D3 Preview: Familiar Foes May Lock Again

February 25, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Dundee and Richmond have become predictable opponents for the MHSAA Division 3 championship match over the last few seasons.

They’ve faced off for the last three Division 3 titles, plus in four of the last five Finals for that division and five of the last eight. And heading into this weekend, they own the top seeds again.

Below is a look at all eight teams competing in Division 3, 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. (Records below are based on those submitted for the Individual Finals.)

#1 Dundee

Record/rank: 23-5, No. 1
League finish: Tied for first in Lenawee County Athletic Association.
Coach: Tim Roberts, 16th season (437-60-1)
Championship history: Eight MHSAA championships (most recent 2014), five runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 119 Drew Scholl (27-14) soph., 125 Tylor Orrison (35-16) fr., 130 Kenny Reinhart (45-5) sr., 130 Drew Mandell (17-5) jr., 135 Zach Blevins (48-1) jr., 145 Sean Sterling (42-4) soph., 160 Donny Mandell (40-4) sr., 171 Brandon Whitman (50-2) fr., 189 Tye Thompson (41-6) sr., 215 Gabe Heiserman (36-10) jr.
Outlook: The impressive numbers just keep building – 13 straight appearances at Kellogg Arena, two straight MHSAA championships after a seventh title match appearance in eight seasons. Reinhart, Donny Mandell, Blevins and Sterling all were Individual Finals placers last season, and Thompson was runner-up at 171 pounds. Reinhart, Mandell and Thompson are the only seniors in the lineup, meaning a third straight title might not be the last one of the current streak.

#2 Richmond

Record/rank: 29-5, No. 2
League finish: First in Blue Water Area Conference.
Coach: Brandon Day, 11th season (358-74)
Championship history: Six MHSAA championships (most recent 2012), five runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Roy Costello (36-8) soph., 112 Connor Behem (38-10) sr., 119 Aaron Kilburn (38-6) jr., 119 Cody Keller (30-17) jr., 130 Graham Barton (9-11) jr., 145 Austin Vannatter (37-8) sr., 152 Colton McKiernan (26-14) fr., 160 Devin Skatzka (47-2) sr., 171 Jordan Adams (37-8) sr., 189 Brady LaFore (25-16) sr., 285 Adam Boyd (35-11) sr.
Outlook: Richmond gave up a combined 23 points to four opponents in returning to the Quarterfinals for the seventh consecutive season. A group of nine seniors dominates the lineup including every weight from 140-285. Skatzka can enter an elite group of champions next weekend when he competes for his fourth Individual Finals title, and Behem, Kilburn and Vannatter also were placers in 2014.

#3 Remus Chippewa Hills

Record/rank: 26-3, No. 3
League finish: First in Central State Activities Association.
Coach: Nate Ethridge, 15th season (432-88)
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 125 Mike Felix (40-10) sr., 135 Slade Todd (41-13) jr., 140 Jaycob Sharp (49-4) fr., 145 Mason Dey (51-4) sr., 152 Kevin Briscoe (44-6) sr., 285 Kyle Vandenbrooks (35-14) sr.
Outlook: Chippewa Hills will compete in its eighth Quarterfinal over the last decade and for its second Semifinal berth (and first since 2007). The Warriors moved up from a sixth seed at last season’s Finals and defeated No. 5 Whitehall to advance this time. Briscoe and Dey placed fourth and sixth, respectively, at 145 pounds at last season’s Individual Finals and man a veteran half of the lineup that includes five seniors over the heaviest six weights. All but two starters have at least 32 wins.

#4 Saginaw Swan Valley

Record/rank: 39-1, No. 9
League finish: First in the Tri-Valley Conference Central.
Coach: Darrell Burchfield, 13th season (412-72)
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Edwin Hernandez (48-8) jr., 119 Jose Hernandez (52-4) sr., 125 KJ Suitor (52-1) jr., 130 Matt Santos (52-1) jr., 140 Collin Dole (51-3) sr., 145 Gerad Bott (47-7) soph., 152 Sam McLean (47-5) sr.
Outlook: The Vikings are a combined 120-4 over the last three seasons and advanced to the Semifinals last season before falling to Dundee. Swan Valley edged No. 6 Caro 38-36 in the Regional Semifinal on the way to Battle Creek. Seven starters have at least 45 wins this season; four Individual Finals placers from last winter anchor the lineup, with Suitor returning after finishing runner-up at 112 in 2014.

