D1 Preview: Favorites Vie for 1st Title

February 26, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

This weekend’s MHSAA Team Finals Division 1 bracket seems a little upside-down from what we usually expect at Battle Creek’s Kellogg Arena.

Last season’s finalists – champion Detroit Catholic Central and runner-up Davison – will instead face off in a Friday Quarterfinal. The top seeds – Brighton and New Baltimore Anchor Bay – are seeking their first championship match berths.

Below is a look at all eight teams competing in Division 1, listed by seed. Their Quarterfinal matches begin at 3:15 p.m. Friday, with Semifinals at 9:30 Saturday morning and the championship match at 4 p.m. All matches this weekend will be streamed live on a subscription basis on MHSAA.TV. For results throughout, check the MHSAA Wrestling page. (Records below are based on those submitted for the Individual Finals.)

#1 Brighton

Record/rank: 26-1, No. 1
League finish: First in Kensington Lakes Activities Association (Lakes and overall)
Coach: Tony Greathouse, second season (53-8)
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Lee Grabowski (34-9) soph., 119 Grant Morrison (39-12) jr., 119 Jackson Renicker (39-9) jr., 130 Kyle Bohnsack (30-15) sr., 145 Ryan Salmon (31-9) sr., 152 Tanner Maschke (40-8) sr., 160 Beau Mourer (40-7) sr., 171 Nicholas Brish (41-2) sr., 215 Eric Conquest (40-9) jr., 215 Lucas Ready (45-2) jr.
Outlook: This will be Brighton’s third Quarterfinal appearance in five seasons. Greathouse previously took Tecumseh to the Semifinals in 2012 and can rely on a lineup with 13 upperclassmen including 12 seniors. Brish and Ready were Individual Finals placers in 2014. Brighton’s only loss this winter was to Division 2 top-ranked Lowell, and that dual came down to the final match.

#2 New Baltimore Anchor Bay

Record/rank: 36-0, No. 2
League finish: First in Macomb Area Conference Red.
Coach: Jim Morisette, 25th season (606-223)
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Jack Medley (50-1) soph., 119 Nolan Romanoski (44-8) jr., 125 Jeff Andrews (41-9) jr., 130 Adam Wiscombe (43-10) sr., 135 Joey Dombrowski (41-2) sr., 152 Tyler Grimsley (51-1) sr., 171 Ross Morisette (39-6) sr.
Outlook: Anchor Bay is making its third Quarterfinal appearance and first since 2010; that season it fell to eventual champion Detroit Catholic Central, and in 2006 the Tars lost to eventual runner-up Hartland. Anchor Bay has crushed its postseason competition, allowing only a combined 28 points in four matches. Medley, Dombrowski and Grimsley all were Individual Finals placers last season and are among 14 on the team with at least 30 wins.

#3 Hartland

Record/rank: 29-3, No. 3
League finish: Second in Kensington Lakes Activities Association West
Coach: Todd Cheney, 23rd season (631-95-2)
Championship history: Four MHSAA runner-up finishes (most recent 2007).
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Noah Lopez (38-6) jr., 112 Garnet Potter (45-5) soph., 130 Reece Hughes (46-5) soph., 135 Sage Castillo (41-6) jr., 145 Logan Vish (42-4) jr., 152 Jacob Gorial (51-0) sr., 171 Lucas Laforge (44-8) jr., 171 Andrew Spisz (31-13) soph., 215 Jake Economou (33-6) sr.
Outlook: This is Hartland’s 14th straight trip to the Quarterfinals, and it's seeking its first championship match berth since finishing runner-up for the fourth straight season in 2007. The Eagles defeated No. 6 Walled Lake Central in the Regional on the way to Battle Creek and will try to advance to their sixth straight Semifinal. Castillo and Gorial were Individual Finals placers last season – and Gorial is one of only four seniors on the roster.

