Lowell's Boone Adds To Successful Run

March 3, 2018

By Jeff Chaney
Special for Second Half

DETROIT – Austin Boone doesn't know too much about losing during the winter sports season.

Wrestling for Lowell, it's easy to understand why.

A week after being part of the Red Arrows’ fifth straight Division 2 team championship, Boone, a sophomore, won his second straight individual championship with a 6-4 win over Killion Southworth of DeWitt in their 145-pound title match Saturday at the MHSAA Individual Finals at Ford Field.

"Our goal coming in here was to do the best we can and get as many names on the wall," Boone said. "For me, this is part of the plan. Two more to go."

The Red Arrows put 11 more names on the wall in their practice room, as 11 Lowell wrestlers came home with all-state medals, led by Boone, the lone champion.

"That breaks our record of nine, and I think it ties a Division 2 record," said Boone, who ended his season with a 44-1 record. Southworth was 53-4.


Champion: Riley Bettich, Stevensville Lakeshore, Soph. (43-2)
Technical Fall, 15-0, over Nick Korhorn, Lowell, Soph. (33-10)

Sometimes heartbreak can be the best motivator.

That's what happened to Bettich, who suffered a gut-wrenching one-point loss in overtime to Gaylord's Chayse LaJoie in the 103-pound Final last year.

This year there would be no overtime, as he won by technical fall.

"I have worked so hard for this," Bettich said. "Last year I fell short in the Finals, so it feels great this year to win it.

"(Korhorn) is a very good scrambler, and I had to make sure my legs didn't get caught up in his."


Champion: Chayse LaJoie, Gaylord, Soph. (49-4)
Decision, 4-1, over Vincent Perez, Tecumseh, Jr. (53-1)

Last week at the MHSAA Team Finals, LaJoie helped his to the title match, where it lost to Lowell.

LaJoie got a little redemption Saturday at Ford Field when he won his second straight individual title.

"This feels really rewarding for all the work I put in during the offseason and on-season," LaJoie said. "And to come back and with this week after last week, I hope it helps with some of the morale on our team, because we all work hard."


Champion: Austin Franco, Niles, Sr. (44-0)
Decision, 10-8, over Caleb Teague, Goodrich, Jr. (42-5)

Wrestling takes a lot of work. And most of that work is geared to win a high school state title.

Franco has been working toward that goal since his youth wrestling days.

After a successful youth career, he placed at the Finals all four years of high school – with two MHSAA runner-up finishes heading into this weekend. 

That made finally achieving his goal that much more meaningful. 

"This is pretty much all I have ever worked for," Franco said. "Coming up short twice, and finally getting it done my senior year, that is the biggest accomplishment of my life."


Champion: Derek Giallombardo, Gaylord, Sr. (55-3)
Decision, 10-8, over, Brendan Zelenka, St. Johns, Sr. (28-8)

The big stage didn't bother Giallombardo. He's been here before. 

The four-time Finals qualifier, and two-time placer taking fourth the past two seasons, Giallombardo finally made his way to the top of the podium with a close decision over Zelenka. 

"I have been working for this since my freshman year," Giallombardo said. "Freshman year I only qualified, and my sophomore and junior years I took fourth, so this year coming into this, I knew this was my last chance. I knew I had to make it happen, and I did that."


Champion: Branson Proudlock, Gibraltar Carlson, Sr. (46-1)
Decision, 8-2, over Matt Tomsett, Madison Heights Lamphere, Jr. (49-4)

Proudlock wasn't about to rest on his laurels. And he sure wasn't going to run away from the pressure of being a returning champion. 

He knew that everyone who wrestled him this year would be gunning for him. That was his motivation.

"I knew the pressure was definitely on me this year," Proudlock said. "But that gave me more motivation, to do it a second time. 

"My gameplan this year was to get up early and try and score on top. I knew he was pretty tough, so I just tried to score as many points as possible."


Champion: Corbyn Munson, Chelsea, Sr. (54-0)
Decision, 11-6, over Avry Mutschler, Lowell, Jr. (40-6)

Most wrestlers who are successful at the state tournament will tell you that what makes them successful is to wrestle their match at their pace and not let their opponent dictate tempo.

