Davis Becomes Dundee's Latest Member of 4-4 Club with Individual Sweep

By Drew Ellis
Special for Second Half

March 4, 2023

DETROIT – Winning four MHSAA Individual Finals wrestling titles is quite an accomplishment.

Winning eight total wrestling championships is even more impressive.

But, that’s becoming somewhat commonplace for the Dundee wrestling program.

On Saturday, Dundee senior Braeden Davis (41-0) became the fifth wrestler in MHSAA history to win a fourth individual wrestling state championship to go with four team state championships as he defeated Grand Rapids Catholic Central’s Michael Wilson (32-4), 3-1, in the 138-pound Division 3 final.

Three of the five four-four winners have come from the Dundee program, as Davis joined Stoney Buell (2018-21) and Casey Swiderski (2019-22).

“It means a lot. I am glad and proud for myself. It’s a great privilege and great accomplishment,” Davis said of joining the four-time winner club. “It means a lot to (join the other two with eight titles). We trained a lot together. We all managed to succeed and get things done.”

Davis hadn’t seen a third round in his previous three Individual Finals weekends and still hadn’t until Saturday. The first two rounds of the championship match were scoreless before Davis got an escape to start the third and then finally scored a takedown later in the round to go up 3-0.

“I try not to think about (winning quickly) because that is something that can make me nervous. I just try to drown it out and not think about that,” Davis said. “I just had to wrestle smart and keep my hands down. I managed to hit a nice little go-behind.”

Davis was one of seven Dundee wrestlers to capture an individual championship Saturday.


Champion: Haydn Nutt, Dundee, Fr. (38-6)
Major Decision, 12-2, over Mason Haines, Dundee, Fr. (28-8)

A pair of Dundee freshmen collided in the 106-pound final, with Nutt scoring a decision over teammate Haines.

“It is kind of fun,” Nutt said of wrestling his teammate. “It was pretty exhausting, but it was fun. We’ve been wrestling since we were like 8, so we basically know everything about each other. I was just moving, scoring and shooting. That’s what was working.”

The two have had more competitive battles in the past, but Nutt was bringing an extra level of intensity in the championship bout.

“My blood was pumping the entire time,” Nutt said. “I felt like I had so much energy, and I couldn’t get rid of it.”


Champion: Dale Gant, Grand Rapids Catholic Central, Fr. (39-6)
Decision, 2-1, over Talan Parsons, Ovid-Elsie, Jr. (50-1)

Gant knew he needed his best to get past the unbeaten Parsons. After a scoreless first period, Gant managed to secure a takedown in the second and then avoid getting put on his back in the third to hand Parsons his lone blemish of the season.

“I was just trying to stick to my stuff and not let him get comfortable,” Gant said. “I have lost to him in the past, so I knew what to expect from him.”

Following the victory, the GRCC freshman dove into his coaches’ arms, with his coaches perhaps even more excited than the new champion.

“This means a lot. I have been thinking about this day for years,” Gant said. “It’s been playing over and over in my mind. It’s just an amazing feeling.”


Champion: Kade Kluce, Dundee, Jr. (42-5)
Major Decision, 14-4, over Noah Harris, Richmond, Sr. (41-6)

Kluce has set himself up to possibly be the next in line for eight wrestling championships.

The Dundee junior claimed his third individual title Saturday to go along with three team titles.

“I feel I could have done better,” Kluce said. “I was hoping for a tech fall and I was close, but didn’t quite get it. But, I am still proud of myself.”

Kluce won the 103-pound title in 2021 and the 112-pound title a year ago.

“It feels easier as I go along,” Kluce said of the third title. “I have gotten used to the environment and just look to score as much as I can.”


Champion: Cameron Chinavare, Dundee, Jr. (37-2)
Decision, 3-0, over Gavyn Merchant, Kingsley, Jr. (44-2)

In a pretty defensive matchup, Chinavare rode out a first-round takedown to an eventual victory over a familiar opponent in Merchant.

“It was a dog fight out there. We just went out and scrapped. I had fun,” Chinavare said. “I knew his shot pretty well, and he just couldn’t get in on it.”

Chinavare was the 125-pound champion a year ago and used his big-match experience to keep Merchant from scoring.

“There is no better feeling than to win a state title,” Chinavare said. “It’s a great feeling.”


Champion: Kaden Chinavare, Dundee, Sr. (41-6)
Decision, 5-4, over Gianni Tripp, Alma, Sr. (51-6)

After scoring three first-round pins to reach the 138-pound final, Chinavare was pushed to the limit.

Tripp led 4-2 in the third period following a takedown, but Chinavare dug deep and got an escape before eventually getting the championship-winning takedown in the closing moments.

“I have been there a lot this whole season. My coach always just tells me to stay calm,” Chinavare said of the close match. “I just had to breath and get through those closing seconds. It was tough.”

Despite the lopsided wins earlier in the weekend, Chinavare knows that Saturday’s final is the kind of match that will make him a better wrestler.

“I just never stop the grind,” Chinavare said. “Even now, I will be wrestling again in a few days. The grind just doesn’t stop, and that’s what it takes.”


Champion: Camden Johnecheck, Williamston, Sr. (44-2)
Decision, 7-6, over Blake Cosby, Dundee, Fr. (42-7)

Johnecheck is all that kept Dundee’s wrestling program from crowning a record-tying eight individual champions Saturday.

The senior was down 5-0 early to Cosby, but rallied to even the match at 5-5. An escape from Cosby got him back in the lead, but Johnecheck managed to surge his way to a takedown in the closing seconds to win.

“I am known for my conditioning, and I felt like if I could make it to the third period, I could make up some ground,” Johnecheck said. “I had to go for something late, so I went for my single-leg and it just worked out.”

