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Written by Bill Rudick; published on March 5, 2020
Benny the Jet Rodriguez
Though the return of Benny The Jet Rodriguez and his PIAA Championships' picks are the highlight of the year for many PA wrestling aficionados, bringing anticipation like a kid on Christmas Eve, few know much about the Jet. Where does he come from? What is his wrestling background? Who in the world is he really? Does he actually exist in this universe?
Is this the real Benny the Jet Rodriguez? Unlikely.
In a PA-Wrestling.com exclusive, The Jet sat down with our Bill Rudick for a deep dive into all that is Benny The Jet Rodriguez. Well, in reality, Bill sat at his desk and waited impatiently for the Jet to answer questions via message, so as to preserve his anonymity. Whatever, we got us some Jet.
Bill Rudick: Some find it odd that no one seems to be able to find any record of you wrestling. PA-Wrestling.com's archives are devoid of any mention of you. Doesn't look like you wrestled in any other state either. So how is it that you became the world's leading authority on the sport of wrestling?
Benny The Jet Rodriguez: By age 8, the Jet had mastered wrestling and became bored with the sport, finding the competition uninspiring. He ran away from home to seek something more. He found company in the wild and would challenge various species to wrestling matches: bears, wolves, squirrels, bobcats, hawks... One day an entity known simply as Jackson found the Jet on the ground about to be mauled by a panther. He rescued the Jet and became his mentor. Jackson is a bit like Wilson from Home Improvement: wise, odd, generous with advice, incredible blast double, never reveals his face.
BR: Interesting. Most would have probably guessed that Jackson was an old teammate, or merely an alter ego, like Clark Kent to your Superman.
BTJR: People think Jackson is a real wrestler. He is and he isn't. He has won every heavyweight PIAA state title since 1943 and he hasn't. Maybe he's more a manifestation of the Jet's disdain for the heavyweight style of wrestling, which the Jet does not consider the same sport as the one he loves.
BR: You must have been the one eight-year old that had every college coach in the country trying to recruit him. Why isn't your name all over the NCAA record books? Or is it and we just don't know your secret identity?
Aleksandr Karelin wouldn't have won anything without the
teachings of Benny the Jet Rodriguez.
BTJR: One day Jackson told the Jet that there was nothing more American wrestling could offer him and that he should go to the place where people held wrestling as dearly as the Jet did. The Jet spent ninety years in the Soviet Union training their greatest athletes. Satiev, Medved, Yarygin, and Medved all owe their success to the Jet. But The Jet never competed internationally himself because it would not have been a challenge and even a trophy case full of world gold medals would feel empty to someone as complex and beautifully talented as the Jet.
BR: It must not have been all fun and games though. You did eventually find your way back to the United States and the joys of Pennsylvania High School Wrestling.
BTJR: Sadly, the Jet was implicated in the Russian doping scandal and exiled in disgrace. He then fell further. He became addicted to gambling and was further disgraced by his involvement in a match-fixing scandal. Only then did Jackson gift him a copy of The Sandlot, which inspired him to recommit himself to the purity of athletics and adopt his Jet identity.
BR: Well, your fall from grace was Russia's loss and our gain. Where would we be without our annual ode to jib cuts? Looking back, beyond the crazy accuracy of your selections, be it directly from you, or your millions of clones, what are some of your favorite matches, from before your new role as a omnipotent diety?
BTJR: Nate Galloway vs. Tommy Rohn, 2000, 140 lb. final. The Jet loves a fearless underclassman who doesn't realize he's not supposed to be there. That was Galloway in this bout, the first of his three state titles.
Mario Stuart vs. Ron Tarquinio, 1999, 112 lb. quarter. You could hear Tarquinio's dad from anywhere in the arena when Ronnie was wrestling. The Jet loved that. He was especially vocal during this double OT thriller. Tarquinio nearly escaped about ten times in the 2nd overtime, but Stuart somehow managed to hold on for the rideout victory.
Billy Rappo vs. Dalton Macri, 2013, 113 lb. semi. Anyone who follows the Jet knows that this match was the first time the cut of Macri's jib caught his attention. Rappo was the returning state champ. Macri was the sophomore with nothing to lose. In tie-breaker, Macri rode out Rappo in the first 30 second go and then went underneath. Rappo cut him, putting himself in a situation where he had to score a takedown in under 30 seconds. Never losing his poise, Rappo got to a leg with about 10 seconds to go and finished with the clock expiring. He went on to win his second title, but Macri's jib was forever seared into the Jet's brain.
BR: Your disdain for the big guys is well documented, and for many, very often justified. But this year a District 1 wrestler from Sun Valley is the prohibitive favorite to reach the top of the podium, largely because he has a style more often found among smaller guys.
BTJR: The Jet has to admit that there has been an encouraging revolution in the heavyweight division. It started with Kyle Snyder whose offensive attacking style is too much for the typical immobile heavyweight. Now it seems more and more heavyweights can really move and look to score. Catka is a great example, and the Jet predicts he will excel at the next level. It might even take Jackson until the 2nd period to tech him.
Editor's note: Benny the Jet's humorous annual state predictions have been posted on the District 1 forum for several years.
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