Eric Schmoldt
Elkhorn's Benji Peak talkes about winning a state wrestling championship.

WATCH: Peak caps Elkhorn's banner year with title

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Eric Schmoldt
Sunday, February 26, 2017

MADISON--Ken Reynolds heard he'd never get along with Benji Peak.

Peak didn't even know if he wanted to be a part of Reynolds' Elkhorn Area High School wrestling program.

Turns out, the two were meant for each other.

Peak stuck with the program and built a trusting relationship with his head coach, and as a captain this season he helped the Elks put themselves back on the map as regional champions. And on Saturday, Peak accomplished his ultimate goal, winning a state championship by scoring a takedown early in overtime for a 10-8 sudden victory in the WIAA Division 1 126-pound title bout.

“I've worked so hard and put so much time in this year—staying after practice, working with coaches and going to camps,” said Peak, a junior who finished with a 45-2 record. “It was all worth it now.”

The high-scoring title match didn't feature one single escape, as Peak and Hortonville senior Jacob Barnett spent most of the six minutes of regulation scrambling.

Peak led 4-0 in the first on a takedown with two near-fall points, but Barnett tied it 4-4 early in the second. Peak used a reversal with less than 30 seconds left in the second to regain the lead but lost it on a reversal just before the buzzer.

The two traded reversals again late in the third, forcing an overtime. There, Peak wasted little time earning a takedown and sudden victory.

“I saw him tired and knew he was going to try and underhook,” Peak said. “As soon as he went for that I pushed him back and got the takedown.

“I've been waiting for this all my life. I started wrestling when I was 4 years old and the dream has finally come true.”

The dream was nearly taken elsewhere. Peak was unsure Reynolds and his program would be his best fit.

A discussion after a loss early in Peak's freshman season changed things.

“I lost because I didn't listen to what he (Reynolds) said,” Peak said. “After the next practice, we sat down and he said, 'If you're going to do this, you're going to have to trust me.'

“At first, I didn't want to, but I decided I was going to trust the process. He's had multiple state champs, so I was like, I've just got to trust him.

“Now we probably send text messages to each other every day. He's one of my best friends.”

On Saturday, Reynolds and Peak worked together to form another game plan, and Peak followed it entirely.

The goal in what was likely going to be a very close match was to keep the score close and be in the neutral position at the end to give Peak a chance to score and win.

“We got to neutral in overtime, and he knew, 'If it's tied and we get to overtime, I'm going to get my takedown,'” Reynolds said. “He got here (to state) and he was in a zone, like my other state champions. … They've got one thing in mind.”

But the pride for both Peak and Reynolds extended well beyond the Kohl Center on Saturday.

The program's sixth state championship was the icing on the cake for an Elkhorn group that was a victory away from qualifying for team state and returns three of its five state qualifiers next season.

“Why we were so successful this year is because every time we stepped on the mat we were fighting not just for ourselves but for our family on the sidelines,” Peak said. “Hopefully they (my teammates) look at me winning state and say, 'I want to do that.'”

“He was inspirational. He wanted the team to win more than himself all season long,” Reynolds said. “Today was about Benji, and it should be. But the season was about our team.

“I love him a lot more than people know. … Everyone told me you're going to have a helluva time with Benji, and they couldn't be more wrong.”

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