By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
The power stacking up at this season's Division 1 Quarterfinals begins at the top and continues all the way through the final seed in Friday's bracket.
Leading off of course is three-time reigning champion Detroit Catholic Central, followed by Davison, Brighton and Hartland – the only other teams to wrestle in a Division 1 championship match over the last seven years.
But the lower half of this weekend's bracket appears historically strong. While the top four teams will send a combined 49 qualifiers to next weekend's Individual Finals at Ford Field, the combination of Temperance Bedford, Rockford, Clarkston and Macomb Dakota will send 37.
The Division 1 Quarterfinals will be wrestled at 2:15 p.m. Friday. Top seed Detroit Catholic Central will wrestle Macomb Dakota, No. 2 Davison will take on Clarkston, No. 3 Brighton will face Rockford and No. 4 Hartland will match up with Temperance Bedford. Semifinals are 9:30 a.m. Saturday, with the championship match that afternoon at 3:45 p.m. All matches this weekend will be viewable live on a subscription basis on MHSAA.tv. For Friday’s schedule and results throughout, check the MHSAA Wrestling page.
Below is a look at all eight teams competing in Division 1, listed by seed.
#1 Detroit Catholic Central
Record/rank: 17-3, No. 1
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League
Coach: Mitch Hancock, 13th season (290-48)
Championship history: Fourteen MHSAA championships (most recent 2019), two runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Drew Heethuis (34-6) fr., 112 Dylan Gilcher (36-3) fr., 112 Anthony Walker (30-7) soph., 125 Caleb White (25-16) sr., 125 T.J. Bunn (23-9) fr., 135 Philip Burney (36-8) jr., 135 Camden Trupp (29-5) jr., 140 Josh Edmond (37-0) sr., 145 Marc Shaeffer (28-11) sr., 152 Logan Sanom (38-8) sr., 160 Derek Gilcher (38-2) sr., 189 Manuel Rojas (39-1) soph., 215 Brendin Yatooma (38-1) sr., 285 Steven Kolcheff (39-2) sr.
Outlook: The Shamrocks will be trying to build on three straight Division 1 titles, again bringing a full 14 individual qualifiers to Kalamazoo. DCC expects to maneuver its lineup to start 13 of those qualifiers this weekend, led by two-time reigning individual champs Edmond and Gilcher. Yatooma and Kolcheff also won individual titles in 2019, Shaeffer was a runner-up (to Gilcher) and Walker, Trupp and Sanom were Finals placers. DCC shut out three of its first four postseason opponents, allowing three points in the fourth match.
Record/rank: 18-2, No. 2
League finish: First in Saginaw Valley League
Coach: Roy Hall, 23rd season (556-99-1)
Championship history: Eight MHSAA championships (most recent 2006), five runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Caden Horwath (36-2) fr., 112 Aden Williams (29-7) soph., 119 Cameron Freeman (14-10) soph., 125 Andrew Chambal (35-5) sr., 125 Kyle White (23-13) soph., 130 Jaron Wilson (21-8) sr., 135 Evan Herriman (26-8) fr., 145 James Johnston (19-6) jr., 152 Josh Barr (32-0) fr., 160 Jay Nivison (31-4) sr., 171 Alex Facundo (33-1) jr., 189 Max Callahan (19-4) fr., 215 Jimmy Colley (29-8) soph., 285 Tyler Jelinek (21-12) jr.
Outlook: Davison has made nine straight Quarterfinals and seven straight Semifinals, but is looking to get back to the championship match for the first time since 2017. The Cardinals have given up a combined 23 points over four postseason wins, and done so impressively with a lineup starting eight underclassmen and with three more among top reserves. Davison has 14 Individual Finals qualifiers as well. Facundo is a two-time individual champion and Chambal won a title as a sophomore and finished runner-up at his weight a year ago. Williams also was a Finals runner-up last season, and Nivison and Colley placed.
Record/rank: 22-3, No. 3
League finish: First in Kensington Lakes Activities Association West and overall
Coach: Al Freeman, first season (22-3)
Championship history: Division 1 champion 2015, runner-up 2018 and 2019.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Quaylon Newton (34-7) soph., 112 Aiden Smith (36-10) soph., 119 Travis Richardson (36-14) fr., 125 Mason Shrader (37-5) jr., 130 Sam Freeman (35-5) sr., 135 Eddie Homrock (38-3) sr., 140 Zach Johnson (37-7) jr., 152 Aiden Brown (24-17 sr., 171 Harley Berne (20-7) sr., 171 Dane Donabedian (34-7) sr., 189 Greyson Stevens (38-2) sr., 215 Luke Stanton (27-3) sr.
Outlook: Brighton is seeking its third-straight championship match appearance after coming within 15 points of DCC in last year’s Final. The Bulldogs again emerged from a KLAA that had three teams ranked among the top nine in Division 1, then beat No. 6 Holt 55-8 in the Regional Final. Al Freeman formerly served as Walled Lake Central’s head coach from 2006-18 and has built a lineup with seven senior starters led by last year’s 125-pound champion Homrock. Smith, Sam Freeman, Shrader, Johnson, Donabedian, Stevens and Stanton all placed as well at last year’s Individual Finals.
