Lowell Rides Fast Start to D2 Repeat

February 28, 2015

By Butch Harmon
Special for Second Half

BATTLE CREEK – The Lowell wrestling team couldn’t have drawn up a better start to its match against Eaton Rapids in the Division 2 Final at Kellogg Arena on Saturday.

Just 14 seconds in, junior Lucas Hall whipped the Lowell fans into a frenzy when he delivered a pin, giving the Red Arrows a lightning-quick 6-0 lead. The fall ignited a 15-0 run by Lowell and paved the way to a 40-16 victory and a second consecutive title.

“I was just thinking I had to go out there and do everything in my power to get six,” Hall said. “I wanted to give us an early lead. I just didn’t think it would happen that fast.”

The quick pin was the perfect way for first-year Lowell coach R.J. Boudro to begin his head coaching experience in the Finals. Boudro formerly served as an assistant to previous coach Dave Dean, who stepped down after last season’s championship win.

“Lucas going out and getting six right off the bat was huge,” Boudro said. “It just so happened that the starting weight (119) was at Lucas’ weight class. That pin just lifted the whole team.”

Hall’s pin was one of two by Lowell in the first three matches of the dual. After a decision by Aaron Ward at 125 pounds, Lowell junior Zeth Dean added another quick pin in 1:39 giving the Red Arrows a 15-0 lead.

Bonus points were crucial for Lowell throughout the dual as the Red Arrows recorded four falls and one major decision in the nine matches they won.

Not only did Lowell pick up extra bonus points, but its wrestlers also kept Eaton Rapids from scoring bonus points of their own. Of the five Eaton Rapids wins, all but one came on a decision, and the fifth was a major decision.

“We were hoping to get more bonus points,” Eaton Rapids coach Joe Ray Barry said. “We just didn’t get them. We didn’t get the bonus points that we were looking for and they got the bonus points where they were looking for them.”

It was the performances of some young, un-sung Red Arrows that prevented Eaton Rapids from piling up those needed bonus points. One of those young grinders for Lowell was freshman Garret Pratt.

Wrestling at 135 pounds against Eaton Rapids senior Jaedin Sklapsky, an expected contender at next weekend’s Individual Finals, Pratt was able to stay off his back and surrender just a four-point major decision.

“Garret was going up against arguably one of the best 135-pounders in the state,” Boudro said. “You heard the cheers from our fans after that match. We have some of the smartest wrestling fans around, and they knew how big that was.”

Lowell upped its lead to 21-4 when Jordan Hall delivered a pin in 2:48.

Eaton Rapids reeled off three straight wins in the next three matches. All three were by decision with Lane McVicker winning at 145, Blaine Milheim at 152 and Caleb Norris at 160 pounds.

Lowell picked up a second win by a freshman at 171. George Gonzales, who came into the match with a sub-.500 record, showed just how deep the Red Arrows are as he won 5-2.

“George has stepped up all year for us,” Boudro said. “He actually weighs 160, but he has wrestled 171 and 189 for us this year. He is another one of those kids who just goes out there and wrestles hard.”

Lowell closed out the dual on a roll as it won the final four matches. Senior Josh Colegrove kept his record perfect for the season as he won by fall at 215 pounds. Senior heavyweight Logan Wilcox won by decision while sophomore Sam Russell won by a major decision at 103 pounds and junior Kyle Washburn closed out the win with a decision at 112.

The MHSAA title was the fifth for Lowell since 2002. The Red Arrows finished the season with a 29-2 record that was forged against some of the best wrestling programs in the Midwest.

“I firmly believe we have one of the hardest schedules in the state,” Boudro said. “One of our losses was to Chicago Oak Forest, who is one of the best teams in Illinois. Our other loss was to Hartland and they are in the Division 1 state finals. We also wrestled Brighton and Richmond and Hudson. We wrestled five of the eight teams in the state finals this year, and that’s the same for many of those schools also.”

The bad news for the rest of the Division 2 is that the Red Arrows may be even better next year.

“Next year we will have one of our better teams returning,” Boudro said. “We only lose four seniors out of our starting lineup and we had a lot of freshmen step up for us this year.”

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PHOTO: Lowell and Eaton Rapids competitors wrestle for the Division 2 championship Saturday at Kellogg Arena. (Click to see more at HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)

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.”

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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.)