DELTON — Nearing the end of a stellar four-year wrestling career, Caden Ferris has just one complaint: Not enough mat time.
That is not a knock on his coach, but a nod at his record.
The Delton Kellogg senior will take a 45-0 record into next weekend’s MHSAA Division 4 Individual Wrestling Finals at Ford Field.
Of those wins, 32 came by pins with just one match making it to the second period. The other 13 were by forfeit.
Although he talks of “more mat time,” he will definitely take the pins as he works toward repeating at 215 pounds.
If that happens, he will become just the second wrestler in school history with two Individual Finals titles.
The other one? His dad, Rollie Ferris, who won in 1992 and 1993.
In fact, wrestling is the Ferris family’s legacy at Delton Kellogg.
Ferris’ brother, Tyden, was a two-time Finals runner-up (2016, 2018), and his uncle, Billy Ferris, has one championship (2001).
“It’s always been in the family, and I’ve always been going to my brother’s practices and tournaments,” said Caden Ferris, who started wrestling in sixth grade.
“I sometimes wrestle my brother in the backyard, but not a lot. He’s four years ahead of me.”
Wrestling his dad has a different spin.
“He tried once. It didn’t work out in his favor,” he added laughing.
During his freshman year, Ferris posted a 36-19 record, and those losses fueled his desire to win even more.
His sophomore season he improved to 38-3, and last year, 33-2. Total, he’s 152-24 heading into his final weekend of high school competition.
Following a familiar path
Rollie Ferris began wrestling in third grade, but honed his skills early, growing up on a farm with five brothers.
“We’re just always competitive,” he said. “When I had the chance to start wrestling in third or fourth grade, it was just a natural for me.
“I always enjoyed competing, then you get your hand raised, and then you get medals. It was awesome.”
Rollie Ferris’ journey did not start out “awesome.”
“My very first time wrestling (as a third grader), I got thrown on my back in a headlock by a kid I didn’t know at the time,” he recalled. “I was crying.”
His skills improved immensely from that first pin to his two Finals titles in high school.
Although he attended Central Michigan University on a football scholarship, he wrestled for coach Tom Borrelli for two of those years.
Borrelli is still coaching at CMU, where Tyden is a senior on the football team.
Because of that connection, “I’ve always been up at CMU and wrestling with them and getting to know the coaches since I was real little,” Caden Ferris said.
So when Coach Borrelli called to offer his son a four-year wrestling scholarship, “I was in awe because I know that wrestling doesn’t always get all that,” Rollie Ferris said. “Caden was offered before he even got a state championship last year.”
Having Ferris on the Delton Kellogg team is a tremendous asset, coach Dan Phillips said.
“You can always count on six (points) from him when he goes on the mat.” he said. “He’s a great leader on our team and vocal on the bench.
“He’s a pretty good physical specimen. He’s tall, he’s strong, he’s lanky. He’s well-coordinated. He’s very athletic.”
As for so many pins, “He’s relentless. If you make a mistake on the mat, he’ll capitalize on it. Plus he’s strong.
“The kids aren’t trying to get pinned. They can’t help it. That’s his attitude when he gets out there. He’s going to take them down and pin them. There’s no question about that. That’s his attitude.”
Full family effort
With several young, inexperienced wrestlers on the team, Phillips said this is a rebuilding year.
While the Panthers did not qualify for Team Regionals, four other wrestlers competed individually including junior Joelle White (110) in the MHSAA’s first-ever girls tournament. Junior Gage Vincent (119) will join Ferris at Ford Field.
To prepare, Ferris has followed his dad’s advice.
“I do a lot of running, bike, weight training, a lot of mat time, drilling with anybody I can find to throw around,” he said.
“I’m wrestling seven days a week including Grand Rapids, with all sorts of coaches.”
His dad said that takes a lot of dedication.
“I’m extremely proud of him, not only for the wins but he wants to put the work in,” he said.
“We live in Delton, which is an hour to anything so you have to be willing to be in the car and go places to do things. He’s willing to do all that.”
Caden Ferris’ mother, Marie, has been witness to it all.
“I call her my kids’ free agent,” Rollie Ferris said. “She’s just out there pushing for them, talking to people and setting up stuff constantly.
“She’s been with me since I was 16, so she watched both me win state twice and Billy win.”
She has also been there to cheer on her sons and daughter, Faith, in their sports endeavors.
One thing their father has learned is “not to be mat side with them so much,” he said. “The coaches do a good job with them.
“I’ve learned with my three kids to let other people coach. I want to be their dad, although I still probably am a little bit more intense than I should be.”
Once his son graduates in the spring, there will be a lull in the Ferris family wrestling tradition at Delton Kellogg until Rollie’s nephew Mason gets to high school. A sixth grader, Mason is also a wrestler.
For Caden Ferris, before the pomp of graduation, there are a few hurdles to face to go with next week’s big opportunity.
Rollie Ferris knows, in spite of his son’s success, nothing is guaranteed.
“As a dad, I’m always nervous there’s somebody in the closet that we don’t know,” he said. “Just like I tell these kids all the time, to be somebody, you’ve got to beat somebody.
“If I’m somebody out there wanting to wrestle Caden, if I’m his dad, I’m telling him we’ve got to beat this kid. He’s gonna be sitting up there not hungry. He’s got to beat the guy in the mirror.”
Pam Shebest served as a sportswriter at the Kalamazoo Gazette from 1985-2009 after 11 years part-time with the Gazette while teaching French and English at White Pigeon High School. She can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Delton Kellogg’s Caden Ferris, in maroon, works to control his opponent during last season’s Division 4 championship match at 215 pounds. (2) Caden Ferris and his father Rollie Ferris. (3) Panthers coach Dan Phillips. (4) Caden Ferris holds up his chart during last season’s medal ceremony. (Action shots by HighSchoolSportsScene.com; head shot by Pam Shebest.)
ROCKFORD – Ben Bennett knew from an early age what he wanted his career path to be.
“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.
“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.”
2023 Made In Michigan
July 20: Oakridge 3-Sport Star Potts Applying Lessons to 'Second Chapter' in Sales - Read
July 18: Frankfort Hoops Staff Bolstered by Past Stars Giving Back in Banktson, Kreski - Read
July 12: Championship Memories, High School Tennis' Impact Stick with Hackett Pair - Read
July 6: Brother Rice Finals Hero Aiming to Ace Family Life, Financial World - Read
July 5: Lapeer West 4-Time Finals Winner Set to Build Champions at Oklahoma - Read
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.)