#5 Grand Rapids Catholic Central

Record/rank: 19-3, No. 7
League finish: Second in Ottawa-Kent Conference Gold.
Coach: B.J. Schroder, fourth season (73-15)
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 119 Devin Schroder (40-1) jr., 130 Kole Krauss (36-3) jr., 140 Nate Limmex (37-0) sr., 145 Foster Karmon (25-0) jr., 145 Dominic Forbes (30-10) jr., 215 Grant Tennihill (34-3) sr.
Outlook: B.J. Schroeder has led the Cougars to two league, three District and two Regional titles over the last three seasons, and GRCC just missed making its first Semifinal in 2014 with a four-point Quarterfinal loss to Swan Valley. Devin Schroder and Limmex are two-time MHSAA champions, and Limmex hasn’t lost a match since his freshman season. Tennihill also was a placer at last season’s Individual Finals and joins those two and junior Kole Krauss – a 2013 individual placer – among Cougars with at least 33 wins this winter. Karmon was an individual champ last season for Allegan.

#6 Allegan

Record/rank: 29-6, No. 8
League finish: First in Wolverine Conference.
Coach: Murray Rose, 28th season (718-151-2)
Championship history: Two MHSAA championships (most recent 2007 in Division 2), two runner-up finishes. 
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Davynn Schneider (42-12) soph., 119 Richard Jefferson (30-16) soph., 125 Justin Wiseman (26-20) soph., 130 Joey Orr (32-13) jr., 171 Levin Sabin (47-7) jr., 189 Chase Beard (50-2) soph., 189 Austin Ferrell (39-12) jr.
Outlook: This is Allegan’s seventh straight trip to the Quarterfinals and second straight in Division 3 after a run in Division 2. Allegan also has made three straight Semifinals and is seeking its first championship match berth since 2010. Five juniors anchor the bottom of a lineup that could be on the verge of two special runs – the team doesn’t have a senior. Beard and Sabin were individual placers last winter.

#7 Birch Run

Record/rank: 22-9, No. 4
League finish: First in Tri-Valley Conference East.
Coach: Bart Bennett, eighth season (228-40)
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 119 Mason Breece (36-8) fr., 125 Jerry Fenner (47-3) sr., 130 Adam Grim (43-12) sr., 135 Joe Damm (35-18) jr., 140 Ean Taylor (33-9) sr., 145 Tyler Childs (32-10) jr., 160 Logan Bovee (33-8) jr., 215 George Lahar (46-3) sr., 285 Colin Slavik (39-9) sr.
Outlook: The Panthers missed Battle Creek last season but are making their third trip in four seasons to go with five straight league and six straight District titles. Fenner was an Individual Finals runner-up at 125 last season and Lahar also was a placer. They are two of only four seniors in a starting lineup that features 10 athletes with at least 30 wins this season.

#8 Mason County Central

Record/rank: 29-7, unranked
League finish: Third in West Michigan Conference.
Coach: Jim Allen, seventh season (128-78)
Championship history: Class C runner-up 1979. 
Individual Finals qualifiers: 135 Jacob Shoop (48-5) soph., 145 Logan Merrick (44-7) jr., 160 Spencer Knizacky (47-3) jr., 160 Jordan Steiger (41-7) sr., 189 Josh Quinn (49-3) sr., 285 Matt Quinn (40-13) soph.
Outlook: For the second straight season, Mason County Central is the last team standing from the loaded West Michigan Conference, which also includes annual powers Whitehall (ranked No. 5 in Division 3 heading into the postseason) and Shelby. Josh Quinn and Knizacky are returning Individual Finals placers and among six 40-match winners in the lineup. 

PHOTO: Dundee's Kenny Reinhart (left) and Richmond's Aaron Kilburn wrestled to a 5-4 decision (for Kilburn) in last season's Division 3 Final. Their teams could meet again this weekend.  (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.)