Preview: Clinton, Hudson, New Lothrop Lead Way Again in D4

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

March 29, 2021

From 2014-18, Hudson and New Lothrop faced each other in five consecutive Division 4 Team Finals. Then Clinton broke into the mix in 2019, and broke through for its first championship in 2020.

Those three teams are the top three seeds again Tuesday at Wings Event Center – but five others hope to become the next to join the elite of the elite among the smallest wrestling schools.

Division 4 Quarterfinals – matchups below – begin at 10 a.m. at Wings’ Arena, with Semifinals at 3 p.m. and the championship match at 6.

Division 4 - 10 am - The Arena
#1 Clinton vs. #8 Ravenna - Mat 4
#4 Whittemore-Prescott vs. #5 Leslie - Mat 2
#3 New Lothrop vs. #6 Bark River-Harris - Mat 3
#2 Hudson vs. #7 Schoolcraft - Mat 1

Spectator limits remain in effect, but all matches will be broadcast live and viewable with subscription on Below is a look at all eight teams competing in Division 4, listed by seed.

Record/rank: 19-1, No. 1
League finish: Second in Lenawee County Athletic Association
Co-Coaches: Jeff Rolland, eighth season (214-49); Casey Randolph, second season (83-11)
Championship history: Division 4 champion 2020, runner-up 2019.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Connor Younts (21-2) fr., 112 Connor Busz (20-4) soph., 112 Coy Perry (24-1) fr., 119 Zak Shadley (22-4) soph., 125 Nik Shadley (24-1), fr. 130 Ethan Younts (20-4) soph., 135 Landis Gillman (22-4) sr., 140 George Ames (24-0) jr., 145 Kent McCombs (23-2) jr., 152 AJ Baxter (22-2) sr., 160 Spencer Konz (21-3) sr., 171 Brayden Randolph (24-1) sr., 189 Logan Badge (25-1) jr., 285  Ryan Phillips (17-4) sr. 
Outlook: Clinton’s projected starting lineup for Tuesday includes nine wrestlers who were in the lineup that defeated Hudson in last season’s championship match – and still Tuesday’s lineup includes only four seniors. Badge is a two-time Individual Finals champion, including at 189 a year ago, while McCombs (145) and Brayden Randolph (171) both were runners-up individually last season. Also among returning Finals placers are Busz (third at 103), junior Chase Packard (eighth at 112), Ames (third at 135) and Konz (third at 160). The lone team loss this season came to Division 3 top-seeded Dundee, and Clinton defeated Hudson 41-19 at the start of this month.

Record/rank: 20-1, No. 2
League finish: Third in Lenawee County Athletic Association
Coach: Scott Marry, 33rd season (842-193)
Championship history: Eight MHSAA championships (most recent 2019), four runner-up finishes. 
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Cole Marry (20-1) fr., 119 Payton Rogers (21-2) jr., 125 Austin Marry (19-7) fr., 125 Tristan Bolenbaugh (18-2) jr., 130 Bronson Marry (21-0) jr., 130 Jackson Miller (18-2) jr., 140 Aden Barrett (19-3) soph., 140 Tyler Bolenbaugh (22-3) sr., 145 Caden Natale (22-1) sr., 160 Dylan Smith (23-1) sr., 171 Logan Sallows (17-7) soph., 215 Cameron Underwood (25-2) jr.
Outlook: Hudson is expected to continue on its current run of 12 straight championship match appearances after finishing runner-up a year ago – which came after three straight Division 4 titles won from 2017-19. As noted above, the lone loss this winter came to Clinton, last season’s championship match opponent. Bronson Marry (112) and Natale (130) were champions last season after both also finished Individual Finals runners-up in 2019. Smith finished third at 152 last season. The Tigers defeated No. 10 Hanover-Horton and No. 4 Bronson at their Regional.

