MOUNT PLEASANT – Scott Marry’s emotional celebrations had become a staple at the MHSAA Team Wrestling Finals.
The Hudson coach had nervously watched his team win a handful of Division 4 titles, each time exploding with energy after a clinching late victory. On Saturday, however, Marry was able to reflect a bit as his team locked up the championship a little more than halfway through its title match against rival New Lothrop.
“It is so fun to win them at the last second, but it’s also fun to watch these kids as they came off the mat one at a time to get to experience them experiencing a state title as a team,” said Marry, who was still plenty excited. “So I slowed it down, and I got to take in some really cool moments with some kids one on one. It was kind of neat.”
Hudson defeated New Lothrop 51-13 at McGuirk Arena on the campus of Central Michigan University, claiming the school’s sixth Division 4 wrestling title, and first since 2013. The Tigers had finished runners-up to New Lothrop in each of the previous three seasons after winning five straight titles from 2009-13.
“It’s great. It’s amazing. It’s breathtaking,” Hudson senior 215-pounder Zack Bailey said. “It’s hard to explain unless you do it. We wanted it to be (New Lothrop). We wanted a little bit of revenge.”
Bailey and Tylor Grames are the only two seniors on the Hudson roster. While they’re certainly key pieces, they know they’re leaving behind a team that’s capable of making a 10th straight appearance in an MHSAA Finals title match.
“It makes me feel like the next couple years are going to be very strong,” Grames said. “Very strong.”
It was Grames and Bailey who started out the dual with a bang for the Tigers, staking their team to a 9-0 lead.
Grames, who is ranked No. 2 at 189 pounds in Division 4 by Michigan Grappler, opened the match with a 5-1 win against the top-ranked wrestler at his weight, Erik Birchmeier. Takedowns in the second and third periods were enough to give him the mini upset and give his team momentum early on.
“I think the tone set us up for victory, I honestly do,” Grames said. “I was No. 2, he was No. 1; I had to stay focused. I came out on top and the team kept it up. It was positive.”
Bailey wasted little time in building on the momentum, getting a pin in 19 seconds at 215 pounds.
“I felt really good about (starting the dual at 189 pounds),” Marry said. “With my Grames kid being ranked second in the state wrestling their No. 1 kid, we knew it was going to be close enough for us to win. We had a really good matchup at 215 and heavy, and we were really solid from 112 to 135. I thought that could be almost too much for their lineup to come back from. I think that kind of did them in. I think we got the momentum, and I think you start losing doubt.”
It indeed was too much for New Lothrop to come back from, as Hudson won six of the next seven matches after their seniors set the tone, building a 36-4 lead and clinching the title with five matches remaining.
“I felt like I’m on top of the world,” Grames said. “For the last half hour, I’ve been sitting here happy.”
Isiah Krizek won a 7-0 decision at 285 for Hudson, and after Logan Wolford put New Lothrop on the board with a 9-1 major decision at 103 pounds, Hudson got three straight pins from Tucker Sholl (112), Tyler Curtis (119) and Jordan Hamdan (125). Scotty Torres won 4-0 at 130 pounds for the Tigers, and Carson Price clinched the team victory with an 8-6 decision over second-ranked Austin Wolford at 135.
Malik Ray won 7-2 at 152 for Hudson, while John Betz (160) and Spencer Blanco (171) closed out the dual with back-to-back pins.
Justin Carnahan won by pin at 140 pounds for New Lothrop, while Zack Riley won a 5-2 decision at 152.
“Part of coaching at New Lothrop is that’s our goal – to get here each year and give ourselves a chance to win it,” New Lothrop coach Jeff Campbell said. “I absolutely think we’ll have a shot in the future, we’ll be stronger and we’ll learn something from what happened today.”
Like Hudson, New Lothrop is remarkably young. Twelve wrestlers who took the mat Saturday for the Hornets could be back next season, meaning the Division 4 titans who have claimed the last nine titles (six for Hudson, three for New Lothrop) will likely be the teams to beat again in 2018.
Hudson entered the weekend as the top seed and top-ranked by Michigan Grappler. New Lothrop, unranked at the end of the regular season, was seeded sixth this weekend but downed third seed Carson City-Crystal and second seed Leroy Pine River to reach the Final.
“When you’re wrestling against Jeff Campbell’s group, it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose,” Marry said. “They’re going to bring it, we’re going to bring it; we’re not counting wins and losses against these guys. It’s really not that type of rivalry. It’s a classy rivalry; it’s a rivalry of respect. We just said to each other out there, we hope to see each other again next year out there.”
The MHSAA Wrestling Finals are presented by the Michigan Army National Guard.
PHOTOS: (Top) Hudson's Isiah Krizek takes control against Cameron Dusenberry during their match at 285 pounds. (Middle) New Lothrop's Logan Wolford works toward his 9-1 major decision win at 103. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
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.”
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.)