Division 1 Makes History Adding 3 to 4-Time Champions Honor Roll

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

March 4, 2023

DETROIT – Never in the history of the MHSAA Individual Wrestling Finals had more than two wrestlers won their fourth title in the same year.

On Saturday, three accomplished the feat in Division 1 alone, including, for the first time ever, a pair of teammates.

Detroit Catholic Central’s Dylan Gilcher and Davison’s Josh Barr and Caden Horwath each won their fourth titles at Ford Field, joining an elite group that now numbers 35. 

“I’m honored to be a part of that group,” Barr said after his 17-5 major decision victory against Hartland’s Brayden Bobo at 175 pounds. “It means that everything I did paid off, and I’m not done yet, I’m just getting started. Me and Braeden (Davis of Dundee, who won his fourth title in Division 3) are going to Penn State together. Caden and Dylan are going to Michigan together. I grew up with Dylan and Caden in the Team Donahoe wrestling room, I’ve been wrestling with Dylan and Caden for a long, long time. Caden is one of my best friends. And Braeden, we probably met when I was 8 or 9. We all push each other, for sure.”

Barr and Horwath were the fourth and fifth Davison wrestlers to win four titles, joining Brent Metcalf (2002-05), Lincoln Olson (2012-15) and Alex Facundo (2018-21). 

“It’s pretty incredible just to be a part of something like that,” said Davison coach Zac Hall, who won four titles at St. Johns from 2011-14. “It’s crazy man, absolutely crazy. A couple years ago these kids were 2 feet smaller than me, and we’re playing dodgeball and kind of carefree. To see the level it’s gotten to, and these guys are obviously both in a situation to go on and do great things at the next level. It’s hard to even encapsulate in words. I’m just super proud of those two guys.”

Horwath claimed his fourth title with a 12-2 major decision against Grosse Pointe South’s Wyatt Hepner (39-7) at 126 pounds. His previous titles came at 103, 119 and 125.

“Just coming off the mat now, it feels pretty surreal,” said Horwath, who finished the season 22-1. “There’s no real feeling, I’m just happy right now. Happy me and my teammate did it, and my future teammate Dylan Gilcher, so that’s cool, too.”

Barr won his about an hour and a half earlier to finish off a 33-0 season. His previous titles came at 152, 160 and 171.

“I expected it of myself, so it feels like the right thing,” Barr said. “It hasn’t really hit me yet, all these people here, it’s awesome.”

It was also a record-tying day for Catholic Central, which had seven individual champions. The Shamrocks had seven champions in 2019, as well, a Division 1 record. Dundee holds the state record with eight in 2021.

Gilcher started it all off with a 20-4 technical fall in the second period against Travis Richards of Brighton (29-7) at 150 pounds. 

His previous titles came at 112, 135 and 140. He finished his senior season at 32-0, and became the second DCC wrestler to win a fourth title, joining Kevon Davenport (2016-19).

“It feels real great,” Gilcher said. “Kevon texted me today and said, ‘Make history.’ I said I didn’t want to be No. 2, but I’m glad I am. I’m really glad I was first (on the team to wrestle Saturday), because I was stressing out about my match. But now all the stress is gone and I can watch happy, just cheer on my team, don’t have to worry about getting tired yelling.”

Detroit Catholic Central's Dylan Gilcher and Brighton's Travis Richards wrestle at 150 pounds.


Champion: Wyatt Lees, Detroit Catholic Central, Fr. (42-10)
Decision, 3-2, over Brice LaFleur, Saline, Fr. (43-4)

Lees earned his third victory over LaFleur in four weeks, as the two had met in the District and Regional, as well.

“I felt good, I felt confident throughout the match,” Lees said. “I knew I put in the work and was ready for whatever was thrown at me. It was fun and a great opportunity.”

LaFleur was in the down position late in the match, and nearly was able to score a reversal in the final seconds, but Lees fought it off.

“I had an idea (of how much time was left),” Lees said. “But I was just going to wrestle through no matter what.”


Champion: Bohdan Abbey, Hartland, Fr. (44-3)
Major Decision, 13-5, over Archer Anderson, Clarkston, Soph. (27-9)

Abbey came into the match already owning a victory against Anderson this season, but he knew a second wouldn’t come easy.

“I had him earlier in the year, so I had some confidence going in, but anybody can be beat,” Abbey said. “It worked out my way. I wrestled smart, wrestled hard. It was a good match. It’s great, cause I’m only a freshman. I’ve been on other stages like this, but nothing is like the state tournament.”

Abbey held a 4-0 lead heading into the third period, and managed nine more points to put his first title away. For Anderson, it was a second-straight year placing, as he was fifth at 103 in 2022.


Champion: Caleb Weiand, Macomb Dakota, Sr. (47-0)
Decision, 5-3 (OT), over Josh Vasquez, Grandville, Soph. (41-3)

Weiand finished off an unbeaten season with his second-straight Finals title. The Michigan State-bound senior won at 112 pounds as a junior. He was runner-up at 103 as a sophomore.

“Two years ago, when I was a sophomore, I let the nerves get to me,” Weiand said. “Last year, I kicked that out, tried to get all the nerves away. This year, there were no nerves. I think it helps me perform way better.”

Vasquez forced overtime in the match with a takedown in the final seconds. But Weiand hit a beautiful duck under seconds into the extra frame to claim the victory.


Champion: Drew Heethuis, Detroit Catholic Central, Sr. (53-1)
Decision, 4-3, over Elijah Bunn, Rockford, Jr. (52-3)

Heethuis finished his career with a third Finals championship, as he had won at 112 and 119 the past two years.

He had a 3-0 lead heading into the third period, but had to hold off Bunn, a runner-up at 130 in 2022, in the final seconds.

