Individual Finals: From 16 to No. 1

March 3, 2012

AUBURN HILLS – A total of 56 individual wrestling champions were crowned Saturday at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

One was St. Johns senior Taylor Massa – and he earned his own story after finishing his career without a loss.

But there were plenty of others to tell. Following is one for each of the 13 other weight classes, starting with 189 pounds – the opening weight at this season’s Individual Finals – plus a mention of all 56 champions. Click for full results.


Among the many Jordan Thomas thanked after winning his third MHSAA title was the one opponent who beat him at the Palace during the last four seasons.

Thomas and St. Johns’ Massa led the opening march Saturday, around the mats where Massa dealt Thomas that loss, in the 145-pound Division 2 Final when both were freshmen.

From that day on, Thomas lost only once more. And he capped his championship career by knocking off the reigning Division 2 champ at his weight. In one of the first matches of the day – and arguably the best – Thomas edged Lowell senior Gabe Dean 5-1.

“This being my last match ever, there’s no redemption after this, so I knew I had to get this win,” said Thomas, who will wrestle next season at the University of Michigan. 

He finished 45-0 this season and 217-3 for his career despite taking off a month this season after tearing a knee ligament. That continued to slow him Saturday, but he had been building for a strong finish since the day he fell to Massa 5-2 – a match he said paid off through the rest of his Greenville career.

“At high school it’s not about the win and loss, it’s about getting better,” Thomas said. “And I feel like that improved me as a person and a wrestler so much. I don’t regret it a bit.”

Dean, who also quarterbacked Lowell's Division 2 runner-up football team, finished 30-4.

  • Division 1: Kevin Beazley did one better on his 2011 1-0 championship loss at 171 by downing Temperance Bedford junior Brandon Sunday 6-0. The Detroit Catholic Central senior finished 45-1.
  • Division 3: In a battle of one-loss juniors, Morley Stanwood’s Steven Malloy handed a second to Oscoda’s Donavon Fouchey, 7-6, to finish 46-1.
  • Division 4: New Lothrop senior Austin Severn pinned Dansville senior Lantz Miller in 1:49 to win a second straight championship and finish 51-2.


Prescott Line’s wrestling career came to an end Saturday. This fall, he’ll join the Southern Methodist University football team.

But the Oxford senior finished in the best possible way – with his second straight MHSAA individual championship. Line defeated Wayne Memorial’s Dimitrus Renfroe 5-1 in the Division 1 Final after also winning at that weight in 2011.

“Wrestling made me a better person. … (It develops) mental toughness, and it works on your one-on-one competition a lot,” Line said. “It’s a great sport.”

Line finished 49-0 this season and 184-23 over his four-year high school career.

  • Division 2: Holly senior Shawn Scott finished a 52-0 season with a 3-1 win over St. Johns junior Payne Hayden.
  • Division 3: Buchanan junior Gage Hutchison finished a 57-0 season by pinning Comstock Park senior Tyler Gruszka in 1:03.
  • Division 4: St. Ignace junior Joe Ostman edged Springport senior Joe Ericson 4-3 to win the title and move to 44-0 this season. Ericson had just one loss entering the Final.


Fowlerville junior Adam Coon showed the result of moving up to 285 pounds this season after winning two MHSAA titles at 215. His Division 2 championship match ended with his tongue and lips spotted with blood.

But the result that mattered most remained the same – Coon won his third championship, 7-4 over Mason senior Adam Robinson, and will go into next season hoping to become the 17th wrestler in MHSAA history to win four Finals titles.

Coon faced Robinson four times this season on the way to finishing 50-0.

“Of course, at the state finals it’s going to be a little aggressive. So maybe there were head butts in there for both sides,” Coon said. “But you know what? That’s what wrestling is. It’s aggressive. … You’ve got to be able to take those.”

  • Division 1: Rochester Hills Stoney Creek senior Nick Gajdzik became his school’s first champion and capped a 46-0 season with a 2-1 win over Temperance Bedford senior Logan Rimmer – who had only one loss heading into the Final.
  • Division 3: Lakewood senior Garrett Hyatt finished his high school career by pinning Dundee junior Josh Marogen in the title match in 1:48. Hyatt was 46-3 this winter.
  • Division 4: Hesperia senior Brett Martin capped a 53-0 season by outlasting Whittemore-Prescott freshman Ryan Prescott in a 4-3 decision. 


