2020 Dundee Stakes Claim as Vikings' Best

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

February 29, 2020

KALMAZOO – Nobody was quite ready Saturday to definitively call this Dundee wrestling team the best in program history. 

But simply being in the conversation says enough. 

The Vikings put an exclamation point on a dominant season by defeating rival Richmond 44-18 in the Division 3 championship match at Wings Event Center. It was the third-straight title for Dundee, and the program’s 12th overall. 

“It’s hard to say; I’ve been on two really good teams,” Dundee senior Christian Killion said, when asked if this was the best Dundee team. “If I have to say one thing, this was the funnest. I can’t say if it’s the best or not.” 

The Vikings finished the season 23-1, won the Lenawee County Athletic Association title, qualified 13 of 14 wrestlers who entered the individual postseason for the MHSAA Individual Finals, and walked into Saturday’s Team Final not having given up more than nine points in a postseason dual. 

To further their claim to the top spot in the program’s illustrious history, seven wrestlers are currently ranked No. 1 in the Division in their weight class.  

“Yeah, that’s a good point,” Killion said when reminded of the last point. “It’s a special team.” 

Dundee showed off its power early in its dual against Richmond, which went up 3-0 after one match when Josh Barton won a 5-4 decision at 119 pounds. 

The Vikings won the next eight matches to put the dual out of reach. 

“You don’t control what weight you start at, but where we did, we knew they had a couple tough competitors there,” Dundee coach Tim Roberts said. “They had Austin Kilburn, who is very good, and Austin Fietz steps up and gets the victory there (at 130). Even Aiden Davis getting that major decision at 125. A lot of guys stepped up and made that run of eight straight there. Then it was important to keep working for bonus points. (Richmond does) such a good job of making it hard to get bonus points on them. They’re always very hard to score on, they’re very stingy giving up bonus points. I was really proud of the effort our boys were able to put in to do that.” 

Davis started the run with an 11-3 major decision at 125, followed by Fietz’s 6-4 overtime win at 130. Dundee then put the top-ranked wrestler in the Division on the mat in five of the next six weight classes, getting pins from Casey Swiderski (135) and Tyler Swiderski (152), and major decisions from Kyle Yuhas (140), Killion (145), Dominic Lomazzo (160) and Stoney Buell (171). 

By the time the strongest part of Richmond’s lineup stepped on the mat in the upper weights, the Vikings had clinched the title. 

“We knew we were going to have an advantage up top,” Richmond co-coach Preston Treend said. “We actually got great matches from our kids through the middle. Gavin (Resk), Caleb (Scalachtowicz), (Austin) Bergeon for a bit. We got great matches against their studs through the middle. We were hoping to just save enough points to get something to happen at the end. We needed to flip one or two of those.” 

Noah Montanari gave Richmond (26-6) a win at 189 with a 4-2 decision, and Luke Davis (215) and Dan McKiernan (285) followed that up with pins.  

Dundee closed out the dual with a pin from Braeden Davis at 103 and a 6-3 decision from Kaden Chinavare at 112.  

The Finals meeting was the ninth in 11 years between the two programs, which have accounted for every Division 3 title since 2010 (Dundee winning six, Richmond five). 

“They’re certainly loaded, they’ve got seven No. 1 guys, but we’ve wrestled teams they’ve had before that have been just as tough,” Treend said. “That team we beat in 2015 was loaded. In 2010, they had four guys that ended up being high school All-Americans. It’s kind of the way this has gone – we're the scrappy guys that find a way to get it done, and they have these big guns. When there’s a lot of big guns, that’s tough to beat.” 

While the season didn’t end with a title for Richmond, Treend was plenty happy with how his team performed.  

“This group of kids overachieved,” he said. “Our lineup, we wrestled most of the year without Austin Kilburn. We wrestled most of the year without a true (140)-pounder. We were able to win duals different ways and put it all together at the end to make a run.” 

Roberts, meanwhile, couldn’t have asked for much more out of his group. 

“This team has been fantastic this year with the level they can compete at, and the level of teams that we’ve competed with,” Roberts said. “They had big goals. A lot of our teams, they like to compare themselves, ‘Who is the best Dundee team ever?’ It’s impossible to compare. They’re all my favorite team. But when the guys talk to each other, they all want to leave their legacy of, ‘No, we were the greatest team.’ These guys definitely wanted to do that, and they did a lot of things this year to have staked their claim.” 