#4 Detroit Catholic Central

Record/rank: 22-3, No. 4
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League.
Coach: Mitch Hancock, eighth season (171-35)
Championship history: Eleven MHSAA championships (most recent 2014), two runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Aaron Rehfeldt (32-15) jr., 125 Tommy Herrmann (33-13) sr., 130 Trevor Zdebski (41-5) sr., 160 Myles Amine (42-0) sr., 171 Tyler Morland (22-1) soph., 189 Nick Giese (37-14) sr., 285 Nick Jenkins (37-14) soph.
Outlook: The Shamrocks have won four Division 1 titles in five seasons and entered as only the third seed last year before winning again – although this year’s fourth seed comes with a rematch of last year’s Final. DCC rebuilt a bit this winter after graduating some strong contributors from the last few seasons, but still enters this weekend with reigning champions Amine and Zdebski and another placer from last season in Giese.

#5 Davison

Record/rank: 19-6, No. 5
League finish: First in Saginaw Valley Association
Coach: Roy Hall, 18th season (445-78-1)
Championship history: Eight MHSAA championships (most recent 2006), three runner-up finishes. 
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Max Johnson (40-7) jr., 112 Augustine Facundo (32-8) fr., 119 Deven Perez (42-10) jr., 130 Ryan Schlak (32-14) soph., 135 Lincoln Olson (46-0) sr., 140 Hunter Fifield (37-7) sr., 145 Kurt Schlak (33-14) jr., 160 Brenden McRill (36-9) soph., 171 Mike Kennedy (25-14) sr., 189 Tanner Thomas (24-8) jr., 215 Dakota Powers (32-12) sr., 215 Jake Ellis (36-8) sr.
Outlook: The runner-up the last two seasons, Davison is looking to continue its championship match streak from a tougher spot after entering last season as the top seed. But the Cardinals do have Olson – who next weekend will go for a fourth individual title – and another reigning champ in Johnson plus a returning placer in McRill.

#6 Monroe

Record/rank: 37-3, No. 10
League finish: First in Southeastern Conference Red.
Coach: Don Mayes, seventh season (162-73)
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Neil Antrassian (48-9) fr., 112 Carl Antrassian (53-2) jr., 140 Logan DiCarlo (41-5) sr., 160 Travis Labell (39-9) sr., 171 Tyler Hammack (53-3) sr.
Outlook: Monroe is making its second appearance in the Quarterfinals after also advancing in 2003 and winning its first District title since 2010. Monroe may have the most senior-dominated lineup at the Finals this weekend, with 10 starters and one at every weight from 125-189. Carl Antrassian is only a junior, but was Individual Finals runner-up at 103 last winter.

#7 Grand Haven

Record/rank: 26-3, No. 7
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Red.
Coach: James Richardson, 17th season (304-92)
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 125 Camden Bertucci (39-0) sr., 135 Antonio Reyes (35-4) sr., 140 Evan Johnson (34-11) sr., 160 Aaron Cummings (38-6) sr., 189 Nick Mulcahy (39-9) sr., 285 Chase VanHoef (38-3) sr.
Outlook: Grand Haven is back in the Quarterfinals for the second time and first since 2012 after edging No. 8 Grandville 31-30 in their Regional Final. The Buccaneers have 15 District titles in Richardson’s 17 seasons but this winter have set a high for victories during his tenure. VanHoef was an Individual Finals placer last season.

#8 Oxford

Record/rank: 16-7, unranked
League finish: First in Oakland Activities Association Red.
Coach: Paul McDevitt, 18th season (362-147)
Championship history: Division 1 champion 2011, two runner-up finishes.  
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Ryan Miller (34-11) fr., 112 Sergio Borg (39-9) fr., 125 Alex Hrisopoulos (45-3) jr., 130 Vinny Vackaro (34-14) soph., 135 Collin Campbell (42-6) sr., 189 Wyatt Harden (35-7) jr., 285 Adam Schlickenmeyer (29-12) jr.
Outlook: Oxford is making its seventh Quarterfinal appearance in eight seasons. Hrisopoulos was the Individual Finals runner-up at 112 in 2014 and is the only non-senior captain for a lineup that starts only two seniors total and has eight underclassmen among regulars.

PHOTO: Detroit Catholic Central's Nick Giese (right) and Davison's Jake Ellis faced off in last season's Division 1 Final and will help lead their teams back to Battle Creek on Friday. (Click to see more at 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.)