Comar Sets Goals for Self, Clinton

December 7, 2017

By Doug Donnelly
Special for Second Half

CLINTON – Clinton High School has had a remarkable run of Division I college athletes over the past six years. In fact, eight have come through the halls of the northern Lenawee County school that boasts an enrollment of only 310 high school students total.

Noah Comar could become the next from the Class C school. But, he’s not worried about that just yet.

That’s because Comar, Clinton’s returning MHSAA Finals champion wrestler, has a couple more chances to bring home team and individual titles at the high school level.

“That’s what my focus is now,” Comar said. “I’d definitely like to wrestle in college. I’ve thought about it.

“It’s great for what all those guys have done. It’s inspiring, but I don’t think about that. I’m just focused on this season.”

Comar, 17, went 53-0 as a sophomore in winning the 112-pound weight division in Division 4 at The Palace of Auburn Hills. He enters the 2017-18 campaign with a career record of 108-4.

“I don’t focus on records,” he said. “I just focus on beating whoever steps on to the mat against me.”

Clinton has turned itself into a wrestling powerhouse over the past several years. Despite being in the same county as perennial Division 4 championship contender Hudson, the Redskins have made great strides with their program under head coach Jeff Rolland, who said this year’s goal isn’t just to get into the Quarterfinals on Feb. 23, but to “be wrestling on Saturday.”

If that happens, Comar will be a big reason why – in more ways than one.

“He is really good, and he’s still improving,” Rolland said. “One thing we asked more from him this year is to be a leader. He’s bringing kids with him as he improves, and that’s important.”

Comar agreed that throughout the preseason, he became more vocal despite his tendency to be quiet. When he became the fastest Clinton wrestler to 100 career wins last year, he was typically low-key about the honor, although he did pose for a photo with his parents and a large card that the Clinton staff made up with “100” on it.

“I’m speaking up more in practice,” he said. “It’s kind of new to me to do that, but I like it. I find that people are looking up to me more now.”

As a freshman, Comar finished second in Division 4 at 112 pounds, losing to Hudson’s Jordan Hamdan in the Finals by a 5-1 score. It was Hamdan’s third win over Comar that season. The two did not meet in 2017.

“He wrestled at 130, plus we weren’t at the same tournaments,” Comar said.

In 2017, Comar beat Hamden’s teammate, Tucker Sholl, to claim the title. The championship was a thriller as both scored an escape during regulation but Comar was able to get a takedown and win the match in overtime, 3-1. He wrestled at 112 last season as well but expects to spend most of this season at 125 before dropping down to 119 for the MHSAA tournament. He’s about 127 pounds now.

“It’s better for the team if I wrestle at 125,” he said. “We have some other 119-pounders. This will help the team.”

Comar has also set a goal of not giving up a point in the state tournament.

“It didn’t hit me until a few days after the state tournament that I had actually won the state championship,” he said. “It was like a dream; all of the hard work paid off. I was pretty confident in myself. The coaches are great. They gave me a lot of confidence in myself.”

Comar got his start in wrestling with the Adrian youth wrestling club. He later was involved in the Tecumseh wrestling program before deciding to go to Clinton. His father Cory and mother Monica were also big influences on him wrestling, and he had a brother who was an MHSAA Finals qualifier at Tecumseh.

Comar also plays football at Clinton and helped the Redskins to the playoffs this fall. He rushed for 336 yards and caught nine passes for 106 more yards. He also made 35 tackles.

Clinton has an experienced wrestling coaching staff. Rolland wrestled at Kent State University. Casey Randolph wrestled at Eastern Michigan University, as did new assistant coach Ben Griffen. Louis Posa, who was the most recent MHSAA champ from Clinton before Comar (in 2005), wrestled at Trine University. Assistant coach Al Regnier hails from the wrestling-rich Temperance Bedford program.

“I’ve learned a lot of stuff from them and not just about wrestling or technique,” Comar said. “They teach us all life lessons, too. It’s a good coaching staff.”

As for this season, the Redskins will have more than 30 athletes on the varsity roster – including a host of talented freshmen. Once Rolland is done tinkering with the lineup, he expects them to have a strong season.

“We are working on improving technique and getting the young kids up to speed,” Rolland said. “Our expectation level is very high for this season.”

As for Comar, he’s shooting for another undefeated season and a second MHSAA championship. He’s prepared hard in the offseason, he said.

“I feel like going into the season there is no rust,” he said. “I’m fully prepared and raring to go. I’m still improving. There’s always room to improve. I want to be better by the end of the year.”

Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Clinton's Noah Comar works against his opponent during last season's Quarterfinal match at Central Michigan University. (Middle) Comar stands among teammates prior to taking on Leroy Pine River. (Click for more from

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

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for

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.)