D3 Preview: Dundee's Drive for 5 May Include Meeting of 2021 Champs

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

February 24, 2022

It’s not often we get to see two of last year’s Finals champions face off for this season’s title. But we could Saturday in the Division 3 Team Wrestling Final.

Dundee is seeking to win its fifth-straight Division 3 championship. Clinton won the last two in Division 4 before moving into Division 3 this winter. They are the top seeds in the bracket heading into this weekend. They also wrestle together in the Lenawee County Athletic Association; Dundee won the regular-season dual 40-26.

But there is plenty of wrestling ahead before we reach that potential rematch – and a repeat No. 3 seed in Alma, along with five more qualifiers, looking to reach that last match of the weekend as well. Friday’s Quarterfinals begin at 4:30 p.m. at Wings Event Center – see matchups below – with Semifinals at noon Saturday and the championship match later that day at 3:45 p.m.

#1 Dundee (14-4) vs. #8 Constantine (25-10)
#4 Imlay City (27-5) vs. #5 Hart (30-5)
#3 Alma (26-1) vs. #6 Montrose (18-5)
#2 Clinton (30-3) vs. #7 Gladstone (15-1)

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 3, listed by seed. (Girls Finals qualifiers are noted with “G” with weight class, as those classes differ from the other Individual Finals brackets.)

14-4, No. 1
League finish: First in Lenawee County Athletic Association
Coach: Tim Roberts, 23rd season (572-80-1)
Championship history: Thirteen MHSAA championships (most recent 2021), seven runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Ashton Viers (24-12) fr., 112 Kade Kluce (34-6) soph., 119 Braeden Davis (34-2) jr., 119 Kyle Smith (27-7) sr., 125 Cameron Chinavare (32-2) soph., 130 Kaden Chinavare (29-3) jr., 135 Logan Sander (29-6) sr., 135 Kole Katschor (28-11) fr., 140 Trey Parker (25-8) soph., 145 Austin Jaworski (17-10) sr., 145 Aiden Davis (36-0) jr., 152 Casey Swiderski (38-0) sr., 152 Jacob Fenbert (24-13) jr.
Outlook: Dundee has wrestled in the last 10 Division 3 championship matches and brings back eight starters from last season’s winning team. Swiderski will wrestle next weekend to join the elite group of four-time individual champions, and Braeden Davis is right behind wrestling for his third individual title in three seasons. Kluce, Kaden Chinavare and Aiden Davis also were Individual Finals champs in 2021, while Smith, Sander and Parker were placers. Also among Dundee’s wins this season was a victory over Division 1 top seed Davison.  

30-3, No. 2
League finish: Tied for second in LCAA
Co-coaches: Casey Randolph and Jeff Rolland, ninth seasons (247-52)
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Braylon Long (42-6) fr., 112 Connor Younts (39-6) soph., 119 Connor Busz (43-2) jr., 125 Zak Shadley (38-9) jr., 130 Chase Packard (34-9) sr., 135 Coy Perry (43-7) soph., 140 Maurice Ames (32-13) soph., 145 Joey Preston (29-7) soph., 160 Kent McCombs (28-2) sr., 189 Logan Badge (33-4) sr.; 130-G Faith Blackburn (20-1) soph.
Outlook: Eight starters return this weekend from last season’s Division 4 championship match win, and they provide major points potential even as the team graduated two individual champions. Badge also will be attempting to join the four-time individual champions group next weekend, again at 189, and Younts (103) and Perry (112) were Division 4 champs a year ago as well. Busz was the 112 runner-up to Perry in 2021, while Shadley (119), George Ames (140) and McCombs (145) also all finished runners-up at last year’s Individual Finals, McCombs for the second straight. Ames, a senior, is 21-2 at 152.

26-1, No. 3
League finish: First in Tri-Valley Conference East
Coach: Randy Miniard, 11th season (260-100)
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Isaiah Mullins (34-3) sr., 125 Fabian Facundo (33-2) fr., 130 Buddy Leonard (32-8) fr., 135 Gianni Tripp (28-7) jr., 160 Jaden Morrow (35-5) sr., 171 Cole O’Boyle (35-2) soph., 189 Jacob Munger (35-2) sr., 215 Adam Garcia (26-6) sr., 285 Caden Adams (17-11) sr.
Outlook: The Panthers have extended their Regional title streak to five seasons and are back in Kalamazoo as the No. 3 seed for the third straight after advancing again with a Regional Final win over No. 10 Portland. A lineup loaded with nine seniors has lost only to Division 1 No. 10 Brighton, in December. Munger placed fifth last season at 160, and O’Boyle and Tripp also will be making repeat trips to the Individual Finals.

