DETROIT – For the second-straight year, Sebastian Martinez and Dillon Raab wrestled for a MHSAA Division 4 Individual Finals title.
And for the second-straight year, it was Martinez who had his hand raised.
The Riverview Gabriel Richard sophomore became a two-time Finals champion Saturday with a 10-2 major decision at 157 pounds.
“I knew how I wrestled last year, but I put a lot more work in this year,” said Martinez, who finished the season with a 39-3 record. “I knew I had the confidence that I was going to win, and I got the job done.”
Martinez was one of six wrestlers in Division 4 who finished the night a multiple-time Finals champion.
He did it with a clinical match against Raab, a three-time runner-up from Bark River-Harris. Martinez scored a takedown and a nearfall in the first period to take control, and added a reversal nine seconds into the second period to go up 6-0. Raab – who finished his senior season 48-4 – scored his only points on a reversal in the third period, but he already trailed 8-0 at that point.
“I’ve been practicing riding on top a lot this year, and it really paid off in this match,” Martinez said. “He couldn’t really score from bottom until the end.”
On a night where a record four wrestlers – Dundee’s Braeden Davis, Detroit Catholic Central’s Dylan Gilcher, and Davison’s Josh Barr and Caden Horwath – won their fourth titles, it was easy for Martinez to see that possibility for himself, now that two are down in his first two years.
“That’s been my goal and dream for a long time,” Martinez said. “The first time I got it, I was obviously very happy because my dream had started. This year, I wanted to confirm it – make sure I put in all the work and make sure I get it.”
Champion: Nicholas Sorrow, Hudson, Fr. (50-1)
Decision, 9-2, over Logan Gilbert, Martin/Climax-Scotts, Soph. (48-6)
Any time a freshman wins a Finals title it’s a statement. But knocking off a defending champion to do it gives it some extra oomph.
That’s what Sorrow did, picking up his third win of the season against Gilbert, who won at 103 pounds in 2022.
“I felt good,” Sorrow said. “I’ve been waiting to get here and get my shot, and now it’s here.”
Sorrow took control of the match at the end of the third period, taking a 5-0 lead with a takedown and nearfall. From there, he rolled to his first Finals title.
Champion: Sammy Stewart, Manchester, Fr. (19-1)
Decision, 14-11, over Alex Rodriguez, St. Louis, Fr. (45-7)
In one of the more high-scoring Finals matches of the night, Stewart came out victorious, overcoming an early deficit to win the battle of star freshmen.
Rodriguez had led 5-1 and 10-6, but Stewart scored eight of the last nine points in the match.
It was a much different ending than their first meeting during the season, when Rodriguez pinned Stewart while trailing 7-1.
“I knew that cradle was coming, so I had to be careful of that,” Stewart said. “I learned it in my semifinal match that it’s not over until it’s over. So when he got the first takedown I thought, ‘It’s not over yet, I’ve got three periods to go.’ Anything can happen. I just didn’t need to think, I just needed to wrestle and score points.”
Champion: Wesley Edie, Grass Lake, Sr. (38-6)
Decision, 10-9, over Daven Lockwood, New Lothrop, Sr. (30-7)
Edie fell behind early, and trailed 8-6 heading into the third period. But he managed a reversal and a takedown in the final two minutes to win his first Finals title.
“I just had to keep thinking I was going to win, no matter what,” Edie said. “Down 6-2, I had to keep working – out-cardio him.”
Both were Finals placers a year ago, as Lockwood was eighth and Edie was fourth.
“It’s great,” Edie said. “I’ve been going for it all season, but it’s a great feeling.”
Champion: Shawn McGuire, Iron Mountain, Sr. (40-1)
Major Decision, 12-3, over Perry Lake, Bronson, Sr. (47-7)
A year ago, McGuire had to overcome a teammate to win his first Finals title. He much preferred wrestling someone in a different singlet.
“It was quite a bit of difference,” McGuire said. “I think last year, it was bittersweet to go into the Finals with my best friend and also my teammate. It was different this year. It’s just sweet this year.”
McGuire won at 119 in 2022 and was runner-up in 2020. He also placed third in 2021, giving him four top-three finishes in his career.
“It’s better than ever,” McGuire said. “It feels good to come out on top.”
Champion: Landyn Crance, Union City, Jr. (44-3)
Fall, 2:43, over Haylen Buell, Martin/Climax-Scotts, Fr. (53-5)
Crance became the first two-time champion in Union City history, and was struggling to hold back his emotions following the pinfall victory.
“It’s unbelievable,” Crance said. “First-ever two-time state champion in my school’s history, and that was my goal all year. It feels so good. Way better than last year.”
Crance, who won at 125 in 2022, lost to Buell in the Regional, and trailed 2-1 before getting the pin in the second period Saturday.
“I had something to work for every week,” Crance said. “Being at the top isn’t always the best. Battling for something, it gets you motivated a lot more. Your nerves settle down a lot, you don’t have as much pressure. It’s so relieving to get that win.”
Champion: Josiah Schaub, Traverse City St. Francis, Sr. (38-4)
Decision, 4-2, over Blake Sloan, Manchester, Fr. (52-4)
Schaub didn’t overthink his match strategy, even though he had plenty of time to do so, as this was the second-to-last match of the night.
“Sometimes my mind’s just empty,” he said. “Today, it just happened to stay empty, which is good.”
Schaub had the only offensive points in the match, with a takedown in the second period and a reversal in the third. Sloan scored on an escape and stalling call.
