Division 4: Chasing Hudson

February 21, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

With a fifth-straight MHSAA Division 4 championship Saturday, Hudson would join Davison as the only two schools to accomplish that feat since the Team Finals began in 1988. 

But seven other teams at Battle Creek's Kellogg Arena will do their best to make their own history instead this weekend. 

Below is a look at all eight teams competing in Division 4, 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 MHSAA.tv. For results throughout, check the MHSAA Wrestling page. Rankings below are from MichiganGrappler.com


Record/rank: 27-6, No. 1
League finish: Second in Lenawee County Athletic Association
Coach: Scott Marry, 25th season (654-141)
Championship history: Four MHSAA championships (most recently 2012).
Individual Finals qualifiers: 285 Zach Rieger (48-1) sr., 103 Roddy Hamdan (42-5) soph., 112 Tyler Roberts (36-16) soph., Isaac Dusseau (44-6) jr., 125 Mason Lopinski (33-19) fr., 130 Cole Weaver (46-0) jr., 130 Carlos Randall (26-4) jr., 135 JD Waters (35-5) jr., 135 Wyatt Spangler (27-22) sr., 152 Kyle Johnson (41-15) fr., 215 Jake Morgan (37-12) jr.
Outlook: Only Hudson, Davison and Dundee have won at least four straight Team Finals championships. Last year’s run was led by a pair of seniors who went on to individual championships, but Hudson merely has reloaded led in part by Weaver, who claimed last season’s Division 4 title at 119. And only three of this weekend’s expected starters are seniors.


Record/rank: 33-2, No. 2
League finish: Tied for first in Central State Activities Association
Coach: Doug Baird, 12th season (399-41)
Championship history: MHSAA champion 2008, four runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 285 Wyatt Conkle (39-13) soph., 103 Corey Agens (38-15) jr., 103 Davian Gowens (36-11) fr., 119 Zack Yates (46-1) jr., 130 David Jacobs (49-7) jr., 135 Chase Siersema (52-3) jr., 140 Mark Workman (37-13) fr., 145 Cash Bolles (37-7) sr., 160 Lee Siersema (49-7) sr., 189 Eldon Graham (42-8) jr., 215 Scott Rosencrans (25-13) fr.
Outlook: Last season was the only one over the last nine in which in the Panthers didn't make it to Battle Creek, and they've made the Semifinals six times during that span. Two of Hesperia’s runner-up finishes came against Hudson in 2011 and 2009 by a combined 14 points. Yates was an individual runner-up last season, to Hudson’s Weaver at 119, and Chase Siersema was an individual runner-up in 2011. Like Hudson again, only two of Hesperia’s expected starters this weekend are seniors.


Record/rank: 31-4, No. 3
League finish: First in Genesee Area Conference
Coach: Jeff Campbell, 12th season (307-62)
Championship history: 12 MHSAA championships (most recently 2004), four runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Cole Hersch (43-11) fr., 119 Johnny Robinson (33-14) fr., 125 Gabe Bennett (40-11) soph., 130 Dalton Birchmeier (28-22) soph., 140 Jacob Perrin (55-2) sr., 145 Josh Wendling (41-5) jr., 152 Aaron Bauman (45-6) jr., 160 Taylor Krupp (46-3) jr., 171 Dakota Clark (26-23) jr., 189 Cody Symons (53-2) jr., 215 Owen Wilson (35-10) jr.
Outlook: New Lothrop has reached the Quarterfinals all 12 seasons under Campbell and eclipsed 30 wins two of the last three. His line-up has only one senior, but that senior – Jacob Perrin – is coming off an MHSAA individual championship at 130. Four others are ranked among the top four in their individual weight classes this winter.


Record/rank: 21-0, No. 7
League finish: First in St. Joseph Valley Conference
Coach: Al Sosinski, 30th season (474-234)
Championship history: MHSAA runners-up in 2002 and 2003.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 119 Jake Littlefield (36-10) sr., 125 Hunter Machus (42-5) sr., 130 Kahle Scheenks (33-15) soph., 145 Brandon Losinski (42-9) sr., 160 Dan Erwin (25-7) sr., 171 Leo Mora (33-6) sr., 189 Brett Burtrum (25-7) soph.
Outlook: Bronson has won its District the last 12 seasons and is making its first trip to the Quarterfinals since 2009. The line-up features eight seniors including five who will also compete at the Individual Finals. Machus and Mora are ranked among the top four in their respective weight classes. Sosinski’s record qualifies for listing among the top 20 winningest wrestling coaches in MHSAA history.  


Record/rank: 25-9, unranked
League finish: First in Tri-County Conference
Coach: Marc Spicer, fifth season (106-64)
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 285 Gabe Beaubien (40-17) sr., 103 Terry Burns (31-12) fr., 112 Michael Petee (37-19) soph., 145 Roger Fox (35-8) jr., 160 Nick Garza (45-7) sr., 189 Charlie Robertson (38-11) soph., 215 Garrett Miller (51-5) sr.
Outlook: Sand Creek has continued to build under Spicer with three straight District Titles and its first Regional championship under him this season. Garza finished individual Finals runner-up last season at 152 and leads a line-up with eight 30-match winners. All seven wrestlers between 145-285 have won at least 31 matches this season.


Record/rank: 26-6, No. 9
League finish: First in Central Michigan Athletic Conference
Coach: Kacy Datema, third season (57-28)
Championship history: MHSAA runners-up in 2000 and 2001.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Taylor Barkley (29-15) fr., 112 Kenneth Dittenber (49-4) sr., 119 Dallas O’Green (46-6) fr., 140 Garner Cusack (46-7) jr., 145 Dillan Decker (47-5) soph., 152 Darren Decker (50-2) soph., 160 Lincoln Burnham (14-9) soph.  
Outlook: Datema, a former Carson City-Crystal wrestler himself, has guided the Eagles back to Battle Creek after steady improvement during his first two seasons as coach. They could be back for a few more with nine underclassmen expected to start this weekend. Dittenber is a two-time Individual Finals champion, and Dillan Decker also is considered a top contender next weekend.   


Record/rank: 25-4, unranked
League finish: First in O-K Silver
Coach: Chad Kik, 13th season (255-138)
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 285 Tom Devos (35-12) jr., 135 Brendon Rodenburg (44-9) fr., 140 Jayson Ellicott (44-12) jr., 152 KJ Herremans (39-12) jr., 171 Shane Rodenburg (52-2) soph., 215 Konner Wolter (53-1) sr.
Outlook: Kent City has increased its win total four straight seasons, won its District the last three years and will make its first Quarterfinal appearance under Kik – who won an individual championship for Sparta in 1992. Wolter is one of only two seniors, but with Rodenburg is expected to contend for an individual championship next weekend. Kent City beat No. 10 Bangor in a tie-breaker at the Regional.


Record/rank: 21-2, unranked
League finish: First in Mid-Peninsula Athletic Conference
Coach: Nick Burklund, fourth season (43-26)
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 125 Cayleb Winkler (29-13) sr., 152 Taylor Bonetti (37-16) soph., 171 Jacob Rehn (30-13) soph.
Outlook: Norway too has increased its win total each of the last four seasons and despite posting sub-.500 marks in Burklund’s first two. The Knights could continue to surge with only two seniors on the roster this winter. Norway won its District matches by a combined score of 129-15, and then got past tough competitors Rogers City and St. Ignace at the Regional. 

PHOTO: Hudson's Cole Weaver (top) battles to an 18-6 major decision in his match at 125 pounds during last seaon's Division 4 Final at Battle Creek's Kellogg Arena. 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.)