As with many young boys in Iowa, Ben Hupke got hooked on the sport of wrestling at a young age. The story goes that as an 8-year old young Ben called his dad after competing in a neighboring town’s Saturday wrestling tournament. He had actually traveled to nearby Marcus, Iowa with neighborhood friends and entered on his own.
Over the years, Hupke organized trips with his hometown Cherokee wrestling buddies to Veterans’ Auditorium, a.k.a. the “Big Barn” and the state wrestling meet in Des Moines. This may not seem like a big deal, but Hupke started when he was still an “ankle-biter,” a sixth grader. A lucky chaperone turned out to be a long-time Cherokee booster and wrestling fan, Stan Sitzmann saying, “It was quite an experience. Ben organized everything. He knew just what we were doing every second we were there. We got there and we’d evaluate each match.”
The tradition of wrestling in his family started with his father, the first wrestling coach at Bishop Heelan Catholic School in Sioux City, IA. A multi-sport coach, his father instilled techniques at an early age and taught them about Dan Gable. Family pictures show the Hupke sons with their football chinstraps taped to their ears, “grappling” on the floor at ages 3 and 4. “Ben was drawn to wrestling because of his intensity and desire for competition,” his father Leo recalls.