of the hard work, the doubts and the hardships. It's just an extra motivator to be better in the future."
He's on track to graduate in the spring, and he plans to go to graduate school while using his fifth year of eligibility. Despite the hardships and setbacks, Lamantia has developed a hardened resolve, and he wouldn't trade this experience for anything.
"I feel proud to wear this," he said, pointing to the block M on his shirt. "I feel like Superman. He's got the big S on his chest, I have Michigan on mine. The community is backing me no matter if I win or lose. They're always with me, and that gives me a great sense of pride."
Welcome to the 2018-19 Wrestling Season
If you are interested in joining you can sign up on Saturday Nov. 10th.
at the Student Center at 10:00am
Come ready to run outside and dresses appropriately.