Dundee defeated Montrose 65-9 in the Semifinal, while Richmond defeated Alma 40-25. 

Aiden Davis, Fietz, Casey Swiderski, Kyle Yuhas, Killion, Tyler Swiderski, Lomazzo, Buell, Braeden Davis and Chinavare all won three matches on the weekend for Dundee. 

Barton, Montanari, Luke Davis and Dan McKiernan won three for Richmond. 

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Dundee’s Casey Swiderski works toward a pin during his 135-pound match Saturday against Richmond. (Middle) The Vikings won 10 of 14 matches in the Division 3 Final. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)

After All-American Career, Rockford's Bennett Making Impact as Mat Mentor

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for MHSAA.com

July 25, 2023

ROCKFORD – Ben Bennett knew from an early age what he wanted his career path to be.

Made in Michigan is powered by Michigan Army National Guard.“I always wanted to coach,” the former Rockford High School wrestling standout said. “I think I have wanted to coach since I was in middle school. I wanted to be a college wrestling coach.”

Bennett, 33, is currently living out his dreams of becoming a collegiate coach as a member of the Central Michigan University wrestling program.

Bennett, one of the most decorated wrestlers in CMU history, is in his 10th season on 32-year coach Tom Borrelli’s staff.

“I was getting ready to graduate, and a position opened up,” Bennett said. “I think Coach Borrelli knew that I really wanted to stay involved in wrestling and get into coaching. I was fortunate enough to slide into that position, and he had enough faith in me to let me stay here.”

Before getting the opportunity to coach, Bennett amassed eight years of unbridled success at the high school and collegiate levels.

He was a three-time Individual Finals champion at Rockford and helped lead the Rams to a Division 1 team championship as a junior.

“I had a really good high school experience, and I really enjoyed wrestling for our head coach at the time, Don Rinehart,” Bennett said. “He coached for a long time, and we always had some very competitive teams.

“In 2007, my junior year, we won the team state duals, but every year we were really competitive and had multiple individual state champions. Those were the type of teams I was able to wrestle on, which made it pretty exciting and pretty fun when you have those types of guys around you.”

After excelling through the junior ranks, Bennett made an immediate impact for the Rams and captured the Division 1 championship at 140 pounds as a freshman.

However, the following year, he took third at 152 after losing a semifinal match 2-1.

That defeat was humbling for Bennett but also showed him how to handle adversity.

“At the time, in my eyes, the world was ending,” Bennett said. “You look back and it probably was more of a positive. It's good to have those things happen to you, and you face some adversity.

“And I think that's more relatable to life rather than just when you win all the time. I did a lot of winning, but when things are really important, sometimes it's good to fail, for things not to go your way because it will probably happen for the rest of your life.

“You have to learn how to respond and come back from that and handle it the right way and just get back to work. At the time, I remember how devastated I was, but looking back it probably was a positive thing long term.”

Bennett wound up collecting two more Individual Finals titles, at 160 and 171 pounds, to end his high school career and then was named Mr. Wrestler, receiving the award given to the top senior wrestler by the state coaches association.

“I wasn't even thinking that I might get that,” he said. “There are so many great high school wrestlers that come out every year, and thinking about the guys I wrestled … to be singled out as the one chosen for that award was pretty special.”

After graduation, Bennett took his talents to Mount Pleasant. He could’ve gone anywhere to wrestle, but found the right fit at CMU.

“I knew I wanted to wrestle in college, and it was close to home, which I liked,” Bennett said. “I didn't feel like I had to go across the country to have an opportunity to accomplish my goals. I felt like I could stay here and do that.”

Bennett is the only four-time All-American in CMU history and one of three Chippewas to have earned four individual Mid-American Conference titles.

Bennett twice earned the Chick Sherwood Award as CMU’s most valuable wrestler and was named the MAC Wrestler of the Year in 2012. He also had earned the MAC Freshman of the Year Award in 2010.

