Greer, Tri-County Aim for Big 2016 Finish

January 1, 2016

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for Second Half

HOWARD CITY – Tri-County High School sophomore Dakota Greer remembers being soundly beaten by teammate Nick McGhan throughout their childhood.

The two began wrestling together before they could barely write their own names. McGhan always would have the upper hand on the mat over his younger friend.

“He was way better than me when we were little,” Greer said, “but him beating up on me made me better.”

As the years passed, they continued to grapple on a daily basis. Greer quickly improved. The matches became more even.

“It got to the point where we were wrestling nose-to-nose,” Greer said. “We made each other better.”

Greer and McGhan became high school teammates for the first time last season, and both made their marks on the biggest stage at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

Greer became the first freshman in school history to win an MHSAA Individual Final when he defeated Corunna’s Emilio Campos 9-6 in the Division 3 championship match at 103 pounds.

Meanwhile, McGhan, a junior last season, lost in the semifinals at 112 pounds before recovering to take third place.

“It felt really good to be the first freshmen in school history to do that,” said Greer, who started wrestling when he was 4 and was inspired by his talented older twin cousins, former Carson City-Crystal standouts Darren and Dillen Decker.

“I always had big goals, and at the beginning I knew I had a little bit of a chance. But it wasn’t till later on when I realized I could do it.”

Greer finished the season with a 42-1 record, although he never really lost a match.

Midway through the season, Greer had appendix surgery and was forced to miss a few matches. During one dual meet, his coaches put him in the lineup thinking the other team would void at that weight.

Instead, the opposing coach opted to place a wrestler in the match. Greer lost on an injury default since he was unable to wrestle.

“Coach still called me undefeated,” Greer said.     

Tri-County wrestling coach Corey Renner, in his 10th season, said he wasn’t surprised by Greer’s rare feat. He had been standing by patiently for the time when Greer could showcase his abilities at the high school level.

“I’ve known him since fifth or sixth grade, and we’ve just been waiting for him to get to high school,” Renner said. “He beat a kid from Shelby early in the year, who at the time was the favorite to win it. He beat him pretty handily, and at that point I knew he could probably win it.

“You never know, though. Kids can get hurt or sick, and strange things can happen, but I felt like if everything went the way it should then he could win it. He’s dedicated, and he just does everything you ask and more.”

Greer and McGhan have returned for one more season together and are currently leading the 9th-ranked team in Division 3.

The Vikings entered this week’s Grandville Invitational with a perfect 9-0 mark, which included a win at Tri-County’s team invitational.

They also placed third at the Chippewa Hills individual tourney.

Greer has picked up where he left off. He currently owns an unblemished 11-0 record while moving up to 119 pounds.

“I still have a lot of goals I want to reach,” Greer said.

Tri-County hasn’t reached the MHSAA Team Quarterfinals since 2003, but this year’s team has the potential to break the dry spell with the return of several starters.

“This is the best team we’ve had in a long time,” Renner said. “We still have some holes to fill, but when we get everyone healthy and ready to go then we will be really tough.

“Whitehall is in our Regional, and they’re really good every year, but I think we can compete with them if we can get everybody where they need to be. We can give them a run for their money, that’s for sure.” 

Greer also likes this year’s group, and has high hopes for the rest of the season.

“We lost a couple good kids, but we still have a lot of good juniors and seniors and a couple freshmen and sophomores who are doing really good,” Greer said. “We have good kids all the way through so we should be strong for a while.”

PHOTOS: (Top) Howard City Tri-County's Dakota Greer prepares to take a shot during last season's Division 3 championship match at 103 pounds. (Middle) Tri-County coach Corey Renner is in his 10th season leading the program. (Click for more photos from

After All-American Career, Rockford's Bennett Making Impact as Mat Mentor

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for

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.)