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Franklin wrestler no lightweight

His success on the wrestling mat was anything but assured.

His father, John, had starred on the mat at Milford High (1979-83) — a stretch that included two team state championships and an individual state title his senior season — before being recruited to Boston College.

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And, yes, Ben Zogby was introduced to wrestling in elementary school, well ahead of his peers; primarily because his father noticed that he and his eldest son shared the same “long and lanky” body type best suited for grapplers.

Yet it wasn’t until last year as a Franklin High School junior — when Zogby posted a 37-3 record at 113 pounds, captured a Division 1 state championship, placed second at All-States, and finished fourth at the New England championships — that he saw his wrestling potential.

A year later, the 18-year-old appears poised to discover further what his still-developing skills and mental fortitude might achieve.

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“After my postseason last year, I thought I could really do some damage my senior year,” admitted Zogby, now 5-feet-4, 123 pounds. “I started working out with a college wrestler over the summer and I just went from down here to up here; my ability skyrocketed.”

Following the Hockomock League championships on Feb. 1, a tournament Zogby and the Panthers won, he now owns a 30-3 record, improving his career mark to 138-24, while Franklin sits at 14-1.

But for most of Zogby’s childhood, wrestling was a secondary pursuit, often slotted behind baseball and ice hockey. Not before reaching junior high did his outlook change.

“Ben really was a hockey player up until eighth grade,” said his father. “He played on a junior high team; he played all through youth hockey . . . he would go sporadically to wrestling because his hockey commitments were so big.

“I think he saw the writing on the wall that he probably wouldn’t make the high school hockey team at Franklin . . . and he wanted to participate in high school; he wanted to play a sport. So in eighth grade he really went full time with wrestling.”

The parallels between Zogby and his father were obvious early on to Franklin High coach Carmine Colace, now in his 32d season.

“He’s got a little bit of his father’s style in him,” Colace said. “A lot of duck-unders, a lot of quick moves . . . it is a little different style than what we normally teach.”

Zogby was also drawn to wrestling by one specific component.

“The competition,” he acknowledged.

“It’s an individual sport rather than in baseball or hockey, where you can’t really do as much for yourself. In wrestling you can go out and take what’s yours,” Zogby said. “You don’t have to rely on anyone else. There is a team aspect, but in the individual aspect you can decide your own fate.”

Early on, most of Zogby’s personal battles were against a current classmate and teammate, Cameron Kelly.

The two first met on the mat in fifth grade and started competing in tournaments as seventh-graders. The rivalry peaked during their first two seasons on varsity, when they vied within the same weight class.

“We went head-to-head freshman and sophomore years,” said the 5-foot-7-inch, 113-pound Kelly. “But it was mostly freshman year that we wrestled off every week for tournaments.

“It was tough at first, having to wrestle him off every time . . . he’d win one week and I’d win the next. It was just brutal. But it helped us both get better in the long run.”

For Zogby, the improvements figure to translate to a collegiate wrestling career. The honor student with a 3.95 grade point average is still awaiting admissions decisions from Harvard, Brown, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Johns Hopkins, and Duke.

For now, he’s focused on his final season at Franklin and achieving as yet unattained feats, including one his father accomplished twice: winning a team state championship.

“A New England title would be nice,” Zogby said. “It’s going to take a lot of work. Also, a team state title . . . if the team keeps working the way we have, I think, a state title is in the picture.”

Earning a state championship for the Panthers’ — they won in 2009-10 when Zogby was in eighth grade — along with his second individual state crown and, perhaps, a New England championship would cement what his dad has long known and others have only begun to notice.

“Last year at the New Englands, [Von Hoehn], a great wrestler from North Andover, came up to me,” the elder Zogby recalled, “tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘You know, he’s way better than you were.’

“And I said, ‘I know he is.’ ”

Paul Lazdowski can be reached at pmlazdowski@gmail.com.
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