Ben Askren is without a doubt the most decorated wrestler in mixed martial arts. The Wisconsin native is a four-time All-American, a two-time NCAA Division I Champion, and represented the United States in the 2008 Summer Olympic Games.
While the ONE Welterweight World Champion is using his grappling prowess to great effect in his mixed martial arts pursuits, he is also passing on his world-class knowledge to a legion of aspiring hopefuls at the Askren Wrestling Academy.
The 32-year-old believes it is an honorable obligation to properly guide and mentor the young wrestlers of tomorrow.
“I got here because of the way the people showed me, whether it was me reading about Muhammad Ali in a book, or because of other people in my life,” he says. “So now, if you get into one of these positions, you should feel as though it is your responsibility — and it is a very valuable responsibility — to pass those characteristics and lessons on to the next generation.”
The initial concept for the AWA, as it is called for short, was brought to life in 2011 by his younger brother Max, who is also an NCAA Division I Champion.
“[Max] started one in New York, and then we decided to do another in Wisconsin,” the champ recalls. “The plan was to give kids who wanted training exactly what they needed.”
That plan included providing kids with top-notch training, as well as a strong work ethic and mental toughness. Evidently, the demand for world-class expertise and guidance has been tremendous for Wisconsin’s wrestling community, as the mega gym’s popularity has grown at a rapid pace.
In fact, the AWA has tripled in size. Now, there are three academies in his state — the original Lake Country location in their hometown of Hartland, which opened in 2011; the North Shore location in Mequon, which opened in 2013; and the Packerland location in Green Bay, which just had its grand opening in March 2017.
Along with the tremendous growth of the AWA is the gym’s tremendous success, and 2017 has been their most successful year yet. The franchise has produced six high school state champions, 14 youth state champions, and, had three of its students place in the top four of perhaps the toughest national tournament in the United States.
Evidently, the Askrens’ plan has been working to perfection.
“Our wrestlers have been having a lot of success, both statewide and nationwide,” the champ explains. “It is exciting to see some of those guys have breakthroughs, because we have watched them work very hard to get where they are, so that is always very nice.”
For Askren, what is even better is seeing the fruits of his labor. Beyond the growing business, the success of his students further proves that he and his staff are excellent coaches, who can effectively teach and bring out the best in their athletes.
“It is a validation that we are doing things right,” he says. “When you first open, you think you are going to do things right, but you are never really sure until the results start producing themselves. You can postulate and formulate, and say you know how you are going to do things, but until you execute, you do not really know how to do things.”
With that knowledge easing his mind, Askren can concentrate solely in his upcoming title defense against Agilan Thani on Friday, 26 May at ONE: DYNASTY OF HEROES from the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
He expects to display that world-class wrestling to remain undefeated, and make his family, friends and students proud. That would add to his banner year, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Images: Askren Wrestling Academy