KALALAMZOO – Stoney Buell wasn’t exactly a secret as a freshman, already considered one of the state’s best as a top-seeded contender at his first Individual Wrestling Finals in 2018. He would go on to win his first championship on the same night as teammate Brandon Whitman would become the first in Dundee history to claim a fourth Finals title.
Three years later, Buell will be leaving high school wrestling with an even bigger stack of accomplishments, having more than justified those predictions of greatness.
Buell became the 29th wrestler in MHSAA history to claim a fourth Individual Finals championship Friday, earning the Division 3 title at 189 pounds at Wings Event Center. With Dundee’s fourth-straight team championship Tuesday, Buell also is now one of just three in state history to be part of four team and four individual Finals wins – joining 2020 Lowell grad Austin Boone and Davison legend Brent Metcalf, who accomplished the feat from 2002-05.
“I think it just kinda added a little bit to prove people wrong as a freshman – because people talk and it always adds a little bit of fuel,” Buell said. “Just to finally accomplish that goal that I’ve had for so long is unreal.”
Buell, who will continue at Purdue, capped his Dundee career with a 6-1 decision against Constantine senior Isaac Hall (33-2) after pins of 27 seconds, 37 seconds and 30 seconds to reach the finale.
He had won at 135 pounds as a freshman, 152 as a sophomore and 160 as a junior. He ended this shortened season 27-0 and with a career record of 160-15.
Buell also was joined by seven teammates winning titles Friday as Dundee set a Finals record with eight champions.
“I’m just beyond grateful that we got to be here right now,” Buell said. “A huge shout out to Wings Event Center, and just the sport of wrestling for allowing me to be able to wrestle right now, and be able to do it with a team that makes you better every day. I wouldn’t want to do it with anybody else.”
Champion: Kade Kluce, Dundee, Fr. (18-2)
Decision, 7-3, over Talan Parsons, Ovid-Elsie, Fr. (24-1)
With three champions graduating, Kluce is part of the next generation of Dundee contenders – and he’s off to the best-possible start.
Kluce handed Parsons his only defeat of the season in a matchup of standout freshmen.
“It was really important for me, my team, my family. I worked a long time for this,” Kluce said. “And it’s paid off.
“I definitely want to do it three more times.”
Champion: Braeden Davis, Dundee, Soph. (27-0)
Fall, 1:26, over Gavyn Merchant, Kingsley, Fr. (28-1)
Davis is halfway to matching Buell. And he’s blazing a similarly dominant trail.
Davis never wrestled past the second period this season, winning all of his matches by pin or tech fall including this finale to hand Merchant his only loss.
The championship followed Davis’ title at 103 a year ago.
“This year I felt more prepared and used to it,” he said. “Less nerves, and I’m used to going to big-level tournaments, so I guess it helped.
“I’m going to take a week off and I’m going right into freestyle training and getting ready for Fargo (Nationals).”
Champion: Kaden Chinavare, Dundee, Soph. (24-0)
Major Decision, 16-5, over Dominic Anguiano, Alma, Sr. (29-4)
Chinavare had placed third at 112 as a freshman and was ready to take his turn among the many Dundee champions over the last two seasons.
He entered as the top seed at this weight and opened with a technical fall and pin on the way to claiming that first title.
“All these guys, they train with me every day. We scrap in the wrestling room 24/7, and it feels great to finally win the first title,” he said. “It’s kinda what we work for in the room all season.”
Champion: Zachary Gibson, Lake Odessa Lakewood, Jr. (33-1)
Decision, 2-1, over Caeleb Ishmael, Coloma, Jr. (30-5)
Gibson jumped from finishing fifth at 103 as a freshman and fifth again at 112 last season to claim his first title. He scored a reversal in the third period and held on.
“After I got the two, I figured, I couldn’t turn the kid the first two periods … so just stay smart. State champ match, you’ve gotta stay smart,” Gibson said.
He gave Lakewood a champion at the Finals for the second straight season, after entering as the second seed at this weight and getting pins in his first two matches of the day.
“It’s really awesome, really sets an example for the rest of the guys,” Cooper said. “My team, they see me as an upperclassmen. They want to fight to get up there with me, and it’s awesome. I work with all the guys, all the underclassmen.”
Champion: Ryker Johnecheck, Williamston, Jr. (27-0)
Decision, 6-2, over Brock Holek, Durand, Sr. (25-4)
Both were making repeat appearances in a championship match, Johnecheck after winning 125 last year and Holek after coming in second at 130.
Holek defeated Johnecheck’s brother Camden 5-3 in a semifinal, setting up this clash.
“I’ve wrestled him at Districts and Regionals, and I know what he likes to do,” Ryker Johnecheck said. “I was just waiting for the opportunity, and I got the takedowns when I needed to, and it turned out with me on top.”
Williamston has produced its share of champions in the past, including a pair of the best-known in MHSAA history. Johnecheck became the Hornets’ first repeat champion since Andy Simmons won his fourth title in 2002.
“We’ve had a lot of guys coming up around my age,” Johnecheck said. “We brought five guys to states today; we’ve got five placers. It’s all a team. We push each other at practice, and it shows.”
Champion: Aiden Davis, Dundee, Soph. (27-1)
Decision, 5-1, over Jack Sherman, Millington, Sr. (28-1)
Davis had come up just short as a freshman, losing the championship match at 125 to Johnecheck on a last-second ultimate tiebreaker takedown last winter.
After this win he talked about always getting better, by baby steps or leaps and bounds. And he finished the season by making that next move and handing Sherman his only defeat.
“This was one was pretty sweet, because last year I lost in literally the last second,” Davis said. “So I felt like this one meant something to really get it.
“I knew I deserved it last year. This year I just had to prove that.”
