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Kennedy Wrestler With Autism Beats The Odds To State Ranking

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(credit: CBS) John Lauritsen
John Lauritsen is a reporter from Montevideo, Minn. He joined WCCO-...
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BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (WCCO) — To be among the best athletes in the state it takes hard work, passion and great coaching.

That’s certainly the case for a unique athlete from Bloomington who is now beating the odds.

Every once in a while you come across an athlete that you can’t help but cheer for. Ben Cousins is that type of athlete. He is currently ranked sixth in the state at 152 pounds for the Bloomington Kennedy wrestling team.

That’s not what makes him special.  Cousins had to work twice as hard as his opponents to get where he is today.

“First day of practice wasn’t fun whatsoever. I wanted to give up then and there,” said Cousins.

That was six years ago, and it’s hard to imagine that the captain of the wrestling team and a guy with a 28-3 record ever considered quitting. But Cousins was a different person in 6th grade, back when the obstacles seemed insurmountable.

Cousins weighed 200 pounds as a fifth grader. He ate a lot of junk food, drank pop and wasn’t into sports. Ben also has autism, which caused him to struggle in the classroom and at times made him aggressive.

“He still has a lot of the clothes from back then and they are actually too big for him,” said his mother Kim Cousins. “I was terrified back then because if something happened to me, I wasn’t sure what would become of Ben.”

Then something clicked. He cut out pop, bought an exercise bike and started doing 180 sit-ups a day. With the help of his parents he learned to keep his aggressive nature in check, with the lone exception being on the wrestling mat.

That’s turned out to be a good thing for his teammates.

“Ben’s one of these guys that has come in here and ever since he has been in this room he has busted his rear end to be as good as he is,” said Kennedy wrestling coach Chuck Vavrosky.

According to “The Guillotine,” that’s the sixth best wrestler in the state in Class 3A at 152 pounds.

“My goal is to go to state and I would love to win it. That’s my ultimate goal and I set my goals high,” Ben said.

Nevermind the obstacles he’s already overcome. He’s 50 pounds lighter than he was in sixth grade. He’s turned his autism into a strength in the classroom as an A-honor roll student and a member of the National Honor Society. Back in the fall, he was crowned homecoming king. He has one final goal: Become an inspiration to others.

“That’s part of my goal is to make everyone know that they are something special and that they can be what they want to be. As long as they stick to their guns through rough patches and smooth patches, they can do anything,” Ben said.

That makes him one of those kids you root for.

To wrestle, Ben had to overcome his sensitivity to touch, which is an autism trait. He credits his parents helping him with various types of therapy over the years. He also wanted to give a shout-out to his teammates and some of his friends who wrestle at Concordia, who have helped him along the way.

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