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Ben Kjar has achieved a lot in wrestling.

He won three straight individual titles at Viewmont, helping the team win the first of seven state titles over the past decade. Then Kjar became an All-American wrestler at Utah Valley University — the school's first ever.

Most recently, he earned a spot at the Olympic qualifiers, giving him a shot to represent the nation at the summer Olympics in London in 2012.

The Olympic dream began at a young age, when he first realized that ordinary people could be extraordinary. He watched and grappled with Justin Ruiz and Cheney Haight, two Utahns also pursuing their Olympic dreams.

"They get up, they eat the same way other people do, work the same way other people do, put on their pants the same way other people do," Kjar said. "They're doing everyday things the way everyone else does, but they're doing those everyday things just a little bit better than everyone else."

It was that continued desire to compete that made Kjar choose to devote his time to qualifying for the 2012 Olympics. The first step was getting a spot at the trials next April, a feat that didn't take long to accomplish. At the first domestic qualifier, the Sunkist Kids International Open, Kjar took fourth in the 112-pound class, making him the highest non-qualified finisher.

His only defeats came against Japan's Kazuhide Tomita and returning Olympic champion Henry Cejudo — a match he lost by only one point.

With his spot locked in at the team trials held at the Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa, on April 20-21, Kjar is devoting his time to preparing at UVU with coach Erkin Tadzhimetov, a nine-time national champion from Uzbekistan.

Tadzhimetov feels that Kjar is fully prepared mentally to compete. He just needs to learn the intricacies of freestyle wrestling — a different medium from what Kjar is used to from high school and college.

"He has all the tools that he needs to win it," Tadzhimetov said. "He can compete with anyone at the national level. Freestyle is a bit more strategy, and that's what we've been working on."

Perhaps Kjar's biggest challenge comes down to funding. Kjar's continued preparation before April will include several more tournaments, and many of those will be held internationally. Including airfare, lodging and other expenses, Kjar said each trip costs between $3,500 and $5,500.

He's supported by a nonprofit company, and has already been sponsored by the local division of Goldman Sachs.

"I don't want the funding to be the thing that holds me back from my dream," Kjar said.

In the end, Kjar hopes that his journey will be one that inspires younger wrestlers and anyone else who has lost track of their aspirations.

"You can do anything in life, but you have to set your priorities and your focus in that direction 100 percent," Kjar said. "A lot of kids think life gets too busy, so they give up on their dreams. A lot of times, we make ourselves busy. But when we choose our priorities and let everything else fall around our priorities, I think that's when life gets really fulfilling." —

Kjar is king

In his spare time, Kjar is also a coach at Kingdom Klub, a family-owned wrestling facility in Woods Cross.

At UVU, Kjar finished his senior year with a record of 30-8, placing fourth at the 2011 NCAA Wrestling Division I Championships

Kjar writes about his Olympic quest at his blog:


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