Record/rank: 19-1, No. 3
League finish: No league title awarded this season.
Coach: Jeff Campbell, 20th season (501-94)
Championship history: 15 MHSAA championships (most recent 2016), six runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Daven Lockwood (22-3) soph., 125 Caleb Sharp (23-2) soph., 130 Parker Noonan (16-8) soph., 140 Andrew Krupp (19-2) sr., 145 Jackson Knieper (19-5) sr., 152 Bryce Cheney (20-0) sr., 160 Harry Helmick (19-7) sr., 171 Brady Gross (15-1) soph., 189 Kody Krupp (22-3) sr., 215 Camden Orr (21-1) sr., 215 Grayson Orr (9-4) soph., 285 Isiah Pasik (21-0) jr.
Outlook: New Lothrop just missed getting back to the championship match last season, falling by six points to Clinton in a Semifinal. The Hornets will look to take that next step again and get back to the Final for the first time since 2018 with eight starters back from the 2020 run. Camden Orr is the returning champion at 215 pounds, while Andrew Krupp (125) and Cheney (152) were individual runners-up at their weights last winter. Pasik (third at 285) and Lockwood (fifth at 103) also are returning Finals placers.  

Record/rank: 25-0, unranked
League finish: First in North Star League
Coach: Russ Wilson, seventh season (119-65)
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2002).
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Adrien Fragoso (16-13) jr., 125 Devan Nader (19-1) sr., 130 Caiden Balliet (20-6) jr., 152 Kyle Fenner (27-2) sr., 160 Dakota Gagnon (26-1) sr., 171 James Morrison (12-11) jr., 189 Russell Wilson (26-0) sr., 215 Jesse Morrison (13-7) jr., 215 William Stothers (8-16) jr.
Outlook: Whittemore-Prescott will be returning to the Quarterfinals for the first time since 2006, thanks in part to a 36-31 Regional win over No. 5 LeRoy Pine River. Gagnon finished fourth last season at 160 pounds and is one of six seniors bolstering the expected starting lineup.

Record/rank: 21-8, unranked
League finish: First in Greater Lansing Athletic Conference
Coach: Tucker Surbrook, fifth season (87-55)
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 130 Lucas Mooney (25-6) sr., 140 Cannon Risner (24-6) sr., 145 Gabe Weber (32-3) sr., 152 Grant Weber (31-4) sr., 215 Ben Smieska (29-4) sr.
Outlook: Leslie won its third District title in Surbrook’s five seasons leading the program and will be returning to the Finals for the first time since 1995. The Blackhawks defeated No. 8 Manchester during their Regional on the way to Kalamazoo. Weber was third in Division 4 last season at 145, Smieska was third at 215, while Nick Carey was fourth at 189 and is 25-2 and slated to wrestle that weight Tuesday.

Record/rank: 25-2, unranked
League finish: Does not compete in a conference.
Coach: Joe Racicot, fourth season (69-37)
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Avry Corrigan (25-5) jr., 119 Daniel Dani (16-11) sr., 125 Josh Riley (16-9) soph., 135 Dillon Raab (30-0) soph., 160 Drew Allgeyer (29-2) soph., 160 Tyler Racicot (26-5) sr., 171 Wyatt Raab (30-0) jr.
Outlook: The Broncos have enjoyed major achievements the last two seasons, first winning the first District title in the program’s 10-year history last winter and now reaching the Quarterfinals for the first time. Allegeyer finished seventh at 145 pounds last season and could be part of more big things to come – Bark River-Harris has only four seniors in its expected lineup for Tuesday.

Record/rank: 22-6, No. 7
League finish: First in Southwestern Athletic Conference
Coach: Rob Ling, 16th season (360-168)
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Carsten Svoboda (21-9) fr., 119 Lane DeLoof (20-8) jr., 135 Gary Cramer (23-2) sr., 189 Tagg Gott (19-3) soph., 215 Jimmy Downs (13-2) sr.
Outlook: Schoolcraft edged Lawton 36-31 in their Regional to get to the Quarterfinals for the second time in three seasons and after being eliminated by Lawton a year ago. Senior Hunter Martens (119, 13-3) finished fifth at 125 pounds last season.

Record/rank: 12-12, unranked
League finish: Third in West Michigan Conference
Coach: Cody Carpenter, second season (19-28)
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Nick Schofield (18-9) sr., 125 Kevin Spoelman (18-6) sr., 135 Austin Brown (13-3) sr., 145 Joshua Kooiman (17-13) sr.
Outlook: Ravenna will be making its first appearance in the Quarterfinals, but Spoelman brings Individual Finals experience after finishing sixth at 119 a year ago. A starting lineup made up of half seniors helped push the Bulldogs to their historic accomplishment.  

PHOTO: Two-time individual champion Logan Badge will try to help Clinton deliver a second-straight Division 2 team championship Tuesday. (Click for more from

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.)