High 5s - 3/6/12

March 6, 2012

Every Tuesday, Second Half honors 2-4 athletes and a team for its accomplishments during the current season.

Have a suggestion for a future High 5? Please offer suggestions by e-mail to [email protected]. Candidates often will have accomplished great things on the field of play -- but also will be recognized for other less obvious contributions to their teams, schools or the mission of high school athletics as a whole.

Nathalie Kenny

Manistee senior


Kenny finished her high school skiing career with her sixth and seventh top-10 MHSAA Finals finishes, including her second straight Division 2 championship in giant slalom in a two-run time of 59.79 seconds. She also finished runner-up in the slalom (1:13.31), her third runner-up finish over the last four seasons. Her Manistee/Traverse City St. Francis team finishined fourth, but won the meet when she was a freshman. Kenny also swam in the fall, and plays center midfielder for the soccer team.

Up next: Kenny hopes to earn her bachelor's and master's degrees and eventually a doctorate as well, and has applied to St. Olaf's (Minn.), Dartmouth, Harvard and Middlebury (Vt.), as well as to the U.S. Air Force Academy. She'd like to continue skiing competitively, but at what level -- NCAA, intramural or not at all -- will depend on where she attends college. She's planning on a career in science. "I am interested in a plethora of concentrations including, but not limited to, biology, environmental science, law and medicine."

Some day, I will be: "When I was younger I would have answered: the President. But now, I find myself leaning towards a lawyer, researcher, scientist, physician or world traveler. However, I will still just be me; my job won't define who I am."

I learned the most about skiing from: "Dan Janowiak. I have worked with Dan for about six or seven years now, and I don't know many others with the ski racing knowledge that he has. From technique to tactics, visualization to preparation, Dan has stuffed my brain. Without him, I would not be the skier I am today."

I look up to: "My coach's daughter, Lyndee Janowiak, has always been a role model for me in skiing. She has natural talent, and I admire her hard work and passion for the sport. She is very fast and has had a successful career that recently came to an end when she graduated college. When she isn't busy racing herself, she is always giving tips and helping me improve. She believes in me and has helped me become a better skier. That is something that I will always be grateful for."

I love skiing because: "... I love the speed, and the adrenaline rush that pumps through my body when I fly down the hill. I love the feeling of carving my edges into the snow and making angles so big that I feel as if my butt will touch the ground. And I love the challenge that it presents. Between the speed, gravitational forces, use of energy, and complexity of a seemingly simple turn, skiing is one of the most difficult and technical sports there is. The list never ends, and neither does my hunger to improve."

Paige Arrington

Gibraltar Carlson senior

Competitive Cheer

Arrington, a four-year member of the squad, helped the Marauders to their third MHSAA Division 2 championship of her high school career. Carlson posted the meet's highest scores in both Round 1 and Round 2, and then tied for the high score in Round 3 to finish with a total of 807.3944 points, 2.9 ahead of runner-up Dearborn Divine Child.

"It's absolutely mind-blowing. I'm so happy to leave my senior year with three state championships and two of them being back-to-back. It is absolutely an amazing feeling, and I wouldn't trade it for the world."

Up next: Arrington will attend Oakland University and study nursing. She also expects to join the Oakland cheer team.

I learned the most about cheer from: Shumate Middle School coach Marissa Mousouleas.

I look up to: "All my coaches. Danielle (Jokela), Christy (Wilson), everybody. They just do so much for us and help us so much. It's hard to pick one."

I'm motivated by: "Winning. I just love to win, so (I) work hard to do it."

My career highlight was: "Probably winning states my freshman year. Sending out our seniors with their back-to-back championships. I felt good because I helped do that. And then this year, my freshmen helped send me out with back-to-back state championships, and that's amazing."

To those who say cheer isn't a sport: "First off, I would laugh. And then I would say ... we even had one practice that was 10 hours long to everything perfect. We've been with each other six days a week since November. We put everything into this sport and we flip around, jump around, hit things tight. And it has to be perfect. It's a sport."

Jordan Thomas

Greenville wrestling


Thomas, who will wrestle next season at the University of Michigan, won his third-straight MHSAA championship Saturday, in Division 2 and 189 pounds. Thomas defeated reigning champion Gabe Dean of Lowell 5-1, giving him two wins over Dean this winter and a final record of 45-0 -- and 217-3 for his high school career. Thomas and St. Johns senior Taylor Massa led the opening wrestlers march onto The Palace of Auburn Hills floor. Massa is the only wrestler who has stopped Thomas in an MHSAA Final -- he beat Thomas 5-2 in the 145-pound Final when both were freshmen.

"I knew (Dean) was thinking overtime. I thought I had one more good shot in me. With 12 seconds (left), I go after it. I got a good shot off, strong finish. It felt good."

Up next: Thomas hopes to redshirt his first season at Michigan plans to study business. "I love math."

I learned the most about wrestling from: Thomas thanked Tom, Doug and Ben Bennett, Rodger and Taylor Massa, and his Greenville coaches.

I look up to: Ever since I was little, people asked me do you look up to Cael Sanderson, do you look up to Brent Metcalf? I think those guys are great. But I try not to look up to anybody. ... I want to make my own path, do something nobody else has done. Obviously, I can't have an undefeated career. Cael already had that undefeated college career. I want to do something else for the first time. It doesn't matter who you look up to. There's a lot of people I think are great. I just pick up little things from everybody."

Richmond Competitive Cheer

The Blue Devils improved from third place at the Division 3 Final in both 2009 and 2010, to second last season and finally finished first Saturday at the Grand Rapids Delta Plex.

Richmond won all of its events this winter, and scored the meet high in each round on the way to its first MHSAA championship.

Click to read more.

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.)