“It feels awesome,” Heethuis said. “It wasn’t as dominant as I would have liked. But it’s awesome to go out on a third champ. It feels nice.”

Heethuis will wrestle next year at Princeton.


Champion: Justin Gates, Davison, Jr. (34-2)
Decision, 2-1, over Mason Stewart, Detroit Catholic Central, Jr. (47-6)

Gates found himself back on top of the podium after finishing runner-up in 2022 to Heethuis. He had won a title in 2021, defeating Weiand at 103 pounds.

“It means a lot more to me,” Gates said. “I feel like I’ve grown a lot more as a wrestler. After taking second, I had a chip on my shoulder.”

He pulled out the victory by scoring a reversal early in the third period and riding Stewart out for the final 1:36.

“I thought I was going to score some more points, but I’ll give credit where credit’s due. DCC always has a good gameplan for us,” Gates said. “I had to overcome and adapt to that. If it’s a close match, you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do.”


Champion: Clayton Jones, Detroit Catholic Central, Sr. (49-3)
Technical Fall, 17-2, over Jay’Den Williams, Roseville, Fr. (47-2)

Jones won his second-straight Finals title, and did so in dominant fashion. 

He led 7-1 after the first period, and 15-2 after the second. His takedown 28 seconds into the third ended the match.

“It felt great,” Jones said. “I just put in all the work that needed to be done. I was confident. I’ve been here before, and I was ready to go get my second one.”

Jones, a Michigan State commit, was DCC’s seventh champion on the night.

“This team was great,” he said. “We put in the work. (Coach Mitch) Hancock gave us a gameplan at the beginning of the season, and we stuck to that gameplan and got it done.”

Davison's Josh Barr readies for the next moment during his 175-pound title match.


Champion: Darius Marines, Detroit Catholic Central, Jr. (36-3)
Major Decision, 11-2, over Vinnie Abbey, Hartland, Jr. (46-3)

Marines set himself up to be the Shamrocks’ next four-time champion, claiming his third title in as many tries.

“It means a lot to me,” Marines said. “I want to make my family proud, make my teammates proud. That’s what I came to CC to do.”

Marines, who won at 145 and 152 the previous two years, scored a takedown nine seconds into the match and rolled from there.

“It’s just business,” Marines said. “Come here and get it done. I’m at the point where this is routine for me. I’m not being cocky, but that’s what we come here to do. It’s business. It’s just work.”


Champion: Cameron Adams, Detroit Catholic Central, Sr. (35-4)
Fall, 1:03, over Nick Rochowiak, Hartland, Sr. (39-4)

Adams had Rochowiak scouted, as they had run into each other several times over the years. So when he saw an opportunity, he was quick to take it.

“We used to wrestle all the time, so I know he’s got that headlock,” Adams said. “He got up to that pinch-like headlock position and I was like, ‘Oh shoot.’ I started backing away, backing away and I reached down for the leg, brought up the leg, grabbed the head when I had the single and put him away.”

Adams had finished seventh at 160 pounds in 2022.

“Honestly, it doesn’t feel real yet,” he said. “But it feels really good. It feels amazing.”


Champion: Brayden Mirjavadi, Romeo, Sr. (52-4)
Decision, 3-2, over Ryan Ahern, Rockford, Jr. (51-3)

Before Mirjavadi stepped onto the mat, his coaches told him to put everything he had into his match. He took that to heart, and after that match ended, struggled to get back to his feet, as exhaustion and emotion pinned his shoulders to the mat.

Eventually he made it to his feet, however, and the celebration could begin as he erased the regret of losing in the 2022 Final at 160 pounds.

“Coaches told me that, ‘At the end of the match, if you can get up to raise your hand, you did something wrong,’” Mirjavadi said. “I definitely did that last year at the state finals. But man, I did it this time.”


Champion: Connor Bercume, Detroit Catholic Central, Soph. (49-4)
Decision, 8-3 UTB, over Matthew Bollman, Lapeer, Sr. (40-4)

Bercume nearly won the match in regulation, but his takedown at the buzzer didn’t beat the clock.

He regrouped in the second overtime, however, scoring five points in the final 30-second period to win his first Finals title.

“I just had to keep wrestling,” Bercume said. “It was hard going to overtime. I thought I won. But I remember last year, I lost my blood round match in ultimate tiebreaker, and I remembered how that felt. And I just found a way to win.”

Bollman, who was Lapeer’s first finalist since 2015, forced overtime with a stalling call on Bercume seconds before the takedown that wasn’t.


Champion: Owen Hawley, Livonia Franklin, Sr. (55-0)
Decision, 4-2, over Judah Kinne, Lake Orion, Sr. (31-2)

Hawley won this match twice. Kind of. 

He appeared to have claimed a 7-2 victory, but a clock malfunction forced officials to put 22 seconds back on the clock and reset the score to 4-2. Unfazed, Hawley was able to ride out Kinne and claim the victory for real.

“I wasted a little bit of energy on that celebration at first,” Hawley said with a laugh. “But looking at my crowd, my parents, my friends, my teammates, my coaches, their faces looked terrible. There was zero belief at that point. All I had to do was give them a thumb’s up, they started cheering, they got excited, and it made me excited.

“I love to wrestle – what’s 22 more seconds?”

Click for full results

PHOTOS (Top) Davison's Caden Horwath, top, works for control against Grosse Pointe South's Wyatt Hepner in their championship match Saturday at Ford Field. (Middle) Detroit Catholic Central's Dylan Gilcher and Brighton's Travis Richards wrestle at 150 pounds. (Below) Davison's Josh Barr readies for the next moment during his 175-pound title match. (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.”

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.)