Three of the past five seasons have seen Davison and Detroit Catholic Central face off for the Division 1 championship. That could play out again this weekend at Wings Event Center in Kalamazoo.
They are once again the top two seeds in the division with Quarterfinals – matchups below – set to begin at 2:15 p.m. Friday. Davison won last season’s championship match 29-24 over the Shamrocks, and defeated DCC this regular season 32-31 on Jan. 28.
#1 Davison (16-4) vs. #8 Warren Woods Tower (7-8)
#4 Macomb Dakota (22-3) vs. #5 Temperance Bedford (30-4)
#3 Hartland (28-1) vs. #6 Holt (21-3)
#2 Detroit Catholic Central (12-3) vs. #7 Grandville (15-3)
Semifinals will start at 9:30 Saturday morning, with the championship match at 3:45 p.m.
Tickets for Quarterfinals, Semifinals and Finals will be sold by the Wings Event Center box office. All matches for all three rounds also will be viewable on MHSAA.tv with subscription.
Below is a look at all eight teams competing in Division 1, listed by seed. (Girls Finals qualifiers are noted with “G” with weight class, as those classes differ from the other Individual Finals brackets.)
Record/rank: 16-4, No. 1
League finish: Second in Saginaw Valley League
Coach: Zac Hall, second season (28-4)
Championship history: Nine MHSAA championships (most recent 2021), six runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 119 Justin Gates (25-2) soph., 125 Caden Horwath (23-0) jr., 125 Kyle Jelinek (27-10) fr., 130 Brendan Maybee (23-9) sr., 135 Cameron Freeman (19-7) sr., 140 Evan Herriman (15-2) jr., 145 Owen Payne (9-1) sr., 152 Max Callahan (15-5) jr., 160 Kyle White (25-4) sr., 171 Josh Barr (21-1) jr., 189 Remy Cotton (20-3) jr., 215 Jimmy Colley (25-2) sr., 285 Zane Richardson (29-4) sr.
Outlook: Davison won last season’s championship – its first since 2006 and with five runner-up finishes in between – with eight starters expected to be in the lineup again this weekend. Gates (103), Horwath (119), Barr (160) and Colley (215) all are reigning Individual Finals champions – Barr and Horwath are both two-time title winners – while Herrman was last season’s runner-up at 135 and Freeman, Maybee and White were Finals placers.
#2 DETROIT CATHOLIC CENTRAL
Record/rank: 12-3, No. 2
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League Central
Coach: Mitch Hancock, 15th season (326-53)
Championship history: Fifteen MHSAA championships (most recent 2020), three runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Nathan Walkowiak (29-6) fr., 112 Simon Dominguez (25-13) soph., 119 Drew Heethuis (25-3) jr., 130 Clayton Jones (29-3) jr., 130 Anthony Walker (25-9) sr., 135 Mason Stewart (27-3) soph., 140 Dylan Gilcher (32-0) jr., 140 Jake Matigian (31-9) fr., 145 Steven Shellenberger (21-13) jr., 152 Tatum Bunn (20-11) jr., 152 Darius Marines (29-4) soph., 160 Cameron Adams (24-8) jr., 171 Manuel Rojas (32-1) sr., 189 Connor Bercume (29-8) fr.
Outlook: DCC has wrestled in five straight Division 1 championship matches – winning four straight from 2017-20 – and this lineup is anticipated to return despite only three senior starters. That hardly means there’s less experience than most. Heethuis (112), Gilcher (135), Marines (145) and Rojas are reigning individual champs, with Gilcher and Rojas wrestling next weekend for their third titles. Walker, Jones and Bunn also are returning Finals placers.
Record/rank: 28-1, No. 3
League finish: First in Kensington Lakes Activities Association (overall)
Coach: Kyle Summerfield, first season (28-1)
Championship history: Division 1 champion 2016, five runner-up finishes
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Jake Gillespie (38-3) soph., 112 Patrick Wlodyga (36-8) sr., 119 Easton Culver (22-6) fr., 125 Liam Wiitanen (31-9) jr., 135 Vinnie Abbey (36-4) soph., 140 Gabe Cappellano (39-4) jr., 145 Justin VanVaerenbergh (39-2) sr., 152 Nick Dimitroff (19-1) jr., 160 Nick Rochowiak (31-4) jr., 171 Brayden Bobo (37-3) jr., 189 Chase Kern (39-4) jr., 215 Avery Dickerson (4-1) sr., 255-G Eliana Bommarito (17-6) sr.
