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From Reminder to Reality: IC Wrestler Wins National Title


Key Points

  • Ben Brisman is a sophomore wrestler at Ithaca College
  • He started wrestling his freshman year of high school at Pascack Hills in New Jersey
  • He became the program’s 12th national champion in March, winning the 141-lbs title

People often take the Reminders app on an iPhone for granted. It’s used for quick notes: take out the trash, do laundry or even buy groceries.

But for sophomore wrestler Ben Brisman, the app is an everyday reminder of his ultimate goal: to become a national champion.

Brisman’s daily reminder is now checked off.

Brisman’s Beginning

Brisman’s journey to the 2018 NCAA 141-lbs national title didn’t begin with an early start at age 5. In fact, it actually began with obsession to be the best at something.

“Up until eighth grade I played basketball, but going into my freshman year [of high school], I knew I was short,” Brisman said, “I was always obsessed with being the best at my sport. I asked myself, ‘what sport could I be the best at?”

The answer was wrestling.

The transition was not easy for Brisman, a Montvale, New Jersey kid with a hunger to be great.

“I had in my head that I was going to be the best right off the bat. It was a big wake up call once that began. I remember I had my first wrestle off and the kid tech-falled me (wrestling’s version of a mercy rule) in the second period.”

Brisman added that he had doubts during matches about whether wrestling was for him.

“I was wrestling someone who was much bigger and stronger than me, and I thought, ‘Maybe this wasn’t a good idea,” Brisman said with a smile. “But I actually ended up winning that match, and thought, ‘You know, this is actually a pretty cool feeling, getting your hand raised.”

Brisman competes in high school. (Courtesy:

Brisman eventually developed into one of his high school’s, Pascack Hills, top wrestlers, qualifying for the New Jersey State Championships twice, taking home at 8th place finish his senior year.

Brisman chose to take his talents to Ithaca College in Upstate New York after his overnight with the team.

“The wrestlers I stayed with were pretty close with each other,” Brisman said. “That’s something important to me, to be close with your teammates and be able to bond with them.”

Head coach Mary Nichols, an IC alumnus, said that it can be challenging for athletes to pick up wrestling late, but added the Brisman’s work ethic helped him mature quickly.

“All the training and all the extra things he’s done is amazing,” Nichols said. “He’s a great athlete, but he really takes his training seriously. He has his goals set.”

A Realization in Wrestling

Brisman found out quickly that college wrestling is very different than high school.

“I went the first two weeks in the practice room without getting one takedown,” Brisman said. “I was having trouble adjusting because everyone was big and strong like me.”

Brisman eventually found his groove, finishing a stellar freshman campaign with 26-11 record, but no national championship qualification.

“It was a terrible feeling,” Brisman said. “I just remember sitting down after my match, really upset, thinking, ‘I don’t want my season to be over right now. I still want to wrestle.”

It was that moment when Brisman decided his goal for the 2017-18 season: to win a national championship.

Brisman dropped from wrestling at 157 and 149 his freshman year to the 141-lbs weight class, a class Brisman and Nichols thought he could succeed in.

“We were in his ear the end of his freshman year about 141,” Nichols said. “After the regional tournament, he said ‘Coach, I think should go 141,’ and I said ‘Yeah you should. You can win it.'”

Nichols called it the “perfect weight” for Brisman.

“He’s really tuned in, he has lots of energy, and he does such a great job with his eating and his training.”

Junior captain Jake O’Brien echoed Nichols, “[Ben] comes in every day ready to work,” O’Brien said. “He never complains, he brings up the atmosphere, he’s a great drill partner and wrestler. He increases the mood on the team with his personality.”

The new 141-pounder’s offseason consisted of a diet change, more lifting in gym and coaching youth teams to help him stay on top of the technical part of wrestling.

However, at the Ithaca Invitational back on November 4, Brisman fell by a 13-5 major decision to Brett Kaliner of Stevens Institute of Technology.

“I thought I could possibly go undefeated,” Brisman said. “It definitely brought my confidence down.”

Tournament Time

Brisman eventually found himself at the NWCA National Duals in Fort Wayne, Ind., where he went 3-1 against opponents from schools all ranked in the top 25 in the country for Division III.

With his confidence back and the regular season wrapped up, Brisman was seeded 7th in 141-lbs weight class for the Division III NCAA National Championships in Cleveland, Ohio.

But Brisman thought his seeding was a little low.

“I thought it was underrating me because I hadn’t really lost to anyone except the number 1 seed,” Brisman said. “It was just another opportunity where I had to prove myself again.”

Brisman in the semifinal match. (Courtesy: Ithaca College Athletics)

After breezing through the bracket, it would be in the final where Brisman would meet a familiar foe in Kaliner, who had beaten Brisman twice that year already.

Fists Held High

In the hours leading up to the match, Brisman said he wouldn’t beat himself up if he failed to win, saying he would’ve used it as fuel for himself for next season.

Lucky for Brisman, he didn’t have to.

A tough fought national title match ended with Brisman’s fists high in the air, celebrating a 10-7 win by decision that meant the reminder on his phone had become reality: Ben Brisman was a national champion.

Ben Brisman, a national champion. (Courtesy: Ithaca College Athletics)

“We say ‘national champs’ every day.,” Brisman said. “I just held my hands up to the Ithaca crowd, and said ‘we did it.”

With the win Brisman became just the 12th Bomber in program history to win a national title, and the first since Ricardo Gomez ’13 completed the feat in 2013.

While the individual honor was amazing, Brisman said contributing 21 points the the Bombers’ team total to help snag a third-place finish was even better.

The third-place trophy that will soon be added to the college’s trophy case.

“There are people teaching me every day, and it’s awesome to succeed for them,” Brisman said. “I don’t want to let anyone down, especially when they put in the time and effort to help me.”

The third-place finish is the highest finish for any Ithaca wrestling team under Nichols.

A New Message

Brisman said a few days after the championships had wrapped up, he changed the reminder on his phone.

Brisman’s reminder for next season is already set.

“It got really annoying because I had already achieved that goal,” Brisman said. “But I want to go back to wrestling. I have future goals still.”

Nichols is a big fan of the new message.

“It’s a reminder of the things he needs to be doing every day: the eating, the training, going to class,” Nichols said. “That’s what you got to do to stay tuned to your goals.”

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