“It feels amazing after seven years of doing wrestling to finally win something this big,” Schaub said. “It feels incredible.”
Champion: Coy Perry, Hudson, Jr. (40-8)
Decision, 7-5, over Hunter Coxon, Montrose, Sr. (53-5)
In his first season at Hudson, Perry found his way back to the top of the podium. He won a title at 112 pounds in 2021 while at Clinton. He had also placed seventh in 2022.
“It’s pretty special,” Perry said. “I’m just so grateful and thankful.”
Perry never trailed in the match, but a third-period takedown from Coxon did make it a one-point match. Perry was able to hold the Montrose senior off in the final 20 seconds for the win.
“The atmosphere was a lot better,” Perry said. “And I was wrestling my teammate (last time). It’s kind of tough to be wrestling your teammate and try not to have any emotions. This atmosphere was amazing. Just 10 times better than the last one was.”
Champion: Manus Bennett, Marlette, Sr. (49-1)
Decision, 5-3, over Evan Haferkorn, Iron Mountain, Sr. (37-2)
Bennett claimed his third Finals title on the night. He won at 103 pounds in 2020 and 140 in 2022. He suffered only one loss at the Finals in his career, as he placed third as a sophomore in 2021.
“I don’t think anybody truly imagines it – I know a lot of them hope,” Bennett said. “A lot of people dream of going for four, and I screwed that up, so I went for the next biggest thing. After freshman year I figured, ‘Maybe I can make this a reality.’ I came close, but in the end, I’m proud and happy with it.”
On Saturday, Bennett found himself tied at 3 with Haferkorn – a three-time placer – late in the third period. A reversal with 28 seconds remaining and subsequent ride-out gave him the win.
Champion: Robert Cann, Whitmore Lake, Sr. (47-3)
Major Decision, 15-6, over Fulton Stroud, Iron Mountain, Jr. (36-7)
Cann handed out and accepted more than a dozen hugs after leaving the mat with his first Finals title. Multiple were from his own coaches, but plenty were from other coaches and wrestlers from around the state.
“A lot of different coaches from different clubs that I’ve been able to talk to,” Cann said.
He took control of his match with a huge second period, scoring 10 points to take a 12-3 lead into the final one.
“It feels great,” he said. “I’m so proud. I really was nervous going into this match. All I could do was pray to my God, my lord and savior Jesus Christ, and he really gave me strength for that match.”
Champion: Cole Hopkins, Evart, Sr. (48-0)
Major Decision, 10-1, over JR Hildebrand, Martin/Climax-Scotts, Sr. (38-3)
Hopkins finished off an unbeaten season with his second-straight Finals title. It was his third-straight top-two finish, as he was a runner-up in 2021.
“When you have the target on your back and everybody is coming after you, you have to work twice as hard,” Hopkins said. “Everyone has a picture of you on their nightstand or something, trying to beat you. So I just wanted to leave no doubt that I’m the champ.”
Hopkins was dominant throughout the match, taking a 5-0 lead after the first period with a takedown and nearfall, and he stretched it to 8-0 heading into the third period.
Champion: Evan Wakefield, Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary, Sr. (54-1)
Decision, 4-2 (OT), over Drew Allgeyer, Bark River-Harris, Sr. (35-5)
Wakefield needed overtime in his last two matches of the tournament to claim his first Finals title.
On Friday, he scored a takedown with 3 seconds remaining to force overtime. Saturday’s tying point came much earlier in the third period, but there was still plenty of drama.
Not long into overtime, Allgeyer, the defending champ at 189 pounds, attempted a shot that Wakefield blocked before working behind for the win.
“I’m just thinking, ‘Keep a level head, don’t get emotional,’” Wakefield said. “I had to make a move, had to find a way to score. Thankfully I did. God gave me the opportunity, and I took it. I was kind of used to it from (an overtime match) yesterday. He seemed tired, so I knew he would take a shot on me and I knew I would be fast enough to sprawl.”
Champion: Grady Iobe, Union City, Sr. (39-1)
Decision, 7-0, over Daxton Looney, Montrose, Sr. (48-11)
After placing eighth in 2021 and third in 2022, Iobe was happy to take another couple steps up the podium this year.
“It feels amazing,” Iobe said. “There’s no other feeling like it.”
He was dominant in the match, getting a takedown 16 seconds in and adding another in each of the next two periods.
“Our coaches say that almost every match is won in a takedown battle,” Iobe said. “If you win on your feet, you’ll win in the match. You just have to wrestle out there smart, get as many points as you can, and don’t give away free points.”
Champion: Eathan Westfall, Reading, Sr. (45-0)
Injury Default, over Grayson Orr, New Lothrop, Sr. (38-2)
Westfall would rather have wrestled for his first Finals title, but he wasn’t going to let that take away from his accomplishment.
“I wanted to wrestle really bad,” Westfall said. “I hate that that was how it ended, and I feel bad for him that he didn’t get a chance to wrestle. It’s not fair to him, and I really wish I had my match to prove it.”
Orr was injured Friday, and Westfall found out when he came onto the Ford Field turf Saturday that he would be crowned champion without having to wrestle.
Although it wasn’t the way he envisioned, he had an idea of when the accomplishment would hit him.
“The second I see my parents,” he said.
PHOTOS (Top) Riverview Gabriel Richard’s Sebastian Martinez shows his chart after winning his second Finals championship Saturday. (Middle) Whitmore Lake’s Robert Cann (in red) works toward a win over Iron Mountain’s Fulton Stroud. (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.”
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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.)