Clinton, Hudson and New Lothrop have dominated Division 4 wrestling’s team tournament over the last eight seasons – only those three have appeared in a championship match since 2014, including Clinton’s win over the Hornets in Tuesday’s Final.
But Saturday’s Individual Wrestling Finals at Van Andel Arena could see many more schools in the title mix.
Clinton has five top seeds, and New Lothrop and Hudson have two apiece. But total eight schools have No. 1-seeded wrestlers among the 14 weights – with favorites from Bark River-Harris, Iron Mountain, Rudyard and Vermontville Maple Valley representing their schools’ best chances at claiming a first title.
Below we look at 10 contenders to watch, plus list all of the top seeds heading into the tournament, champs and runners-up back from 2020 and every wrestler who will make the trip to Grand Rapids with an undefeated record.
Even then, we surely missed a few who will end up making headlines Saturday – but make sure to come back to Second Half late that evening as we’ll interview and report on all 14 Division 4 champions.
Wrestling begins Saturday at 10 a.m., and this season it’s a one-day event. Spectators remain limited, but all matches will be broadcast live on MHSAA.tv. See the MHSAA Wrestling Finals page for more information and to follow results this weekend.
103 Bradley Hall, Rudyard senior (16-0) – The top seed at 103, Hall finished fourth at the same weight last season and will be competing to cap his career as the first Finals champion in Rudyard history.
119 Shawn McGuire, Iron Mountain sophomore (29-1) – The top seed at this weight is a combined 70-3 over his first two high school seasons and finished runner-up at 112 a year ago.
125 Manus Bennett, Marlette sophomore (20-2) – He’ll wrestle for a second individual title in his second try after winning the 103 championship last season.
130 Bronson Marry, Hudson junior (22-0) – The top seed at this weight is going for a second-straight title after winning 112 last year and also finishing runner-up at 103 as a freshman.
145 Caden Natale, Hudson senior (23-1) – Natale has risen from third at 103 as a freshman to second at 119 as a sophomore to winning 130 last year and returning to the Finals as a top seed this weekend.
152 Bryce Cheney, New Lothrop senior (20-0) – The runner-up at this weight last winter is back as the top seed this weekend and carrying a combined 53-4 record over the last two seasons.
171 Trenton Holden, Grass Lake senior (23-1) – He had only one loss last season on the way to finishing 46-1 and claiming the 160-pound championship, and his only defeat this winter was at the Individual Regional to this weekend’s top-seeded Brayden Randolph of Clinton (see below).
171 Brayden Randolph, Clinton senior (27-1) – He’s the top seed at this weight after finishing runner-up at 171 last season, and he’s looking to add a first title also to a runner-up finish at 160 as a sophomore and third place at that weight as a freshman.
189 Logan Badge, Clinton junior (27-1) – The top-seeded Badge went over 100 career wins (he’s 101-5 overall) during Tuesday’s run to the team championship and he’s looking to add a third individual title to those he won at 215 as a freshman and 189 last year.
215 Camden Orr, New Lothrop senior (21-1) – He’s the second seed at this weight but the reigning champion, and his only loss was a forfeit in the Regional Final. He also finished sixth at 189 as a sophomore and quarterbacked the football team to the Division 7 title in January.
Other 2020 runners-up: 140 Andrew Krupp, New Lothrop senior (19-2, 125 in 2020); 145 Kent McCombs, Clinton junior (26-2, 145 in 2020).
Additional No. 1 seeds: 112 Matthew Slaght, Vermontville Maple Valley junior (33-0); 125 Nik Shadley, Clinton freshman (25-1); 135 Dillon Raab, Bark River-Harris sophomore (30-1); 140 George Ames, Clinton junior (24-0); 160 Spencer Konz, Clinton senior (22-3); 215 Caden Ferris, Delton Kellogg junior (29-2); 285 Isiah Pasik, New Lothrop junior (21-0).
Also undefeated: 125 Randy Frailey, Hanover-Horton senior (25-0); 130 Zach Ouillette, Oscoda senior (27-0); 145 Parker Stroud, Iron Mountain junior (21-0); 145 Carsen Young, Martin senior (28-0); 171 Cole Hopkins, Evart sophomore (19-0); 189 Trent Hocter, Hanover-Horton senior (16-0).
PHOTO: Hudson’s Bronson Marry, left, and Iron Mountain’s Shawn McGuire lock up during last season’s Division 4 Final at 112 pounds. Both carry top seeds into this weekend. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)
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.”
2023 Made In Michigan
July 20: Oakridge 3-Sport Star Potts Applying Lessons to 'Second Chapter' in Sales - Read
July 18: Frankfort Hoops Staff Bolstered by Past Stars Giving Back in Banktson, Kreski - Read
July 12: Championship Memories, High School Tennis' Impact Stick with Hackett Pair - Read
July 6: Brother Rice Finals Hero Aiming to Ace Family Life, Financial World - Read
July 5: Lapeer West 4-Time Finals Winner Set to Build Champions at Oklahoma - Read
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.)