Davison's Olson Joins Mat Legends

March 7, 2015

By Nick Hankins
Special for Second Half 

AUBURN HILLS – It takes many people and a lot of time to build a legend.

That’s why Lincoln Olson was so quick to hand out credit for the incredible feat he accomplished Saturday night at The Palace of Auburn Hills.          

Olson became the 20th wrestler in MHSAA history win four Individual Finals championships when he beat Walled Lake Central’s Daniel Shear by technical fall, 24-9, at 135 pounds. 

“I feel ecstatic right now,” Olson said. “This is something I have been working for my whole life. I am so grateful for all the people who have helped me get here. My coaches (Roy Hall and Paul Donahoe) and my father, I wouldn’t be the wrestler I am without them. They mean the world to me, they gave me everything I needed to achieve this goal. All my coaches have been by my side this whole journey.” 

Olson also finished his high school career with eight straight technical fall wins at MHSAA Finals.

“That has been my philosophy my whole life. I know I have a gas tank and a motor, and my conditioning I have been working on my whole life,” Olson said.  “That really separates me from other guys; that third period when they are tired, I just keep going.” 


Champion: Mike Mars, Westland John Glenn, Fr. (51-2) 
Decision, 8-4, over Elijuh Weaver, Roseville, Soph. (29-4)

Mars got a little revenge, and won an MHSAA title along the way.

He beat Weaver 8-4 to win his first Finals championship. 

“This feels unbelievable,” Mars said  “I knew he was going to be tough to beat.  He beat me the last time we wrestled at the beginning of the season. I worked hard all year to win a championship.”


Champion: Augustine Facundo, Davison, Fr. (38-8)
Decision, 9-4, over Donte Rivera-Garcia, Southgate Anderson, Soph. (54-3)

All year long, Facundo wrestled behind returning MHSAA champ and teammate Max Johnson in the 112-pound weight class.

But both wrestled in the MHSAA tournament and qualified for the Finals.

And when Johnson was upset in the Semifinal round by Rivera-Garcia, Facundo came back and avenged Johnson’s loss with a 9-4 win.

“It is awesome,” Facundo said. “It is such a rush to be a state champion. My dad and coaches put in a lot of hard work to get me to this point. I just stayed aggressive and rough to push the pace and win.”


Champion: Noah Gonser, Grand Blanc, Sr. (56-3)
Decision, 9-2, over Brendan Hazelton, Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse, Sr. (57-2)

It’s always great to end your career a winner. That’s what Gonser did by beating Hazelton for his 56th win of the year and first MHSAA title. 

I feel great about that match,” Gonser said. “This is a great end to my high school career. It has not hit me yet, but I am very excited to be a state champ.

“Last night I was in bed looking at the ceiling and said ‘God, I’m in the Finals.’ I don’t think this has all hit me yet. ”


Champion: Ben Freeman, Walled Lake Central, Soph. (44-0)
Decision, 10-7, over Romeo Riley, Kalamazoo Central, Sr. (44-2)

Sometime winning your second MHSAA title can be harder than earning your first.

Walled Lake Central sophomore Ben Freeman felt that this year, but came through with a hard-fought win over Riley. 

Freeman won at 103 pounds last year.

“This is an awesome feeling,” Freeman said “It feels like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. I have been working all year to win this title. I deserve to win this title because of all the sacrifices I have made.”


Champion: Trevor Zdebski, Detroit Catholic Central, Sr. (46-5)
Fall, 4:53, over Abe Ajami, Dearborn Fordson, Jr. (45-5)

Trevor Zdebski seconded Freeman’s sentiments on nerves the second time around.

Zdebski won his second title Saturday, but admitted afterward that it wasn’t easy, on the mat, or in his stomach.      

“It is extremely nerve-wracking wrestling in the Finals,” Zdebski said. ”I was able to turn that pressure and nervousness and turn it into fuel to get it done. What more could I ask for, to cap off my senior season with a state championship!” 


Champion: Dylan Steward, Grand Ledge, Jr. (44-2)
Decision, 9-4, over Nathan Atienza, Livonia Franklin, Soph. (49-4)

Sometime a loss earlier in the MHSAA tournament can act as motivation as the tournament moves on. 

That was the case for Grand Ledge junior Dylan Steward.

