National Wrestling Hall of Fame

Five Questions With New Board Member Doug Benschoter

Doug Benschoter of Waverly, Iowa, begins serving as a member of the Board of Governors of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2019. He was an Iowa high school state wrestling champion in 1975, after finishing second to fellow Board member John Bowlsby in 1974, and was also All-State in football and placed in both the discus and shot put. When Bowlsby was injured in 1976, Benschoter stepped into the wrestling lineup at the University of Iowa and finished fifth at the NCAA Championships while helping the Hawkeyes win the team championship. He was also a four-year starter for Iowa in football, playing defensive tackle, defensive end and offensive guard. Benschoter received his bachelor’s degree in general science from Iowa, a bachelor’s degree in civil/structural engineering from the University of Minnesota, and an MBA from DePaul University. He designed nuclear power plants worldwide and worked for a commercial real estate developer in Chicago and then did business development for nationally-recognized engineering design firms in Madison, Wisconsin, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, before retiring in 2011.

Why is it important to be involved with the National Wrestling Hall of Fame? 

As a boy growing up in Iowa, wrestling provided me with an assortment of positive and reinforcing values. It gave me structure, purpose and direction at a time when I needed it. It taught me self-awareness, discipline, mental toughness, motivation and the meaning of sacrifice. Wrestling provided me an opportunity to succeed as I progressed through high school and college.

The Hall of Fame speaks directly to these elements that I have found important to developing young people.

You were teammates with John Bowlsby at the University of Iowa and now you are both Board Members for the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. What’s it like to be teammates with him again?

I admired and respected John from the first time I saw him wrestle as a high school sophomore against a senior from my hometown of Waverly. He dominated the match and defeated a guy everyone considered unbeatable.

After participating with John on both the wrestling and football squads at Iowa, it was clear that he was a person committed to hard work and excellence. It’s great to again be teamed with a person of such great dedication.

You played football and wrestled for Iowa. How do you make the transition from college football to wrestling within the same season?

This is a question people have asked me for 40+ years … and they almost always follow it up with “which sport was tougher?”

There are two components to answer the question of transitioning. Physically, it wasn’t really a big issue as I was in good shape and conditioned from football, including off-field strengthening activities. Football practice consisted of 5-10 second bursts with collisions, followed by 2-3 minutes in between and then repeated over and over again. Wrestling was constant contact for 20-30 minutes at a time, using all the muscle groups which demanded a bit more cardiovascular conditioning. Of course, having Dan Gable, a Distinguished Member inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1980 and the namesake of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Dan Gable Museum in Waterloo, Iowa, run those practices kept me and the team in pretty good shape.

Psychologically, in football you are part of a team with your own individual assignment. The preparation is different: watching film, attending meetings, game theory/strategy, etc. In wrestling, it’s one on one, managing your own strategy and being completely accountable for the outcome. Each sport was uniquely challenging and required a separate set of “toughness” skills.

How do you design a nuclear power plant?

That’s a long answer … here is the short version. As a structural engineer you calculate loads and forces being applied to structural elements of the overall project. You then select the corresponding components to resist those forces.

Designing a nuclear power plant changed dramatically when I started with a consulting firm in downtown Chicago. The Three Mile Island incident near Middleton, Pennsylvania, resulted in significantly more stringent regulations. All components and systems had to have much greater safety factors. Concrete and steel sizes increased dramatically due to design guideline changes.

For example, one basis of design was driven by a substantial earthquake occurring while another considered a 747 aircraft flying broadside into the power plant. Unfortunately, a great deal of the time spent went to “documenting” the design rather than the design itself.

How did wrestling serve you during your successful career as a structural engineer?

Wrestling requires focus and discipline with an eye on achieving a goal. Along the way you encounter obstacles and setbacks which were not a part of the plan. You work to manage and address everything thrown at you, including school, family, friends, other interests … and wrestling. Problems arise in the form of injuries, relationship dynamics, allocation of time for studies, etc.

Engineering is the process of a having a problem in need of a solution and using scientific knowledge to resolve this problem. It requires focus and the discipline to identify the steps necessary to achieve the desired outcome … or goal. You encounter unexpected changes to design and construction activities, schedules, as well as having to manage the interface with people.