Ben Kimpler: the Wildcats’ Triple Threat

Jack Murphy, Staff Writer

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






School, practice, homework, dinner, late-night workouts, sleep, do it again for three full seasons. Every year.

This is not a normal athlete’s schedule. A normal athlete may have that schedule for one season. Rarely two. Almost never three.

In today’s sports world, athletes are encouraged to specialize in a specific sport at young ages, often selecting the sport in which they are most successful, with the hope that their development in that select sport will lead to playing in college. This is contrary to “the olden days” when athletes played whatever sport was in season; even though an athlete may be more fit for one sport, he still participated in another or even multiple other sports.

Now, if a boy is hitting the ball out of the park at 11, he may be persuaded by his parents and coaches to quit basketball that next season so that he can thrive in between the baselines. While this may lead to his success in baseball, his overall athleticism may decline as his body adjusts to the demand of only one sport.

Thus, there are fewer athletes every year who are participating competitively in multiple sports. According to LHS athletic director Briant Kelly, while the number of athletes at LHS has remained steady in the last eight years, the number of three-sport athletes has declined significantly, with 127 in 2009, down to 87 and 85 in the last two years respectively.

Libertyville High School holds one of those gems, a rare three-sport athlete: Ben Kimpler.

Kimpler, a junior, has been a fixture on three varsity rosters since his sophomore year. As a defensive end for the football team, a center for the basketball team, and a pitcher for the baseball team, Kimpler is the “throwback warrior athlete,” as baseball and football coach Jim Schurr described him.

Being the youngest player on each team last year, Kimpler “knew [he] had to battle for something every day” to earn a starting nod and the respect from his elder teammates and coaches. He soaked up the spotlight, earning significant minutes on the gridiron and on the court while also logging innings for the varsity baseball team.

Now, in his second year of varsity athletics, Kimpler is looking to make a lasting impact on his opponents. He does not just want to be the “sophomore with potential,” like he was last season. He is ready to be the upperclassman who delivers when he is needed most.

Fall

In the football team’s impressive campaign this season, which resulted in them reaching the final four of the state playoffs, Kimpler terrorized quarterbacks all season long coming off the end. He used his “freakishly tall” — as defensive teammate Mac Copeland described him — 6’6’’ frame to have a powerful impact on the defensive side of the football. He summoned his inner basketball skills to swat numerous passes and to evade the blocking linemen.

Mr. Schurr noted that Kimpler possesses “contact courage,” the desire to hit people without the fear of getting hit back, which “most big guys don’t have,” according to the coach. Copeland added that Kimpler provided well-needed energy to the defense with timely tackles in the backfield. His leadership also grew as a player this year, as “he challenged everyone in every practice to strive to be their very best,” Copeland said.

In addition to manning the defensive line, Kimpler was also the team’s punter, which proved to be beneficial down the stretch as he was able to change field position greatly with booming kicks. He shined in the playoff game against Fenwick, pinning the Friars deep inside their own territory numerous times.

Kimpler made massive improvements this season and hopes to build on that development next season with a team that is looking promising. Schurr believes that Kimpler’s “strong presence on the field” and his athleticism coming off the ball could put Kimpler in position for some looks from Division 1 football programs. Kimpler said that powerhouses Notre Dame and Michigan State have contacted him about a potential future in college football; he has also been contacted by a plethora of Big 10 schools, including Indiana, the Minnesota, and Northwestern. He has not committed to any school yet, and is not even sure if it will be football that brings him into collegiate athletics.

Winter

Last year on a senior-heavy basketball roster, Kimpler pulled his own weight in the low post. Coming off the bench, Kimpler added some spark to the team as a big body down low.

“He brings excellent physicality and is very aggressive,” fellow big man Joe Borcia said  about his teammate, adding that he expects Kimpler to be a force to be reckoned with this season.

Kimpler hopes to earn back his starting spot after missing practices in the beginning of the season to accommodate the football team’s extended postseason success. According to Borcia, Kimpler brings the same competitive edge to basketball that he brings to everything he does, as he is “always keeping himself busy, lifting in the offseason, and working hard” in order to put himself in the best position possible to help his team bring home wins.

Spring

On a baseball roster with tons of depth all over the field, Kimpler’s 88 mph fastball earned him a spot in the pitching rotation last year. Coach Schurr explained that Kimpler gained some invaluable experience last season, pitching in games down the stretch that are generally given to players two years his senior. Kimpler bounced between the varsity team and the sophomore team throughout the season, earning opportunities on the mound and at first base. Kimpler joined the varsity squad on its annual Spring Break trip to Phoenix, pitched there, and pitched sparingly throughout the regular season, when he spent the majority of the time with the sophomores, then rejoined the varsity team for good on their quest for a second state run.

For a young player, Kimpler also showed great composure in the dugout, as teammate Jimmy Govern said that “Kimp is always level-headed, and keeps everyone in the dugout [calm].” Coach Schurr believes that his composure will translate to the mound this season as he already has a year of experience under his belt.

In addition to being a top-of-the-rotation pitcher, Kimpler may also find some innings at first base this year, where his height and athleticism around the bag may be a valuable asset for the team. Kimpler does not care where he is at on the diamond, he just “wants to put [himself] in the best spot” for his success, and ultimately the team’s.

Mr. Schurr said that the “adversities he faced last year, dealing with tough innings and surrendering hits, will help him this year” as he has gained some mound presence and command on the bump. Expecting a big year, his coach said that he definitely has what it takes to be a Division 1 pitcher, as his repertoire could rival that of current Division 1 pitchers. Kimpler has been contacted by the University of Washington, University of Central Florida, and Illinois State University, and that was only after a sophomore season; there should be more to come following the upcoming season.

How He Does it All

While such an overloaded schedule may be overwhelming for a student, Kimpler “goes with the flow” of the season to balance it out. And while he does admit that it “is rough without a break” between sports, it is well worth it to be a part of it all. He claimed that this is how it has always been: football in the fall, basketball all winter, and baseball in the spring and summer; if he could do it again, he said that he would not change a thing.

When asked if he would want to play any other sports competitively if he could, Kimpler laughed, “I’m too tall.” While competitive by nature, he also sees sports as a prime opportunity to meet new people and spend time with his friends every single day at practices and games.

Balancing sports, clubs, schoolwork, and a social life is the most challenging agenda in the lives of many high school students, but Kimpler said that sports make him prioritize everything. He knows every day that he is going to be staying after school for practice, so he hunkers down in study hall to finish as much homework as possible, as well as finishing up at home; and he knows that he gets to see his friends at sports. The rest of his very slim amount of downtime is devoting to spending time with his friends and family.

So while Kimpler’s future in college athletics may not yet be determined, there is one thing that is most definite in the “throwback warrior athlete’s” life: he’s going to practice today, tomorrow, and the next day; for all three seasons, for the next two years.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email