Knowing it was his final match, Johnecheck made sure he ended it on a high note.

“It’s always nice to be able to beat someone of his caliber,” Johnecheck said. “As a senior, it was my last match, and I didn’t want to have it be a loss to a freshman, so I had to lay it all out on the line.”


Champion: Kole Katschor, Dundee, Soph. (43-9)
Decision, 5-4 (OT), over Cole Karasinski, Grand Rapids West Catholic, Sr. (44-1)

Katschor held a 3-0 lead, but Karasinski managed to tie the match at the buzzer with a takedown to force OT with the score tied 4-4.

After a scoreless minute, Katschor managed to ride out Karasinski, and then earn an escape to score the 150-pound title.

“I just tried to ride him out and I knew if I could do that, I could get an escape on him,” Katschor said. 

The title was the first of this Finals for Dundee, setting the tone for a big night for the program.

“It was a hard match, but I just really wanted that title,” Katschor said. “It is a sweet feeling to be able to get it.”


Champion: Aiden Davis, Dundee, Sr. (44-2)
Decision, 5-2, over Tyler Schofield, Olivet, Jr. (47-1)

After finishing runner-up in 2020, Davis completed a third-consecutive championship run. The two were tied at 1-1 during the third period, but Davis used his Finals experience to prevail.

“I felt pretty good during the match. (Schofield) wasn’t shooting much, so I felt like I was controlling the pace of the match and felt pretty comfortable,” Davis said.

Davis was the 135-pound champion in 2021 and the 145-pound champion last year. He credits his success to the support from the Dundee faithful.

“You see a sea of blue in the D3 section, and it’s amazing because they feed me energy,” Davis said. “The environment that Dundee provides is unlike any other.”

Kingsley’s Kyan Fessenden, left, shows his chart after defeating a past champion in his Finals bout.


Champion: Kyan Fessenden, Kingsley, Sr. (41-1)
Decision, 4-3, over Connor Owens, Flint Powers Catholic, Sr. (26-2)

With his prep career winding down, Fessenden knew he had to pull out some magic.

Trailing 3-2 to Owens, the Kingsley senior fought his way to scoring a reversal in the closing seconds. That proved to be the difference.

“This was the last match of my high school career. You have to go big or go home, so that’s what I did,” Fessenden said. 

The victory kept Owens from repeating as champion, while giving Fessenden his first title.

“It feels amazing. (Owens) is a great competitor, and being able to beat him makes it even more special,” Fessenden said. “He really pushed me to my limit.”


Champion: Noah Etnyre, Lutheran Westland, Sr. (46-3)
Fall, 2:35, over Gavin Craner, Belding, Soph. (53-5)

Only one pinfall victory occurred in the Division 3 Finals on Saturday, and that went to Etnyre.

He trailed Craner 2-0 early, but managed a quick escape and eventually secured a takedown early in the second period that led to a pin.

“I felt like I had better hips, and I felt like I would be able to win the scrambles with him. That’s what set up the win,” Etnyre said.

Etnyre was the Division 4 171-pound runner-up in 2022 and felt like Saturday’s victory was a nice redemption story to end his career.

“This feels great. It has been my goal since freshman year to win a state title,” Etnyre said. “I am just blessed to be here and be able to be a champion.”


Champion: Bryson Hughes, Reed City, Sr. (50-2)
Decision, 5-3 (OT), over Troy Demas, Constantine, Sr. (50-2)

A takedown in sudden victory was the difference as Hughes got past Demas.

“It was all about working. Just always work. Nothing is ever settled, you have to settle it yourself,” Hughes said. “That was a great challenge. (Demas) is a great athlete and an excellent wrestler. It was just about pushing myself to be the best.”

Each wrestler led during regulation, but were evenly matched. A fatigued Hughes could barely put into words how he felt about winning.

“It hasn’t quite hit me yet, but I know that in the days to come I am going to be very happy,” Hughes said.


Champion: Elizin Rouse, Kingsford, Jr. (35-4)
Decision, 5-3 (OT), over Bennett VandenBerg, Constantine, Jr. (54-2)

March is known for upsets, but the 11th-seeded Rouse provided one of the all-time upsets when he won the 215-pound championship this weekend.

“I knew the seeding wasn’t right. They haven’t watched me wrestle,” Rouse said of his seeding. “It’s no hate to them, they were just doing their job, but I had to prove them wrong.”

The junior from the Upper Peninsula needed overtime to get past VandenBerg. After trailing 2-0 in the second period, Rouse fought his way back and took a 3-2 lead in the third before VandenBerg forced OT with an escape.

In the extra period, Rouse powered his way to a takedown.

“We were both tired. I could hear him breathing heavy, and I know I was breathing heavy,” Rouse said. “I was just trying to push through to represent the boys from the U.P.”


Champion: Shane Cook, Whitehall, Sr. (62-0)
Decision, 9-5, over Landen Roe, Birch Run, Sr. (44-7)

The top seed and unbeaten Cook took control and never looked back. Going up 5-0 early in the second period, Cook was never in much danger of losing the 285-pound title match.

“The game plan was just to let it fly like I do any other match. Ultimately this match is just like any other. I had to score points like I would my other matches,” Cook said. “I was aggressive, and I was really happy with my performance.”

Saturday’s championship capped an impressive 62-0 record for the senior.

“It’s a pretty unreal feeling,” Cook said. “It hasn’t fully hit me yet. I’m trying to let it hit me, but it just hasn’t yet. I’m extremely happy right now, and I’m sure I’ll never forget this moment.”

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Dundee’s Braeden Davis, top, works toward a win over Grand Rapids Catholic Central’s Michael Wilson on Saturday at Ford Field. (Middle) Kingsley’s Kyan Fessenden, left, shows his chart after defeating a past champion in his Finals bout. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)

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.)