27-5, unranked
League finish: Fourth in Blue Water Area Conference
Coach: Tony D’Ambrosio, eighth season (118-76-1)
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Tanner Land (39-8) fr., 119 Dominic D’Ambrosio (41-2) soph., 125 Cristian Rojas (42-3) sr., 130 Julian Rojas (41-4) jr., 145 Anthony D’Ambrosio (40-6) jr., 215 Latham Perry (32-12) jr., 285 Chris Torres (38-9) sr.
Outlook: The Spartans are making their first trip to the Quarterfinals, and after an unforgettable Regional at which they defeated No. 4 Algonac 36-30 and No. 5 Richmond 37-31. Cristian Rojas finished fourth at 125 at last year’s Individual Finals; he’s part of a powerful group of five wrestlers with at least 33 wins apiece taking the mat between 119-145.

30-5, unranked
League finish: Second in West Michigan Conference
Coach: Brad Altland, 11th season (277-95)
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 119 Trayce Tate (37-4) jr., 145 Mason Cantu (44-1) sr., 160 Zane Thomas (34-15) jr., 215 Leo Guadarrama (44-2) sr.
Outlook: Hart is making its third-straight trip to Finals weekend, this time the fifth seed after previously entering as a No. 7 last year and No. 4 in Division 4 in 2019. Tate and Cantu were Individual Finals placers last season, and Cantu and Guadarrama are two of only three senior starters for a lineup that should continue to surge next winter.

18-5, No. 7
League finish: Second in Mid-Michigan Activities Conference
Coach: Jason Perrin, fifth season (80-41)
Championship history: Nine MHSAA championships (most recent 2005), five runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 125 Hunter Coxon (38-5) jr., 135 Aidan Bernard (41-1) sr., 140 Blake Greenman (11-7) sr., 189 Braxton Powell (33-12) sr., 285 Levi Harber (39-4) sr., 285 Aden Viar (8-6) sr.
Outlook: A senior-loaded lineup is bringing Montrose to Finals weekend for the fourth consecutive year, as eight seniors start and are joined by six underclassmen. The Rams defeated No. 6 Freeland 45-22 in a Regional Semifinal last week. Harber was the 285 runner-up last season, and Bernard also was an individual placer.

15-1, unranked
League finish: Second in Mid-Peninsula Conference
Coach: Jeff Brazeau, third season (44-11)
Championship history: Upper Peninsula Finals champion 1987, two UP runner-up finishes
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Eli Terrien (26-8) jr., 112 Drew Hansen (33-5) soph., 119 Michael Brazeau (38-7) sr., 125 Austin Solis (28-1) soph., 285 Brett Boudreau (41-4) sr.
Outlook: Gladstone finished second in its league only to Division 4 team qualifier Iron Mountain, and is making its first trip to Finals weekend since 2016. Gladstone defeated No. 8 Kingsley 46-34 in a Regional Final to advance. Hansen and Solis were individual placers last season.

25-10 unranked
League finish: First in Southwestern Athletic Conference
Coach: Dale Davidhizar III, eighth season (137-69)
Championship history: 1993 Class C-D champion, 2002 Division 3 runner-up
Individual Finals qualifiers: 130 Eric Demas (30-10) sr., 152 Dathan Smith (17-20) soph., 171 Troy Demas (40-1) jr., 189 Bennett VandenBerg (44-7) soph., 215 Greg Reed (24-8) soph.; 170-G Bo Geibe (22-3) sr.
Outlook: Constantine won its third-straight District and second-straight Regional titles to earn this weekend’s trip to Wings. Eric Demas is the only senior starter, and the Falcons should continue to rise with nine underclassmen also in the lineup. Demas also is one of five wrestlers with at least 30 wins this winter.

PHOTO Braeden Davis will try to help Dundee to a fifth-straight Division 3 championship this weekend. (Click for more from 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.)