Carson City-Crystal junior Kenneth Dittenber is getting used to finishing his season with a win. He’s ended the last two with an MHSAA Division 4 title at 103 pounds.

But Saturday’s clincher had a different spin. In 2011, Dittenber won his Final 5-4. This time, he pinned Shelby junior Austin Felt 56 seconds into the second period. It was a much better reward for a season filled with higher expectations.

“I just practiced a lot harder. I knew I was going to have a target on my back as a state champ last year,” Dittenber said. “I just wanted to wrestle everybody like I should."

  • Division 1: Davison freshman Lincoln Olson capped a 46-0 season with a 16-5 major decision over Grand Haven freshman Camden Bertucci.
  • Division 2: Goodrich senior Isaac Jewell closed his career with an 8-1 championship win over Hamilton junior Collin Welcher. Jewell finished 45-5 this winter.
  • Division 3: Ida freshman Dakota Ball improved to 46-4 with a 2-0 win over Caro junior Shane Herrman.


Temperance Bedford junior Mitch Rogaliner had one opponent on his most wanted list this weekend. And he got his wish, drawing Holt’s Shayne Wireman in a Division 1 Semifinal.

Wireman had beaten Rogaliner 2-1 in last season’s 103-pound Final. But Rogaliner got him back Friday with a third-period pin before earning a 9-5 decision over Canton sophomore Ben Griffin in Saturday’s Final.

Rogaliner said he knew if he could beat Wireman, the championship should be his as well – and he used lessons learned last season to finish the run.

“You can’t let the nerves get to you. You can’t just go out there scared,” Rogaliner said. “You just have to lay it all out on the mat, and hope that your all can win it for you.”

Rogaliner finished 46-2 this winter.

  • Division 2: St. Johns sophomore Zac Hall won his second MHSAA title, this time with an 8-1 win over Lapeer West junior Dean Somers. Hall finished 43-1 this season.
  • Division 3: Remus Chippewa Hills junior Zack Cooper also won his second MHSAA title, improving to 60-2 this season with a 7-2 win over Allendale junior Luke Jensen.
  • Division 4: Decatur senior Luke Bell improved to 54-10 this season and won the 200th match of his career in pinning Erie Mason freshman Logan Griffin in 2:38.


Grand Rapids Forest Hills Eastern senior Tim Lambert had picked up a reputation as the best wrestler in Michigan never to win an MHSAA title.

He doesn’t have to hear that one anymore.

Lambert – who crushed the 200-career win milestone earlier this season – finished with one more, getting a takedown just before the buzzer to beat St. Johns freshman Logan Massa 5-3 in overtime. The Division 2 championship is the first for a Forest Hills Eastern wrestler, and capped a 58-0 finish for Lambert this season.

“There was definitely a lot of pressure. But I just came out to win, whether it was by two points or 10,” he said. “Logan’s a very tough wrestler. He’s going to have a great career. I knew it was going to be a grind until the end, no matter what. And that’s what it was.”

  • Division 1: Davison sophomore Justin Oliver won his second MHSAA title and finished 44-2 this season with a 3-1 win over Hartland sophomore Austin Eicher.
  • Division 3: Richmond senior Stephen Ireland edged Lake Fenton senior Todd Melick 10-7 to finish 24-3 this winter.
  • Division 4: After losing in a championship match last season, Hudson sophomore Cole Weaver earned his first MHSAA title with a 6-0 win over Hesperia sophomore Zack Yates. Weaver was 51-0 this season.


Comstock Park senior Nick Ross admitted Saturday he came into this season overconfident after winning last season’s Division 3 championship at 119 pounds.

But that overconfidence dissolved with two losses and a fourth-place finish in Comstock Park’s first tournament – and was replaced by more intense practice and extra workouts.

Ross never lost again. He capped a 49-2 season Saturday with an 8-4 win over Ida senior Dan Sorter.

