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2019-20 Courier Publications/VillageSoup honor

No fishing for this answer: Benner catches on as top athlete

Standout Medomak Valley wrestler, football player is longtime lobster fisherman
By Mark Haskell | Jan 01, 2021
Courtesy of: Benner family Erik Benner.

Waldoboro — Whether in one-on-one competition on the wrestling mats or two-on-one in the football trenches, Medomak Valley High School graduate Erik Benner was the bar in which not only other Panther student-athletes — but competitors throughout the Midcoast — strove.

And it was his ability to not just set goals — but to achieve those with a no-quit attitude — that gave Benner the nod as the 2019-20 Courier Publications/VillageSoup schoolboy athlete of the year.

Benner edged fellow finalists Draedyn Furrow, Mark Ward and Elijah Allen of Mount View High School of Thorndike and Matt Spear of Oceanside High School of Rockland to earn the recognition.

On the gridiron, Benner, a longtime lobster fisherman who has a boat aptly named Crustaceans Nightmare, was a Big 11 Conference first-team selection, as he racked up 33 solo tackles, eight assisted tackles and two quarterback sacks. He led the Panthers to the Class C North quarterfinal playoff round, where they, ultimately, lost to top-ranked and perennial powerhouse Winslow.

Medomak Valley football coach Ryan Snell, who guided Benner four years in high school, said the standout lineman’s consistency is what set him apart from others he has coached.

“We knew that regardless of anything, number 74 was going to be there suited up every single day and work hard,” Snell said. “He was undersized in our league for a lineman, but got better each year working his way to first-team all-conference on both sides of the ball. He’s set the standard for linemen in our program.”

The trust Snell had in Benner increasingly was evident as running backs often were directed toward Benner, despite him often being double-teamed by the opponent's defensive line.

On the mats, Benner was tough to beat — literally and figuratively — as he finished his senior year with a record of 56-4, with 38 of those wins coming via pin. He won the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference title, finished second in the Class B South championship and second in the state championships, all in the 195-pound weight division.

He went on to the New England qualifier — or all-states as it is referred — and finished first in his weight class and went on to New Englands, where he held his own against the best in the Northeast and ended with a 2-2 record.

Benner, who rarely was pinned by foes, set the school's single-season win (56), pin (38) and point (351) totals in 2019, and broke Elias Miller's school record of 169 career victories with 177 — to go along with his impressive 113 career pins.

"As a wrestler and football player, Erik had that special blend of power and technical skill," said Medomak Valley athletic director Matt Lash. "A true leader on each of his teams who did so vocally and by example. What separates Erik is he achieved the highest level as an athlete at Medomak Valley with such humility and class. He earned the respect of opposing athletes and coaches by the way he competed and carried himself as well. He is one of those athletes who can always say they left it out there each time they stepped on the mat or field. Each honor has been earned with a tremendous work ethic and desire. Both programs at MVHS will miss him greatly, but he undoubtedly left his mark in many ways. We are very proud of him."

The following is Benner's personal information and answers to myriad of topics:

Name: Erik Benner.

Age: 18.

Grade: 2020 graduate of Medomak Valley High School.

Parents: Rex and Meredith Benner.

Town: Friendship.

Favorite athlete: Rob Gronkowski.

Favorite personal moment in sports: Finishing first in the 195-pound weight class at the New England qualifier (all-states).

Favorite course in school: Physical education.

TV show you never miss: Recently none, but when I was younger it would have been WWE.

Favorite phone app: Snapchat.

What type of music do you listen to before competing: Quite the mix but usually some type of rock.

Favorite movie: The Fast and the Furious.

Food you pig out on: Chinese.

Hobbies: Snowmobiling and hanging out with friends.

Vehicle you wish you were driving: Dodge Demon.

Most influential person in your life: My dad.

Future plans: Lobstering.

Q - Let us talk about your high school football career. Is there one moment, one game, one year that stands out above the rest, and why?

A - Every year had its special moments, but probably my last game ever when our team was almost 100 percent healthy (in the Class C North quarterfinals) and we competed very well against (top-ranked) Winslow for the first half.

Q - Same question about wrestling. Is there one match, one highlight that stands out more than others, and why?

A - My senior year I had a big goal to be the number one wrestler is school history and I almost did that. I broke every record except the fastest pin, ended up ranking within the top three. First every to win all-states. But I did fall short a little when I lost regionals and states to the same kid, but ended up beating him at all-states. My other goal was to win a match at New England’s and did just that.

Q - How difficult was it to be constantly double-teamed by the opposition during football season? Is that a tough mental hurdle to overcome, or do you take it more as a sign of respect from opposing teams?

A - It’s definitely more of a good thing then bad, even though I wasn’t getting all the big tackles all the time. I was doing my job and freeing up the linebackers to get to the ball carrier.

Q - It is clear you put all you have into both sports. Do you prefer one sport over the other, or does it just depend on what season it is?

A - I definitely put my all into what I do, I’ve kinda always had the mind set  — much like Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights — of 'If you’re not first, you’re last..'I hate losing, especially if I know I could’ve done better. I never get sick of playing football, but wrestling is exhausting. I think watching weight is what makes it very exhausting. And it does take up a lot of time.

Q - Do you think student-athletes should put all their efforts into doing one sport, or do you think being well-versed in multiple sports makes you a better all-around athlete?

A - Multiple sports I believe is better. It’s good to have a change and using different muscles. And to be around different coaches and people is also a good thing. Also a big thanks to all my coaches I’ve ever had, wouldn’t of been able to be who I am without them.

Q - You are still very much into the lobster trade. How is that going? How long have you been doing that and how did you develop an affinity for it?

A - I’ve grown up doing it my entire life, been running my own boat since seventh grade. It’s what I know. With all of the regulations coming into effect due to the endangered species, it’s getting tougher. I do sometimes wish I decided to go to college but this is what I know and have never done anything else and didn’t want to spend the money on something I wouldn’t enjoy doing.

Q - COVID-19 has been going strong for 10 months now. How tough has it been for you personally? What have you been doing to keep busy, whether it is a show you have streamed online, sports you have watched, activities you have got into, etc?

A - Working has mainly been keeping me busy. When not working I’m hanging with friends. Luckily I live in a small town where not many cases have happened.

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