That's exactly what Munson did all weekend, and especially in the Final.

"I wanted to get to my stuff and do the things that I like to do," Munson said. "Try not to get into positions he likes. But if I did, just try and out-work him. I pretty much did that."


Champion: James Whitaker, St. Johns, Jr. (39-1)
Decision, 6-4, over Caleb Fish, Eaton Rapids, Soph. (48-3)

Wrestling with a bum knee, Whitaker knew the importance of a good start.

And that's exactly what he made happen in winning the 140-pound title.

"I had a really good first period," Whitaker said. "I got that takedown, and then I rode him hard and put him on his back. That really opened it up for me."

And that was a good thing as his cranky knee acted up again during the match, but his lead was enough to carry him through the final whistle.


Champion: Alec Rees, Sparta, Jr. (48-0)
Fall, 3:52, over Doug Ferrier, Marysville, Sr. (54-2)

It didn't matter to Rees that the MHSAA Finals moved from The Palace of Auburn Hills to Ford Field this year. 

To him it's just wrestling on a mat.

What was more important to him is that he wasn't going to lose in overtime like he did last year, no matter where the venue. 

"I did have some butterflies," Rees admitted. "It was a new place this year, but the same feeling as last year. I just wanted it more this year. I lost in the Finals last year, and now this (title) is mine forever."


Champion: Austin O'Hearon, Eaton Rapids, Sr. (47-1)
Decision, 3-1, over Dustin Gross, Dearborn Heights Annapolis, Sr. (58-1)

Some wrestlers never waiver from their preparations and rituals – no matter if they are at the Finals at Ford Field. 

So after O'Hearon won his second title with a 3-1 win over Gross, he took off sprinting on the Ford Field turf. 

"That is a ritual I do after every match, no matter where I am," O'Hearon said. "I just can't stop putting in the hard work."

And hard work is what it took to give Gross his first loss of the season.

"I went in to try and wear him out and beat him in the end," O'Hearon said. "Now this feels great."


Champion: Ryan Ringler, Cedar Springs, Jr. (53-1)
Decision, 9-4, over Cade Dallwitz, Holly, Jr. (54-4)

Wrestling can be a serious sport. The work, the blood and the pain can become stressful. 

But Ringler loves the sport too much to stress out about it. And he wrestled that way this past weekend.

"There is nothing like it," Ringler said. "I was out there having fun. I love wrestling. This is what I have done my whole life. I just love doing it, and I love competing."


Champion: Drake Pauwels, New Boston Huron, Sr. (50-0)
Major Decision, 10-0, over Dave Kruse, Lowell, Sr. (39-4)

Sometimes you have to admit to yourself that you are not living up to your own expectations.

That's what Pauwels did this year, and it helped him become an MHSAA champion.

"My mindset had not been the best the last couple of years," Pauwels said. "This year something just clicked for me. I think wrestling is 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical, and I think you need to train your mind just as much as your body."

That philosophy worked, as Pauwels ended his senior year 50-0.


Champion: Hunter Krueger, Adrian, Sr. (45-1)
Decision, 2-1 OT, over Joel Radvansky, Warren Woods Tower, Jr. (43-5)

Krueger admitted he has been training for this moment ever since he was able to walk. 

So when the time came to finally achieve his longtime goal, he had a detailed plan coming in and worked it to perfection.

"I wanted a lot more offense, but knew I needed to keep my elbows in and have good shot defense," Krueger said. "I wanted to ride tough on top, which I did. I just wanted to beat him in every aspect of the match, and I think I did that."


Champion: Riley Smith, Mason, Sr., (48-1)
Fall, 4:35, over Tyler Hill, Stevensville Lakeshore, Sr. (38-3)

An emotional heavyweight, Smith stood in tears after winning his first title with a pin.

"I feel really relieved for this," Smith said. "It's been two years of me chasing this, and now that I am here, I can't believe it. I did it."

Click for full results.

PHOTO: Lowell’s Austin Boone has his arm raised after winning his second Division 2 title Saturday. (Click for more from 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.)