“It was a great wake up call. I wanted to real quick,” Ross said of rebounding from the early losses.

“The second (MHSAA title) is definitely tougher. You’ve got a big old ‘X’ on your head. Everyone is after you.”

  • Division 1: After losing by a point in last season’s Final, Howell senior Alex Calandrino beat Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central senior Mitch Hrnyak 8-4 and finished the season 42-1.
  • Division 2: St. Johns junior Jacob Schmitt, a runner-up last season, beat Holly junior Mason Cleaver 11-1 to finish 46-2.
  • Division 4: Watervliet sophomore Brock Thumm outlasted Marlette senior Matt Mata, handing Mata his first loss with a 10-9 decision that improved Thumm to 47-5.


Detroit Catholic Central junior Ken Bade knew what was necessary to win big at this season’s Finals.

Last season he earned the title at 125 in part by surviving two one-point decisions. But this time, he advanced with two technical falls and a pin before downing Oxford sophomore Mike Willits 6-1 in the Final.

“I said it earlier in the tournament: It’s all confidence and not cockiness. And you just need to work as hard as you possibly can,” said Bade, who finished 50-1. “This week was the hardest I’ve ever worked in my life.

“There was only one goal in mind and that was a state championship, and I got it done.”

  • Division 2: Holly junior Anthony Gonzales scored at least 10 points for the third straight match, this time outlasting Allegan sophomore Kyle Simaz in a 10-9 decision. Gonzales finished 48-3.
  • Division 3: Otsego senior Alberto Lopez won his second straight nail-biter, following an overtime Semifinal victory with a 3-2 title-clincher over Fremont senior Theron Blake. Lopez finished 51-2.
  • Division 4: New Lothrop junior Jacob Perrin moved to 52-3 with a 5-3 win over Niles Brandywine junior Chanc Ravish.


Traverse City St. Francis senior Isaiah Schaub and White Pigeon senior John Tullos both entered Saturday’s Division 4 Final with one loss apiece.

But Schaub also already had one MHSAA championship. He added a second with an 11-4 decision capped by a final three points just before the third-round buzzer.

“I kept on attacking,” Schaub said. “It’s not like I haven’t. I just kept on attacking like Coach told me to.”

Schaub finished 51-1. He also won at 130 pounds in 2011.

  • Division 1: Canton sophomore Alec Pantaleo defeated Detroit Catholic Central sophomore Malik Amine 9-6 to finish the season 53-3.
  • Division 2: St. Johns junior Brant Schafer, the runner-up at 125 last season, handed Muskegon Reeths-Puffer senior Cody Stenberg his first loss, 10-8 in overtime. Schafer finished 37-1.
  • Division 3: Richmond freshman Devin Skatzka opened his high school Finals career by edging Leslie sophomore Zehlin Storr 5-4 to finish 44-8.


St. Johns junior Ben Whitford already had won two Illinois individual championships, and helped St. Johns to an MHSAA team title last weekend.

He finished his first season back in Michigan by beating the same opponent he faced in the team Final – Lowell senior and reigning individual champion Gabe Morse.

Whitford handed Morse just his second loss of this season, 11-4. A week ago, Whitford beat Morse 11-9.

“In the first match, I kept getting out of position. That’s how he was able to score,” Whitford said. “This time, (I stayed) in a good position, had to stay on his head, get him tired, keep working him.”

Whitford finished 37-0. Morse finished 40-2.

  • Division 1: Portage Central senior Angelo Latora capped his career with a 3-1 win over Jenison senior Trent Samuels. Latora finished the season 53-1.
  • Division 3: Richmond senior Garett Edwards handed Fremont junior Johnny Wiggers his first loss, 6-5 in overtime. Edwards finished 48-6.
  • Division 4: New Lothrop junior Clayton Simons added his second-straight MHSAA title and moved to 33-5 for the season with a 7-2 win over Reading senior Nick Rubley.


Midland Bullock Creek senior Scott Flowers admitted it would’ve been nice to face a different opponent in Saturday’s Final than Hemlock senior Justin Tomasek.