Record/rank: 26-1, No. 4
League finish: Second in KLAA West
Coach: Todd Cheney, 28th season (787-111-2)
Championship history: Division 1 champion 2016, five runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Patrick Wlodyga (41-3) soph., 112 Nick Huntsman (34-12) jr., 130 Gabe Cappellano (36-9) soph., 140 Nick Rochowiak (40-5) fr., 145 Nick Dimitroff (27-9) fr., 145 Justin VanVaerenber (42-3) jr., 171 Avery Dickerson (42-1) soph., 189 Paul Corder (37-7) jr., 285 Cameron Shirley (31-15) jr.
Outlook: Hartland will be making a 19th-consecutive Quarterfinal appearance, and this season with just one loss – to Brighton, seeded just ahead of the Eagles. They have given up just 22 points total over four postseason matches and could be even scarier next season – Hartland doesn’t have a senior in the expected starting lineup for this weekend and will be anchored by six juniors. Sophomore Ethan Kinch didn’t advance to the Individual Finals this season, but did place last year as a freshman.
#5 Temperance Bedford
Record/rank: 33-1, No. 5
League finish: First in Southeastern Conference
Coach: Kevin Vogel, ninth season (213-52)
Championship history: 11 MHSAA titles (most recent 2001), seven runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Brock Jandasek (35-15) fr., 125 Caleb Jagielski (34-8) fr., 140 Randy Boisselle (42-4) soph., 145 Rollie Denker (42-6) soph., 152 Mason Rimmer (47-4) sr., 160 Logan Frantz (37-12) sr., 189 Colin Jagielski (42-2) sr., 215 Cage Dye (39-8) sr.
Outlook: Bedford is back at the Quarterfinals for the first time since 2016 after winning its fifth straight league and District championships and getting past No. 9 Westland John Glenn 39-24 in the Regional Final. Boisselle was the team’s lone Individual Finals placer last season, coming in eighth at 135 as a freshman. But he’s one of five Kicking Mules with at least 40 wins this winter. Junior Chase Grzegorczyk (119/40-7) is another; he didn’t qualify for Ford Field but has been a top contributor.
Record/rank: 26-2, No. 7
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Red
Coach: Brian Richardson, 11th season (236-111)
Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (most recent 2009), three runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Jak Keller (35-7) fr., 112 Elijah Bunn (33-6) fr., 130 Ashton Halland (32-10) sr., 140 Trenton Wachter (32-3) jr., 145 Evan Kaser (34-5) sr., 152 Moses Bosscher (34-7) jr., 160 Josh Hill (29-11) sr., 189 Cole Gleason (33-3) jr., 215 Reid Nicholson (27-10) sr.
Outlook: After reaching the Quarterfinals last season for the first time since 2010, Rockford is back again and an intriguing six seed with nine Individual Finals qualifiers. Ten starters are upperclassmen – half are seniors – while juniors Wachter and Gleason were individual placers a year ago.
Record/rank: 21-4, No. 8
League finish: First in Oakland Activities Association Red
Coach: Joe Wood, third season (65-19)
Championship history: Class A champion 1991, runner-up 1995.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 125 Ashton Anderson (34-6) jr., 140 Presley Pearce (31-14) sr., 152 Grady Castle (25-10) jr., 160 Hayden Payne (36-11) jr., 189 Drew Stark (21-15) jr., 189 Frank Davis (30-8) sr., 215 Jacob Jones (24-4) sr.
Outlook: Similar to Rockford, Clarkston reached the Quarterfinals last season for the first time since 2007 and quickly returned with four dominating postseason wins earlier this month. All but two weights in the expected starting lineup are filled by upperclassmen, including six seniors. Castle also was an Individual Finals qualifier in 2019.
#8 Macomb Dakota
Record/rank: 20-8, unranked
League finish: Third in Macomb Area Conference Red
Coach: Ed Skowneski, eighth season (227-54)
Championship history: Has not appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Caleb Weiand (36-12) fr., 112 Orion Wilson (41-8) fr., 119 Brendan Ferretti (29-1) jr., 125 Nathan Smith (36-13) sr., 130 Brad Weiand (41-7) sr., 130 Kenneth Crutchfield (24-15) sr., 135 Austen Alkazir (35-7) soph.; 140 Sal Tundis (32-16) jr.; 145 Joseph Papas (37-5) sr., 160 Aiden Dale (26-20) soph.; 215 Josh Stokes (39-9) jr.
Outlook: Dakota is heading into its fifth-straight trip to the Quarterfinals with a strong resume for an eight seed. The Cougars will take 11 qualifiers to the Individual Finals – two more than last season when it was a seven seed. Ferretti was last year’s champion at 112 pounds, and Brad Weiand is a returning individual qualifier.
PHOTO: Detroit Catholic Central's Josh Edmond gets a hold on Brighton's Aiden Brown during the last match of last season's Division 1 Final. (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.”
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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.)