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Wrestler with autism shines for Pecatonica High School

By Emily Kumlien, ekumlien@wisctv.com
Published On: Jan 30 2013 03:09:33 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 16 2013 07:00:33 PM CST
Ben Meyer
BLANCHARDVILLE, Wis. -

Blanchardville has a population of just over 800 people and it's located on the corners of Dane, Green, Iowa and Lafayette counties.

It's home to the Pecatonica High School Vikings, and a senior wrestler at the school isn't letting autism limit what he can accomplish.

Ben Meyer, 18, has social, cognitive and learning disabilities. He did not walk until he was 18 months old and didn't talk until he was 3 1/2.

Meyer's journey on and off the mat has changed the lives of many in the rural Wisconsin village.

"He has always seemed to have this character about him that has drawn people in," said his mother, Nancy Meyer. "He has this charm about him; it's neat."

Through the help of the Wisconsin Early Autism Project and family support, Meyer has become a dynamic member of the community.

"That parental pride and you want them to be the best, and Ben has found his niche," said his father, Chuck, who is a volunteer assistant coach on the wrestling team and a teacher in the district.

Meyer doesn't take his time on the mat for granted.

"I like cheering and cheering for my team and working hard for the team. I have a lot of friends because I am polite and nice. I was prom king last year and that was fun," Meyer said.

Meyer's talents go beyond the mat. He plays in the pep band and sings the national anthem before sporting events.

"I feel happy I did a good job singing the national anthem," Meyer said.

"We were at Weston for a wrestling tournament, and that is like an hour and a half away, and they asked him to sing the national anthem, so they even know who Ben is," said teammate and fellow senior Travis Gilson.

"I told Ben last week, 'You are a celebrity.' Everyone at the tournament last week -- guys we don't know -- were coming up to him telling him how brave he is for going out there and wrestling," said head wrestling coach Ike Campbell.

"You can see he is trying so hard to do it. He is doing it for the fun of it and not really the glory," said Julia Meyer, Ben's sister and junior forward on the basketball team.

"The child they are today is not the child they will be tomorrow because there is always hope they will be working to improve something; and it has come full circle and the sky is the limit for any kid," said Nancy Meyer.

"Life is not all about winning, and you win in different ways, and that is what he has taught me," Chuck Meyer said.

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