Hudson wrestling – Senior
Hamdan became the 26th wrestler to win four MHSAA Individual Finals championships when he pinned New Lothrop’s Logan Zell in 55 seconds Saturday in the Division 4 title match at 135 pounds, earning the Michigan Army National Guard “Performance of the Week.” Hamdan walked off the mat at Ford Field with a record of 48-0 this season and 208-8 for his career, and with titles as well at 112, 119 and 130 pounds.
Hamdan entered this season as one of three three-time champs in Hudson history. He had two pins and two technical falls during his final high school tournament, earning his fourth championship not long after Detroit Catholic Central’s Kevon Davenport became the 25th four-time champ earlier Saturday. Like Davenport, Hamdan also helped his team reach the highest echelon this winter as Hudson repeated as the Division 4 team champion two weeks ago.
A pair of widely-respected mentors helped Hamdan reach this point; Hudson coach Scott Marry is the second-winningest coach in MHSAA wrestling history with 792 wins over 30 seasons, and Hamdan’s club coach Nick Simmons became the ninth four-time MHSAA champion while wrestling for Williamston from 1998-2001. Hamdan – who also played football through his junior season – will continue his wrestling career at Michigan State University. He carries a 3.5 GPA and is continuing to consider what he will major in at MSU.
Coach Scott Marry said: “That kid has done a lot for the sport and a lot for Hudson wrestling. He is almost the perfect child; he doesn't talk back to Mom and Dad, doesn't talk back to his teachers and doesn't talk back to the coaches. You say do it, and he does it. He is a really good person beyond wrestling. … He now leaves Hudson and stands alone because now all the youth wrestlers will look at him and want to be him, and he is a really good example. He is a 3.5 student in the classroom, he has won national championships, has won four state titles and now will be going on to wrestle at a Division I school at Michigan State. That is the poster child that you want for your program.”
Performance Point: “I think it just shows the workouts I’ve been through and the work that I’ve put in has paid off,” Hamdan said of his four-championship legacy. “I think that’s the big thing. The more work I put in, the more of these achievements that I’ll be able to achieve. I can’t wrap my mind around it yet. It’s an honor. All these kids and everybody grows up looking up to these guys. Now to be one of those, it’s wild.”
Nick knows: “I train with him every summer. We work a lot on catching up things that we already know. He’s been on that level, even above college. The toughness, that comes with (training with him) a lot. It’s just tweaking all of these things, finding new ways to do certain moves that I already know that really will help me in a match when I’m not even thinking about it. … He came up and hugged me after the (championship) match and congratulated me. I think the coolest thing, when I was coming off the mat, he told me ‘Welcome to the club.’ I thought that was pretty sweet.”
For Hudson: “Growing up, I started in that program when I was 3. It’s just amazing because I’ve seen all these greats come through and just fall short. All sorts of three-timers, and everybody’s fallen short of the goal. Just to be the guy … when I won it, the guys I looked up to, some of them texted me, ‘Way to break the curse,’ because we considered it a curse because there were all these three-timers. It’s good that I can do it not just for me, but for the program.”
Winning attitude: “In the (wrestling) room and even out of the room, we talk to each other and always stay positive about things that are going on around us. And (we’re) always keeping a good mindset about things, even when they aren’t going your way. I think (Coach Marry) helped me with that a lot, and it helps me in a match because when something’s not going my way I can focus on the next position, try to win the next position, keep a cool, calm and collected head, and that helps a lot. With the mindset, that brought me to the next level. It just helped me so much. Even when I’m in a bad position, I feel like I’m in a good position now because I’m confident in there, I’m positive in there. Because even if I don’t win that position, I’ve still got another one and I know that, and it helps me a lot.”
Team title means more: “With all the kids you train with, and everybody has the same goal. You’re fighting it for each other and not just yourself. I think that’s important to me. … I want to be an NCAA (individual) champ, obviously. But the main thing I want to do (at MSU), I want to help with the team aspect. I want to get our team to be as close as we can. Because from what I’ve experienced at Hudson, the closer you are as a team, the better you perform. That’s Hudson – that’s how it is here. Everybody is trying to support each other and trying to get better as a unit, rather than as an individual. At Hudson, you’re just growing up with that mentality; you’re doing it for someone else, not just yourself. That’s a big part of this community.”
- Geoff Kimmerly & Jeff Chaney, Second Half
Every week during the 2018-19 school year, Second Half and the Michigan Army National Guard recognizes 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.
Past 2018-19 honorees
February 28: Kevon Davenport, Detroit Catholic Central wrestling - Read
February 21: Reagan Olli, Gaylord skiing - Read
February 14: Jake Stevenson, Traverse City Bay Reps hockey - Read
February 7: Molly Davis, Midland Dow basketball - Read
January 31: Chris DeRocher, Alpena basketball - Read
January 24: Imari Blond, Flint Kearsley bowling - Read
January 17: William Dunn, Quincy basketball - Read
November 29: Dequan Finn, Detroit Martin Luther King football - Read
November 22: Paige Briggs, Lake Orion volleyball - Read
November 15: Hunter Nowak, Morrice football - Read
November 8: Jon Dougherty, Detroit Country Day soccer - Read
November 1: Jordan Stump, Camden-Frontier volleyball - Read
October 25: Danielle Staskowski, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep golf - Read
October 18: Adam Bruce, Gladstone cross country - Read
October 11: Ericka VanderLende, Rockford cross country - Read
October 4: Kobe Clark, Schoolcraft football - Read
September 27: Jonathan Kliewer, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern soccer - Read
September 20: Kiera Lasky, Bronson volleyball - Read
September 13: Judy Rector, Hanover-Horton cross country - Read
PHOTOS: (Top) Hudson's Jordan Hamdan has his armed raised in victory Saturday afternoon at Ford Field. (Middle) Hamdan works toward a pin in the Division 4 135-pound championship match. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
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
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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.)