Detroit Catholic Central senior – Wrestling
The reigning Division 1 champion at heavyweight, Jenkins has again made a heavy impact on the top-ranked Shamrocks’ near-perfect run this season. On Jan. 19, Detroit Catholic Central avenged back-to-back MHSAA Tournament losses to Davison with a 32-22 dual win, and Jenkins clinched the victory over the No. 2-ranked Cardinals with a 3-1 overtime victory against sophomore standout Aaron Gilmore to earn the Michigan Army National Guard “Performance of the Week.”
A relative newcomer to the sport entering high school, Jenkins has grown into one of the state’s best and moved to 28-1 this winter in the Shamrocks’ win over No. 5 Oxford on Wednesday. He’s top-ranked at his weight by MichiganGrappler.com, coming off last season’s Division 1 Individual Final when he edged Dearborn Heights Crestwood’s Ali Wahab 5-1 while handing Wahab (also the 2015 runner-up) his only loss of last season. Jenkins went on to finish sixth at the Flo Nationals in Pennsylvania last March to earn All-America recognition. His career record is 140-35, and DCC as a team is 21-1 this winter with its only loss to Ohio power Lakewood St. Edward.
Jenkins also started at center this fall for DCC’s football team that advanced to the Division 1 championship game and finished 13-1 with its only loss to Detroit Cass Tech in the Final. He earned all-Detroit Catholic League Central honors in that sport, but will stick to the mat at Central Michigan University. He carries a 3.2 grade-point average and is interested in studying either athletic training or criminal justice.
Coach Mitch Hancock said: “Nick is an exceptional young man who has a work ethic that is very rare in young kids today. He's respected greatly amongst his peers and faculty members here at CC due to his humility, character, and friendliness. Nick is a blue-collared, hardworking individual who prides himself on representing his family, school, and team with pride. He's a great leader and a fantastic individual who has led this team to great success."
Performance Point: “As a team we knew it was a big match for seeding purposes at team states, and we want to get the one seed,” Jenkins said of the Davison match. “We thought we worked for it and we deserve it. Individually, I thought I’d perform better against (Gilmore), and I knew I had to get that win. I didn’t expect him to come out like he did; he surprised me a little bit. But I just kept my focus, tried to get my offense going a little more. I was passive the first two periods, but as the match progressed I started getting more aggressive, getting my leg attacks.”
Always in the title hunt: “We always expect to be great. We know how hard we work, how hard our coaches and staff work, and we expect to be in that position come February and March. We’re a little more unified this year. Losing two years in a row to Davison, that left a bad taste in guys’ mouths. We worked harder in the offseason, for sure.”
Starting from scratch: “I had about a month of wrestling in eighth grade. (But) I really wanted it, and my coaches don’t really let me take reps off. It’s either give everything you have, or don’t do it. Honestly, I’d heard (DCC wrestlers) win a lot, and I love to win, love to compete, and that was a big part of it for me. Around the middle of my sophomore year I saw guys like Myles (Amine), Trevor (Zdebski), how they kept advancing through the season and getting better although they were returning state champs. Everything clicked then. (They taught me) never stop getting better. You’ve got to keep going and going. Wrestling is a hard sport. You’re going to have ups and downs, but if you listen to what your coaches say and do the right things, you’ll have greatness in it.”
Learning to win: “(Success) is just kinda expected at CC. They don’t settle for anything less than giving your best, and if you give your best all the time you’re going to find success on and off the field. My brother (Jordan) went here before me, so I’d experienced that before and I had a solid mentality coming into CC. … (Hancock and football coach Tom Mach) really aren’t too much different. Both teams work hard; the coaches demand success of you. They preach the same messages: consistency, hard work and work ethic.”
Charting the future: “(I’m interested in) athletic training, to get to work in sports and be able to help people out. It’s always been something I liked. Criminal justice is just something I’ve liked since I was a kid … FBI, CIA, that kind of special agent stuff always intrigued me.”
- Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor
Every week during the 2016-17 school year, Second Half and the Michigan National Guard will recognize a “Performance of the Week" from among the MHSAA's 750 member high schools.
The Michigan Army National Guard provides trained and ready forces in support of the National Military Strategy, and responds as needed to state, local, and regional emergencies to ensure peace, order, and public safety. The Guard adds value to our communities through continuous interaction. National Guard soldiers are part of the local community. Guardsmen typically train one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer. This training maintains readiness when needed, be it either to defend our nation's freedom or protect lives and property of Michigan citizens during a local natural disaster.
Previous 2016-17 honorees:
Jan. 19: Eileene Naniseni, Mancelona basketball – Read
Jan. 12: Rory Anderson, Calumet hockey – Read
Dec. 15: Demetri Martin, Big Rapids basketball – Read
Dec. 1: Rodney Hall, Detroit Cass Tech football – Read
Nov. 24: Ally Cummings, Novi volleyball – Read
Nov. 17: Chloe Idoni, Fenton volleyball – Read
Nov. 10: Adelyn Ackley, Hart cross country – Read
Nov. 3: Casey Kirkbride, Mattawan soccer – Read
Oct. 27: Colton Yesney, Negaunee cross country – Read
Oct. 20: Varun Shanker, Midland Dow tennis – Read
Oct. 13: Anne Forsyth, Ann Arbor Pioneer cross country – Read
Oct. 6: Shuaib Aljabaly, Coldwater cross country – Read
Sept. 29: Taylor Seaman, Brighton swimming & diving – Read
Sept. 22: Maggie Farrell, Battle Creek Lakeview cross country – Read
Sept. 15: Franki Strefling, Buchanan volleyball – Read
Sept. 8: Noah Jacobs, Corunna cross country – Read
PHOTOS: (Top) DCC's Nick Jenkins wrestles Crestwood's Ali Wahab during last season's Division 1 Final at heavyweight. (Middle) Jenkins salutes the crowd after claiming his first MHSAA individual championship. (Photos courtesy of Detroit Catholic Central high school.)
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.)