Outlook: Summerfield, a past Hartland standout, took over the program this season after longtime coach Todd Cheney retired as the fourth-winningest in MHSAA history. Summerfield has totaled more than 150 coaching wins including at Linden before coming to Hartland, and his team’s only loss this winter was to No. 10 Brighton. The Eagles haven’t given up a point over three postseason matches. Bobo, Dickerson, Kern, Abbey and Dimitroff all are returning Finals placers.
#4 MACOMB DAKOTA
Record/rank: 22-3, No. 4
League finish: First in Macomb Area Conference Red
Coach: Ed Skowneski, 10th season (269-60)
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Ozia Wilson (42-0) fr., 112 Caleb Weiand (42-0) jr., 112 Orion Wilson (10-2) jr., 119 Drew Astorga (30-9) jr., 125 Fritz Mueller (36-6) sr., 140 Jake Ferguson (29-12) jr., 140 Austin Alkazir (38-6) sr., Aiden Criteser (35-8) jr., 215 Anthony Coleman (35-8) jr.
Outlook: Dakota has won seven straight Regional championships and nine in 10 seasons under Skowneski. Weiand was the individual runner-up at 103 last season, while Orion Wilson is a two-time Finals placer and Alkazir joined them last winter. Alkazir also is one of only three senior starters, with seven juniors anchoring a lineup that should be tough again next season.
#5 TEMPERANCE BEDFORD
Record/rank: 30-4, No. 5
League finish: First in Southeastern Conference
Coach: Kevin Vogel, 11th season (255-59)
Championship history: Eleven MHSAA championships (most recent 2001), seven runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Vincent Cole (34-12) soph., 119 Brock Jandasek (38-12) jr., 125 Nathan Gerber (28-10) jr., 145 Jack Nigh (27-13) jr., 152 Tyler Boerst (37-6) jr., 160 Rollie Denker (50-2) sr.
Outlook: After a season away, Bedford is back at Finals weekend for the second time in three years and fifth time under Vogel. The Kicking Mules advanced this time with a 40-27 Regional Final win over No. 9 Westland John Glenn. Senior Randy Boisselle (35-4 at 171) was a Finals placer last season and is one of eight on the team with at least 30 wins.
Record/rank: 21-3, No. 8
League finish: First in Capital Area Activities Conference Blue
Coach: Stan Granger, first season (21-3)
Championship history: Four MHSAA championships (most recent 2008), two runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Jacob Harris (29-11) soph., 112 Ryan Mosher (28-8) jr., 112 Mariano Lopez (31-4) jr., 130 Jason Jones (19-7) sr., 135 Ralph Thompson (30-12) sr., 160 Alex Russell (25-7) sr., 189 Nathan Bremer (14-4) sr., 215 Cole Newman (30-13) jr., 285 Joshua Terrill (38-2) sr.
Outlook: Granger is a past Holt standout and served as an assistant under longtime coach Rocky Shaft since 1998 before taking over the program. The Rams downed No. 10 Brighton 45-29 in a Regional Semifinal on the way to Kalamazoo. A junior-heavy lineup last season has become a group anchored by seven senior starters plus five more juniors. Terrill was the runner-up at 285 last season, while Bremer, Mosher, Jones, Thompson and Russell also were Finals placers.
Record/rank: 15-3, No. 6
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Red
Coach: Bubba Gritter, 12th season (187-76)
Championship history: Two MHSAA championships (most recent 1993), three runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Josh Vasquez (35-3) fr., 119 Jaxon Sanchez (27-9) soph., 135 Justin Gorman (23-4) jr., 171 Max Herrema (22-9) soph., 285 Jordan Kaat (32-3) sr., 105-G Beyonkah Rincones (10-11), fr.
Outlook: Grandville is returning to the Finals for the first time since 2017 and fourth time under Gritter, after claiming a 34-25 win over No. 7 Rockford in the Regional Final to advance. Sanchez and senior Anthony Taylor (23-10 at 152) were Individual Finals placers in 2021.
#8 WARREN WOODS TOWER
Record/rank: 7-8, unranked
League finish: Fifth in MAC Red
Co-coaches: Greg Mayer, 22nd season (409-266) and Russell Correll, ninth season (172-70)
Championship history: Division 2 runner-up 2017.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Dominic Gumtow (27-4) fr., 112 Daniel Staniszwski (15-8) soph., 130 Tyler Daniel (28-10) sr., 135 Aidan Ede (22-10) fr., 145 Josh Howey (24-2) sr.
Outlook: The Titans are headed to Finals weekend for the seventh-straight season, but this time in Division 1 after previously making the trip in Division 2. Daniel and Howey were Finals placers last season, and they are two of four senior starters for an otherwise younger group – eight underclassmen help fill the lineup.
PHOTO Hartland, here against Westland John Glenn, is the No. 3 seed this weekend in Division 1. (Photo by Douglas Bargerstock.)
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.)