Bennett ranks sixth in CMU history with 121 career victories, and his career win percentage of .834 is fourth all-time. In 2013, he finished 31-2 for a .939 win percentage, the second-best in program history. He also won a school-record 30 consecutive matches during that season and finished a personal-best fourth at the national tournament.

Bennett wrestles Clarkston’s Adam Lauzun for the Division 1 title at 171 pounds that season.“At the time I was disappointed with how my career went, because I was never a national champion,” Bennett said. “But I think looking back on it, I have a lot more appreciation for what I did.

“As a coach, I realize how hard it is to have success at the college level, and every year you see great wrestlers not make the podium. Sometimes I’m shocked when certain guys don’t place, and it makes me appreciate how hard it is to be a four-time All-American, let alone place one time or multiple times.”

The transition to the coaching side was a difficult process for Bennett, but he knew he wanted to mentor other wrestlers the way his former coaches did with him.

“You put so much into the sport and you realize how much time other people invested and how important it was for me to do well, and so I guess for me it was a hard transition to make,” Bennett said. “You’re so competitive and so focused on yourself, but then being able to help these guys improve, get better and hopefully accomplish their goals was something I was looking forward to doing.

“I had so many people help me do that, and then I was able to be in their shoes and give back to these guys.”

Coaching has kept him involved in a sport he loves.

“And I get to continue to learn and grow and develop in different areas, not just wrestling-wise,” he said. “I get to meet a lot of great people through wrestling and coaching. The guys who come through our program are pretty awesome people.

“I’m pretty fortunate, and I've really enjoyed the coaching side of it, being in the wrestling room with these guys. Getting them ready for a match and going over things after a match. There is a lot that goes into it, but I really enjoy it.”

The love of wrestling for Bennett began at 6 years old, when he was coached by his uncle Tom Bennett – a former Division III All-American – and dad Doug.

“My uncle did a ton for me wrestling-wise, and my dad was the conditioning and discipline-type guy,” Bennett said. “Together it was a good mix. For as long as I can remember, I was always in really good shape. I loved wrestling right away.”

Bennett admits that he probably missed out on a lot when he was younger because he was determined to be the best and his life revolved around wrestling and training.

“It can be a tough way to live, but at the time that's what I wanted to do so that's what I did,” Bennett said. “When I was little my dad always told me that I'm not going to take you across the country to these tournaments if we are not training to win the tournament, not going to fill out the brackets, so my whole life the goal was always to be a champion.

“Going into high school my goal was to be a four-time state champion. I wanted to win the senior nationals, the junior nationals, and I won all those things. Going into college, in my mind, the next step was to be a national champion, and I don't think you realize how hard it really is, and I don't think I realized how hard it was to be an All-American.”

Bennett was promoted to CMU associate head coach last June after spending nine seasons as an assistant. He said the biggest difference with his new position is on the administrative side.

“I do a lot of scheduling and budgeting, things I didn’t do as much before in my years as an assistant coach,” he said. “I’ve taken the reins on some of these things, and it’s good for me to learn.”

Bennett is content with his current role at CMU and continuing to evolve as a coach under Borrelli. However, he hopes to one day take that next step as the head coach of a collegiate program.

“That’s my ultimate goal with coaching,” he said. “When that will happen, I don’t know. I guess I’m not in a hurry. When it happens, it will happen. I’m just trying to learn as much as I can right now.

“Coach Borrelli is an unbelievable coach, leader, mentor and role model, so I’m trying to learn as much as I can from him and soak up as much as I can from him until I get an opportunity somewhere to be a head coach. Right now I'm happy with where I'm at, and when that time comes, it will come.”

Bennett, 33, is engaged to former Chippewas field hockey player Erica Garwood. The couple has been dating for seven years and will get married next month.

“We’re excited, and I’m sure life will really change when we start having kids,” Bennett said. “But it’s good right now. We both went to school here, and she has a good job at an elementary school in town. We enjoy it up here.”

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PHOTOS (Top) Rockford’s Ben Bennett stands atop the podium at the 2008 Individual Finals, and now with fiancé Erica Garwood. (Middle) Bennett wrestles Clarkston’s Adam Lauzun for the Division 1 title at 171 pounds that season. (Current photo courtesy of Ben Bennett; 2008 photos from MHSAA Archives.)