Carson City-Crystal senior - Wrestling
The reigning Division 4 champion at 130 pounds is closing in on the Carson City-Crystal all-time wins record while closing out his high school career. Over the last two weeks, Ward has eclipsed 200 career victories and this past Saturday won his fourth conference title, this one at 135 pounds, to earn the MHSAA “Performance of the Week.”
Ward is bringing a 40-0 record this winter and 208-9 career mark into Saturday’s Individual District at Bloomingdale. He finished Division 4 runner-up at 103 pounds as a freshman and placed fourth at 119 as a sophomore before climbing to the top of the podium a year ago. He’s only two wins off the school career record set by two-time Division 4 Finals champion Dallas O’Green, who serves currently as Carson City-Crystal's co-head coach. So too does Jamison’s father Trent, who formerly led the Eagles program and won a Class C Finals championship at 119 pounds in 1994.
Jamison Ward also helped Carson City-Crystal to the Division 4 Team Quarterfinals his first two seasons and the Semifinals a year ago. He had two pins Thursday as the Eagles won their Team District in pursuit of another trip to Wings Stadium. Ward ran cross country his first three years of high school, making the MHSAA Finals his first two seasons, before switching to football this past fall and earning all-league while leading the Eagles in rushing. He is still finalizing his college plans but would like to study criminal justice and earth science in preparation for becoming a Department of Natural Resources officer.
Co-head coach Kacy Datema said: “Jamison has been a huge point scorer for our team for all four years of his career, and we have come to heavily depend on him in team competition. He has grown into a great leader for our team. He leads by example and works with every kid in the room to get the most out of them. He is approaching our school’s career wins record and may have it by the end of this weekend. His father is our assistant coach, CCC alumni and a former state champion as well. It is awesome to be able to watch them share these special moments together. Our program is blessed to have had such a quality kid come through.”
Performance Point: “I'm just trying to soak it in more,” Ward said of his final weeks of high school wrestling. “It's my last year wrestling here at Carson, and high school total. (I'm trying to) take it slow. Take it as it comes. (Thursday) night, the District, winning it for the eighth time, going into Regionals and I think we have a good shot of winning in Regionals. (The 200 wins) was definitely something I was looking for my whole high school career. Something I was gunning for is the school record, and that's just part of getting there. ... I wanted to go down as one of the best in Michigan. Four-time (champion) was on my mind coming into high school, but that was big-headed. I didn't quite get there, but I think I'm now becoming one of the greats in Michigan.
Full circle: “Growing up, with my dad being the coach, I would always be wrestling with everybody, and he would always teach me things. And there were things I'd pick up here and there from the good wrestlers. It was nice growing up and actually becoming one of those people that maybe someone looks up to.”
Thanks Dad: “I think it's really helped me throughout my years, having him as coach telling me what to do, and a dad. Watching my weight is what he's doing now, but back then he would help me and critique me at home. We've recorded every wrestling match that I've had, and we look back on it and try to improve. ... He always rode legs (when he wrestled), and I ride legs too. But definitely skill-wise, I'm a lot more skilled than my dad is. He (knows). He calls himself the farm boy, and I'm the wrestler.”
Gridiron great: “My freshman year I really wanted to (play football). I broke my ankle eighth grade year. My dad, he was like, ‘I would stick with cross country and get in shape for wrestling.’ I really wanted to do football, but listened to dad: If I wanted be a state champion, I had to do cross country. And then my senior year, I won it my junior year wrestling, and my dad said, ‘You know what, you can play football if you want to this year. You’ve already got a state championship. If you get hurt, you’ll still have time to recover and still be good.’ … I thought it was awesome. I always wanted to play under the lights.”
Destination Kalamazoo: “I was born into the sport, but I started when I was 4. … I understood where we were going (as a program). I knew once I got into high school we were going to make it far – I was hoping (Finals) four years in a row. We'll see this year if we make it there.”
– Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor
Feb. 6: Elena Vargo, Farmington United gymnastics - Report
Jan. 31: Michael Wolsek, Trenton swimming - Report
Jan. 24: Kensington Holland, Utica Ford bowling - Report
Jan. 17: Claycee West, White Pigeon basketball - Report
Jan. 10: Seth Lause, Livonia Stevenson hockey - Report
Dec. 5: Mareyohn Hrabowski, River Rouge football - Report
Nov. 28: Kathryn Ackerman, Grand Haven swimming - Report
Nov. 21: Emily Van Dyke, Southfield Christian volleyball - Report
Nov. 14: Taylor Wegener, Ida volleyball - Report
Nov. 7: Carter Solomon, Plymouth cross country - Report
Oct. 31: Jameson Goorman, Muskegon Western Michigan Christian soccer - Report
Oct. 24: Austin Plotkin, Brimley cross country - Report
Oct. 17: Jack Spamer, Brighton cross country - Report
Oct. 10: Kaylee Maat, Hudsonville volleyball - Report
Oct. 3: Emily Paupore, Negaunee cross country - Report
Sept. 26: Josh Mason, South Lyon soccer - Report
Sept. 19: Ariel Chang, Utica Eisenhower golf - Report
Sept. 12: Jordyn Shipps, DeWitt swimming - Report
PHOTOS: (Top) Carson City-Crystal's Jamison Ward wrestles at Olivet earlier this season. (Middle) Ward celebrates his 200th win with, from left, Eagles assistant coach Jake Patterson, assistant and dad Trent Ward, co-head coach Dallas O'Green and co-head coach Kacy Datema. (Top photo by Alex Freeman/Greenville Daily News; middle courtesy of the Carson City-Crystal athletic department.)
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.)