New Lothrop Ends Championship Wait

February 22, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

BATTLE CREEK – Taylor Krupp wasn’t worried as he watched New Lothrop teammates fall by two, three and five-point decisions during Saturday’s MHSAA Division 4 Team Wrestling Final at Kellogg Arena.

He was just waiting for his turn to shine.  

Similarly, his team had been waiting for Saturday's opportunity. The Hornets watched Hudson build on an MHSAA-record five-season championship streak over the last three years, but never got to take on the Tigers in a Final, having fallen in three straight Semifinals that all came down to their final matches. 

Finally Saturday, the Hornets and Krupp advanced to a championship face-off with the Tigers. And Krupp’s pin at 160 pounds keyed a comeback 33-22 win that gave New Lothrop is first MHSAA title since 2004.

“We always wanted to wrestle Hudson. The last five years they’ve been on top of the mountain, and it’s always been a goal,” Krupp said. “We wrestled Hesperia, wrestled Carson City … but we always wanted to wrestle Hudson. We finally got to wrestle, and we’re glad with how it turned out.” 

Hudson last season tied Davison’s record of five straight MHSAA team titles won from 2002-06 and entered Saturday afternoon with a third straight senior class that had never finished lower than first in Finals competition.

New Lothrop, meanwhile, carried a banner during Saturday’s pre-Finals “Grand March” that displayed the years of all 12 Hornets team titles – 11 on the left side and only 2004 on the right, looking almost like it was added there in anticipation of more soon to come.  

That date finally will have company.

Hudson built a 22-10 lead with only five matches left, but it was not enough to carry the Tigers through the Hornets' strongest weights. Senior Josh Wendling at 152 pounds started a run of five straight New Lothrop wins to finish the match.

New Lothrop’s closing run was not without some well-calculated strategy on the part of coach Jeff Campbell. He could’ve left undefeated Krupp wrestling at 171 like he had in the Semifinal and will next weekend at the Individual Finals, and gotten some sure wins – but didn’t feel that lineup would add up to enough points to overtake the Tigers.

Instead, he wrestled Krupp at 160, followed with sophomore Caleb Symons at 171 and then continued with 189-pounder Cody Symons. Krupp got the pin, Caleb Symons – with only about 25 matches to his credit this season – got a major decision to put the Hornets ahead, and Cody Symons followed with another pin to guarantee the championship.

“The job Caleb Symons has been doing in practice, we decided this was the way we wanted to go a couple weeks ago. He’s really earned the chance to go and gave us the confidence to do that,” Campbell said. “He’s kinda been our secret weapon.”

Total, New Lothrop won at eight weights. Freshman Connor Krupp (103), junior Dalton Birchmeier (125), sophomore Steven Garza II (135) and senior Owen Wilson (215) also added points into the Hornets’ team total.

But some losses also were wins. New Lothrop freshman Erik Birchmeier did fall to reigning MHSAA Individual Finals champion JD Waters by major decision – but avoided a pin. Senior Aaron Bauman fell to Hudson two-time individual champion Cole Weaver, but only 4-1. Sophomore Cole Hersch fell to 2013 individual runner-up Isaac Dusseau, but only 3-1.

“Hudson obviously is a great team, but if you wrestle your game, anything can happen. And that was a perfect example,” Krupp said. “Me, Cody, (we) didn’t win us the match. What won us the match were the guys who stayed off their backs and didn’t give up bonus points.”

Nine of the Division 4 Final’s matches pitted Individual Finals qualifiers. Three matches remained scoreless after the first round.

Seniors Weaver, Waters and Dusseau all wrestled in their fourth team championship matches for Hudson, all also part of the lineup during their freshman season of 2011. 

“I’m always proud of them, win, lose or draw. These boys have tasted victory; now they’ve tasted defeat,” Hudson coach Scott Marry said. “That builds character for later on. They’re going to have to pick themselves up and they’re going to have to act like classy young men now.

“You can’t always win. Now it’s the other side of the fence. It’s OK.”

Hudson, top-ranked entering the postseason and top seeded going into this weekend, finished 35-5 and will have 14 participants at next weekend’s Individual Finals at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

New Lothrop, ranked No. 2 and the second seed, finished 31-1 with its only loss by five to Lowell – which beat St. Johns to win Division 2 on Saturday.

The Hornets have 13 Individual Finals qualifiers and have made the MHSAA Team Quarterfinals all 13 seasons under Campbell.

“Jeff Campbell is the classiest guy I’ve ever met,” Marry said. “If there’s anybody in the state who I would want to have the state title if it wasn’t my kids, I’d want it to be Jeff Campbell. I’m so happy for him and his program.”

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PHOTOS: (Top) Taylor Krupp has his hand raised in victory after a pin in his 160-pound match during Saturday’s Division 4 Final. (Middle) Hudson coach Scott Marry (left) and New Lothrop coach Jeff Campbell shake hands after the Hornets' victory. (Click to see more at

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.)