Champion: Max Brown, Whitehall, Jr. (35-1)
Decision, 7-1, over Austin Fietz, Dundee, Sr. (23-4)
Brown made some noise when he started Tuesday’s Team Final against Dundee with a win over the top-seeded Fietz, a 2020 champion.
Then it was back to preparing for a possible rematch, as Brown was the second seed in this bracket. He lined up a pair of pins Friday to earn the opportunity.
“After our match Tuesday at team states, we went back to the practice room, we worked hard, we got a strategy and went out and executed the strategy,” Brown said. “I knew what to block for, what to look for, how to keep working the whole time.”
Brown had finished third at 130 as a sophomore and fourth at 125 as a freshman.
Champion: Casey Swiderski, Dundee, Jr. (28-0)
Major Decision, 20-7, over Dametrius Castillo, Alma, Sr. (29-5)
It seemed appropriate that Swiderski earned not only Dundee’s last championship of the day, but also the last win of the Division 3 meet – because after this weekend, the spotlight is sure to turn his way even more.
Swiderski will have the opportunity next year to join the prestigious group of four-time champs, with Friday’s Finals win at 145 adding to his past titles at 135 as a sophomore and 103 as a freshman.
He won his first three matches this time by pin before the major decision against Castillo, who was a champion as a freshman and runner-up as a junior.
“State titles are state titles. If my goal is this high, this is just a stepping stone to my goals – Division I college, NCAAs, all that,” Swiderski said.
“Getting that fourth (would be) awesome for the history. And being one of those guys, not many people get to do that. Not many people alone get (one) state title.”
Champion: Nick Dodman, Sanford Meridian, Sr. (31-5)
Decision, 9-2, over Nicholas Blanchard, Whitehall, Jr. (30-7)
Dodman became his school’s third Individual Finals champion, and first since 2014 – and also Meridian’s first non-heavyweight title winner.
He made good on his top seed Friday after previous Finals finishes of sixth at 140 and eighth at 135 as a junior and sophomore, respectively.
“I knew I could beat anyone in this bracket, and that mindset helped me do it,” Dodman said. “I’d wrestled a lot of them before, and I know nobody here has put in as many hours as me. I knew they didn’t stand a chance.”
Champion: Tyler Swiderski, Dundee, Sr. (27-1)
Decision, 7-2, over Connor Owens, Flint Powers Catholic, Soph. (24-1)
Friday’s win over the previously-undefeated Owens came at the opening weight for this year’s Finals and kicked off the Vikings’ record run of champions while also giving Swiderski his second-straight title to go with last year’s at 145.
Swiderski had opened his high school career with Individual Finals runner-up finishes at 112 as a freshman and 135 as a sophomore. And then the key to taking the next step clicked.
“Just to wrestle my matches like I do in practice and not overthink the whole tournament,” he said.
“I think (this year) was a lot better, just because I think I was a lot more free this year,” Swiderski added, comparing his first and second championships. “And it was my last season, so I thought it was very important.”
Champion: Dominick Lomazzo, Dundee, Sr. (23-3)
Decision, 7-4, over Randy Pyrzewski, Gladwin, Jr. (28-2)
Lomazzo capped his career with a second-straight championship, adding to the title he won at 152 a year ago.
This run certainly was different though, even if the end result was the same. Lomazzo, who earned a pin and then a major decision to start off Friday, did it all with an ankle injury he suffered during last week’s Regional Final.
But he fought through it to finish a career that included multiple team championships as well and a third place in Division 1 at 125 as a freshman wrestling for Detroit Catholic Central.
“I’m just really happy to be part of this team. These are all my best friends,” Lomazzo said. “It just feels great to finish it out on a bang and know that I did everything I could to finish it, and I got it done.”
Champion: Ira Jenkins, Whitehall, Jr. (38-0)
Fall, 0:44, over Ryan Osterland, Algonac, Sr. (31-2)
Jenkins arguably had the most dominating day of any Division 3 competitor Friday, with pins in 1:28, 1:46, 19 seconds and then 44 seconds in the finale to lock down a perfect season and his first championship.
He’d previously finished third at 152 in Division 3 as a freshman and fifth at 171 in Division 2 as a sophomore.
“I wanted to come into this tournament and dominate as best I could,” Jenkins said. “I wanted to get four pins all the way through – that was just my goal, I guess. I know there’s some things I could’ve done better, but I got it done.
“Coming off last year, a fifth-place finish wasn’t where I wanted to end up. So I went back to working and learned from that, and just kept improving. All the offseason work is paying off.”
Champion: Dan McKiernan, Richmond, Sr. (16-0)
Decision, 3-1, over Levi Harber, Montrose, Jr. (18-3)
The McKiernans can wrestle. There’s no doubt about that.
Dan finished his high school career Friday by becoming the fourth McKiernan brother to compete in an MHSAA individual championship match – and the second from his family to win one.
McKiernan earned a last-second takedown for the go-ahead points.
“We were both tired, got barely anything left by the end,” Dan McKiernan said. “I knew it’s not worth resting toward the end of the period, so I just thought I had to get and go.”
Jake McKiernan had won the Division 3 title at 189 pounds in 2014, while Jordan McKiernan was runner-up at 152 for Richmond in 2006 and Colton McKiernan was runner-up at 189 in 2017 and 215 pounds in 2018.
“I’m so proud of it. I love my family,” said Dan, who had taken fifth at 285 as a junior. “I’m hoping they’re happy.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Dundee’s Stoney Buell raises four fingers on each hand to the crowd signifying his fourth championship won Friday at the Division 3 Individual Wrestling Finals. (Middle) The Vikings’ Braeden Davis, right, works toward a win at 112. (Below) Lakewood’s Zachary Gibson, right, maintains control during his title match win at 125. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
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.)