“Nobody was going to stop me from winning a state title,” Steward said. “I lost at Regionals and worked hard to get that title.” 

Steward won two of his matches at the Finals by major decision.


Champion: Dillon Ellsworth, Lapeer, Sr. (53-2)
Decision, 5-4 UTB, over Logan Parks, Southgate Anderson, Sr. (56-1)

Many coaches say to their wrestlers that they need to wrestle a full six minutes.

For Lapeer senior Dillon Ellsworth, he needed to wrestle a full nine minutes to beat Parks in the ultimate tiebreaker. 

“I feel pretty good,” Ellsworth said. “I tried to push the pace of that match. It is pretty cool I got to win it my senior year and go out with a win at The Palace.”


Champion: Blake Montrie, Temperance Bedford, Jr. (46-1)
Decision, 7-5 SV-1, over Tyler Grimsley, New Baltimore Anchor Bay, Sr. (57-1)

Montrie went for it all in overtime, and it paid off as he threw Grimsley in a head-and-arm for the sudden victory. 

“This is the greatest moment of my life,” Montrie said. “It’s a privilege to have my father in the corner and share this moment with him.

“I beat Grimsley at Grappler Fall Classic this year and I stuck with the same game plan to win a state championship.”


Champion: Myles Amine, Detroit Catholic Central, Sr. (47-0)
Decision, 7-6 SV-1 over Milik Dawkins, Flint Carman-Ainsworth, Sr. (53-2)

Amine was a little surprised by his opponent.

Dawkins came after the returning MHSAA champion and pushed him – until Amine held off the challenge and claimed the sudden victory on a technical violation.

It is very exciting to win two state championship,” Amine said. “When I came to Catholic Central, I never dreamed of having this much success as a team or individual. It is really special to have my family share this with me.”


Champion: Nicholas Brish, Brighton, Sr. (48-2)
Decision, 5-2, over Andrew Price, Rochester Hills Stoney Creek, Sr. (51-3)

There is a lot of hard work and pressure that goes in every MHSAA championship, but Brighton’s Nicholas Brish said he had some fun. He won his first title with a 5-2

“I have had a fun year going after it this year,” Brish said. “Coach (Tony) Greathouse always tells us to push the pace in our matches, so that is what I did for six minutes. 

“It has been the greatest season ever for me, and this weekend ended on a great note.”


Champion: Alex Sovel, Walled Lake Central, Sr. (47-4)
Decision, 2-1, over Nick May, Kalamazoo Loy Norrix, Jr. (48-4)

Sovel made his first MHSAA Finals only last season, earning a seventh place in his debut. 

But Saturday, he closed his high school career with a memorable finish.

“I finally got it,” Sovel said. “I have told myself do whatever it takes this season, and it paid off today. It was special to have my brother Charles in the corner to share this moment.” 

Charles Sovel was an MHSAA Finals placer as a senior in 2012.


Champion: Luke Ready, Brighton, Jr. (52-2)
Decision, 3-0, over Antonio Balabani, Macomb Dakota, Sr. (52-5)

Strength was on display when these two took to the mat and as they battled the full six minutes.

“It is an awesome feeling to accomplish our team goals and my personal goals in the same year,” said Ready, whose team won the Division 1 title last weekend in Battle Creek. 

“Our coaching staff has been excellent this year. We have young coaches in (wrestling) with the team, and that is the reason we were able to accomplish our goals this year.”


Champion: Dan Perry, Lapeer, Jr. (61-0)
Decision, 3-2, over Ali Wahab, Dearborn Heights Crestwood, Jr. (59-1)

It was the battle of the unbeatens at heavyweight. And they are both juniors.

Perry edged Wahab by a mere point in a battle of wrestlers who had a combined 119-0 record coming into the final match. 

“This is an amazing feeling,” Perry said. “I have been working for this for years and I finally did it. I went out with the mindset to be physical, and I knew I was going to win.”

He wasn’t the only Perry to place this weekend; senior brother Jacob finished fifth at 189. 

“It is great to have my brother wrestle with me,” Dan Perry said. “I have someone there that can push me day in and day out mentally and physically to make me a better person and wrestler.”

Click for full results.

PHOTO: Davison's Lincoln Olson is awarded his final high school win Saturday, and with it a fourth MHSAA title. (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.)