They both came from the Tri-Valley Conference Central, and the championship match was their fourth against each other this season. Flowers won this time 4-0 to even their record against each other to 2-2.

“If I don’t know (what an opponent) is going to do, I can wrestle my own style instead of changing my style to fit his style,” Flowers said. “(But) it also helped too.”

Flowers, who posted a third place in 2011, finished 51-7. Tomasek finished 45-4.

  • Division 1: Flint Carman-Ainsworth senior Jake Weissend closed out a 58-0 season with a 1-0 decision over Portage Central sophomore Dominic Latora.
  • Division 2: Allegan senior Taylor Simaz capped his career and a 57-1 season with his second MHSAA title. He beat Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern senior Gabe Stepanovich 15-5 after also claiming the 125-pound championship in 2010.
  • Division 4: Addison junior Jared Bruner edged Springport freshman Jacob Cooper 4-2 to finish 36-5.


Saturday’s Division 1 152-pound Final was one of the most anticipated of the entire Individual Wrestling Finals. And not because Brighton junior Aaron Calderon was on the card.

Detroit Catholic Central senior Alec Mooradian was seeking to become only the 16th wrestler in MHSAA history to win four individual championships. Instead, Calderon won his first – and became part of history for what he didn’t allow to happen.

Mooradian scored first before Calderon hung on and spun out of a late potential takedown to win 3-2.

“I wasn’t too worried because he had everything to lose and I had everything to gain. That kinda helped take all the pressure off,” Calderon said. “I just thought, he was just another kid my age. I can be just as strong. I can be just as fast. I can be just as good.”

Calderon finished this season 56-2. Mooradian ended 44-3.

  • Division 2: Lowell senior Andrew Morse won his second MHSAA championship and closed out a 34-0 season with a 4-2 win over St. Johns senior Travis Curley.
  • Division 3: Lakeview senior Jordan Betham improved to 56-2 this season with a 14-6 win over Dundee junior Todd Olson.
  • Division 4: Hudson senior Joel Varney finished his high school career with his second straight MHSAA title thanks to a pin in 2:20 of Sand Creek junior Nick Garza. Varney finished 47-2.


The only disappointment on Hudson senior Devan Marry’s MHSAA championship resume came last season, when he lost in the 160-pound Final after previously winning titles at 152 and 135.

On Saturday, he made sure to pick that one up too.

Marry also has been a big part of four MHSAA team championships. So make that seven total for the future Eastern Michigan wrestler, who claimed his last with a 10-4 decision over Sand Creek senior Sam Mehan – who beat Marry 7-5 in last season’s 160 Final.

“It’s that much more special to go out on a last hurrah,” Marry said. “I’m just happy to have such good classmates and all the classes below me coming together. Not only did it show last weekend, but it showed here how hard we work and how it finally pays off at the end.”

Marry finished 47-2. Mehan finished 52-2.

  • Division 1: Davison sophomore Jordan Cooks defeated Grand Blanc senior Christian O’Guinn to finish the winter 34-2.
  • Division 2: St. Johns senior Jordan Wohlfert closed his career with a second straight MHSAA title, this time thanks to a 16-5 win over Allegan senior Andrew Kelley. Wohlfert finished 47-1.
  • Division 3: Napoleon senior Lelund Weatherspoon capped his senior season with his second straight MHSAA title, defeating Grant senior Ryan Connell to improve to 49-1. Weatherspoon won 152 in Division 4 last season.


Click for a separate piece on St. Johns’ Taylor Massa and his perfect high school career.

  • Division 1: Detroit Catholic Central sophomore Drew Garcia outlasted Utica Eisenhower junior Charlie Myers in a 5-2 decision that pushed Garcia’s final record to 43-3.
  • Division 3: Comstock Park senior Dillon Francisco improved to 52-1 in handing a major decision to Houghton Lake junior Dalton Bailey, 11-0.
  • Division 4: St. Ignace junior Galloway Thurston won an 8-2 decision over Shelby senior Mason Courtright to finish this season 52-2.

PHOTO of Greenville's Jordan Thomas. See more photos from the Finals and all season at High School Sports Scene.

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.)