D2 Preview: Rematch Brewing Again

February 20, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

St. Johns and Lowell have met in the last two MHSAA Division 2 Team Wrestling Finals. St. Johns won both.

But the Red Arrows entered the postseason ranked No. 1 in the state poll and enter this weekend's Quarterfinals seeded number one – with St. Johns No. 2 and looking like the championship match opponent once again.

Below is a look at all eight teams competing in Division 2, listed by seed. Their Quarterfinal matches begin at 5:30 p.m. Friday, with Semifinals at 11:45 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. Rankings below are from MichiganGrappler.com


Record/rank: 21-1, No. 1
League finish: First in O-K White
Coach: Dave Dean, ninth season (232-38) 
Championship history: Three MHSAA championships (most recent 2009), six runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Sam Russell (24-9) fr., 112 Lucas Hall (30-0) soph., 119 Zeth Dean (29-4) soph., 125 Derek Krajewski (23-8) sr., 130 Bailey Jack (28-4) sr., 135 Jordan Hall (27-3) jr., 160 Kanon Dean (26-6) sr., 171 Max Dean (28-1) soph.,189 Garett Stehley (25-1) sr., 215 Josh Colegrove (29-0) jr.
Lowell's only loss was to Illinois power Chicago Marist, and the Red Arrows own wins over Detroit Catholic Central and Richmond among others. Eight individuals won Regional titles last weekend, and Jack is a reigning Finals champion with Zeth Dean and Stehley runners-up in 2013. This run shows no signs of slowing, as Lowell has only four senior starters.


Record/rank: 18-2, No. 2
League finish: First in Capital Area Activities Conference Red
Coach: Derek Phillips, second season (37-6) 
Championship history: Four MHSAA championships (most recent 2013)
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Emilio Sanchez (33-15) fr.,112 Ian Parker (43-0) soph., 119 Lucas McFarland (36-13) fr., 130 Bret Fedewa (28-17) fr., 140 Zac Hall (45-0) sr., 145 Mark Bozzo (33-6) sr., 152 Logan Massa (44-0) jr., 160 Drew Wixson (27-7) jr.,171 Angus Arthur (40-0) jr., 215 Ty Wildmo (32-5) jr., 285 Jacob Gnegy (11-7) soph.
The Redwings’ only losses were to nationally-regarded teams from Ohio and Illinois, and Hall, Massa and Arthur all are reigning individual champions. Hall will compete next weekend to become the 18th in MHSAA history to win for individual titles. Parker hasn’t lost since falling in last season’s Division 2 individual championship match at 103. Hall and Bozzo are the only senior starters, so the trips to Battle Creek should continue.


Record/rank: 31-2, No. 3
League finish: Tied for first in Southeastern Conference
Coach: Joshua Lindeman, first season (31-2) 
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Ricky Azelton (48-3) sr., 112 Drew Marten (45-9) fr., 119 Robert Comar (43-12) sr., 140 Kyle Humphries (33-18) soph., 189 Kody McCrate (35-9) jr.,215 Landon Pelham (51-3) soph., 285 Preston Pelham (50-1) sr., 285 Kolin Connors (16-5) sr.  
Outlook: Tecumseh is back for its fourth straight Quarterfinal and first under Lindeman, who formerly coached Brooklyn Columbia Central and wrestled at Hudson. He inherited a lineup of half seniors with three more capable of subbing in. Azelton and both Pelhams were placers at last season’s Individual Finals.


Record/rank: 21-4, No. 4
League finish: First in Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference
Coach: Todd Hesson, seventh season (162-68) 
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Andrew Flick (31-9) fr., 112 Brandon Meek (29-10) jr., 119 Josh Dayhuff (33-9) jr., 130 Darek Bullock-Mills (34-6) sr., 135 Noah Hall (35-6) jr., 140 Warren Smith (33-6) jr., 145 Quintin Smith (18-14) soph.
Outlook: A year after winning its first Regional since 1960, Niles has won a second straight and three straight Districts for the first time despite graduating some big-time contributors in the spring. Two Individual Finals runners-up are gone, but five starters are back from last season’s team that fell in the Semifinals – and 10 junior starters should gain valuable seasoning for another run in 2015.


Record/rank: 25-7, unranked
League finish: First in O-K Green
Coach: Tom Barker, second season (54-14) 
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Austin Krantz (39-9) sr., 112 Taylor Rambin (16-2) jr., 140 Nolan Waddell (46-5) sr., 145 Jaxon Smith (38-12) jr., 171 Joshua Lee (46-5) sr., 189 Ryan Vasbinder (43-7) fr.  
Outlook: Byron Center is back in the Quarterfinals for the first time since 2009 and seeking its first Semifinal berth. After winning big in the District, the Bulldogs edged a solid pair, Eaton Rapids and Hastings, in the Regional. Barker has won 307 matches as a coach while also leading teams at Grand Rapids Union, Forest Hills Northern and Wyoming Park. Waddell was a Finals placer last season.


Record/rank: 19-11, unranked
League finish: Second in Macomb Area Conference Red
Coach: Greg Mayer, 14th season (259-211-1) 
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Joe Schindler (36-10) fr., 119 Al-Aminul Haque (31-17) sr., 125 Nick Pipes (43-5) sr., 135 Donald Janice (33-6) sr.
Outlook: Warren Woods Tower has had a solid run under Mayer and now assistant Russell Correll. The Titans won eight straight District titles from 2004-11 before missing the last two seasons and returning to the Regionals this month. This is their first trip to the Quarterfinals since 2007 and came in part via a three-point upset of No. 5 Ortonville-Brandon in the Regional Semifinal. Pipes also was an Individual Finals qualifier last season.


Record/rank: 20-1, No.6
League finish: Second in Saginaw Valley Association
Coach: Steven Goss, sixth season (115-33) 
Championship history: Three MHSAA runner-up finishes.  
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Noah Schoenherr (35-9) fr., 119 Coby Moore (27-7) fr., 125 Blake Jackson (40-6) soph., 135 Thomas Schoenherr (40-4) soph., 140 Christian Schoenherr (13-4) jr., 189 Cody Okes (35-12) jr., 215 Jacob Alarie (40-5) sr. 
Outlook: Bay City Western is back in the Quarterfinals for the first time since its Semifinal run in 2002 and defeated No. 8 Greenville along the way. Christian Schoenherr was an Individual Finals runner-up last season and is part of a lineup that includes seven 30-match winners. Bay City Western has won five straight District titles under Goss, a 1978 graduate, former national Greco-Roman champion and coach at the U.S. Olympic Education Center in Marquette.


Record/rank: 22-9, unranked
League finish: Tied for first in Macomb Area Conference White
Coach: Bill Delia, 15th season (241-151-13) 
Championship history: MHSAA Class A champion 1994. 
Individual Finals qualifiers: 125 Garret Kaercher (43-8) soph., 135 Shawn Lindsey (31-12) soph., 145 Khannor Kaercher (44-6) jr., 160 Dierrien Perkins (37-10) soph., 285 Michael Abouya (38-7) sr.
Outlook: Lincoln’s rejuvenation continues this weekend with its second straight Quarterfinal appearance. The Abes have won or shared four straight league titles and won three straight District championships. Khannor Kaercher was an Individual Finals placer at 140 last season.

PHOTO: Lowell’s Lucas Hall (right) battles a New Lothrop opponent during their match earlier this season. (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.)