Detroit Catholic Central will encounter a historic opportunity Tuesday at the MHSAA Division 1 Team Wrestling Finals.
But standing in the Shamrocks’ way might be its toughest opponent during this recent four-championship run.
DCC will wrestle for its fifth-straight team title. Davison is the only other Division 1 program to accomplish that feat – and carries the top seed this time after finishing runner-up to the Shamrocks both last season and in 2017.
The Quarterfinal pairings Tuesday at Wings Event Center are as follows:
Division 1 - 10 am - The Valley
#1 Davison - BYE - Mat 1
#4 Holt vs. #5 Rockford - Mat 2
#3 Hartland vs. #6 Clarkston - Mat 3
#2 Detroit Catholic Central vs. #7 Wyandotte Roosevelt - Mat 4
(Macomb Dakota opted out.)
Spectator limits remain in effect, but all matches will be broadcast live and viewable with subscription on MHSAA.tv. Below is a look at all eight teams competing in Division 1, listed by seed.
Record/rank: 17-0, No. 1
League finish: No league title awarded this season.
Coach: Zac Hall, first season (17-0)
Championship history: Eight MHSAA championships (most recent 2006), six runner-up finishes. Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Justin Gates (17-0) fr., 112 Aden Williams (19-2) jr., 119 Caden Horwath (21-0) soph., 125 Cameron Freeman (20-3) jr., 125 Brendan Maybee (17-6) jr., 135 Evan Herriman (18-1) soph., 140 Owen Payne (22-1) jr., 145 Kyle White (17-5) jr., 152 James Johnston (21-1) sr., 160 Josh Barr (20-0) soph., 171 Alex Facundo (20-0) sr., 189 Landon Kish (16-5) sr., 215 Jimmy Colley (14-0) jr., 285 Tyler Jelinek (19-1) sr.
Outlook: This will be Davison’s 10th-straight Quarterfinal, and the Cardinals come in favorites this time in part thanks to a 36-9 win over Detroit Catholic Central earlier this month. Facundo won 171 last season and this weekend will attempt to become the 29th four-time Individual Finals champion in MHSAA history. Horwath and Barr started possible four-time quests with their first titles as freshmen last season at 103 and 152, respectively. Other returning individual placers from last season including Herriman (fourth at 135), Johnston (third at 145), Colley (third at 215) and Jelinek (sixth at 285).
#2 DETROIT CATHOLIC CENTRAL
Record/rank: 19-1, No. 2
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League Central
Coach: Mitch Hancock, 14th season (312-49)
Championship history: Fifteen MHSAA championships (most recent 2020), two runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Drew Heethuis (23-0) soph., 119 Anthony Walker (18-2) jr., 119 Clayton Jones (20-3) soph., 125 Cory Thomas (18-5) fr., 125 Mason Stewart (15-6) fr., 135 Steven Shellenberger (14-3) soph., 135 Dylan Gilcher (19-1) soph., 140 Philip Burney (18-3) sr., 140 Tatum Bunn, (17-3) soph., 145 Darius Marines (11-1) fr., 145 Camden Trupp (17-2) sr., 160 Cameron Adams (19-4) soph., 171 John Browning (7-2) sr., 189 Manuel Rojas (22-2) jr.
Outlook: A fifth-straight Division 1 championship Tuesday would make DCC just the fourth program to win five in a row since 1988 when for the first time team championships were awarded based on dual competition. The only loss, as noted above, was to top-ranked Davison. A number of standouts have graduated the last four seasons, and the projected lineup features only four seniors. But there’s still plenty of championship-pressure experience – Gilcher (112) and Rojas (189) won individual championships last season, while Heethuis was third at 103, Bunn was fifth at 125, Trupp was runner-up at 135 and Burney was sixth at that weight.
Record/rank: 22-0, No. 3
League finish: First in Kensington Lakes Activities Association West
Coach: Todd Cheney, 29th season (809-112-2)
Championship history: Division 1 champion 2016, five runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Jake Gillespie (24-3) fr., 112 Patrick Wlodyga (18-3) jr., 125 Ethan Kinch (24-2) jr., 135 Luke Thornton (28-0) sr., 135 Vinnie Abbey (25-3) fr., 140 Nick Dimitroff (18-2) soph., 145 Owen Edgar (13-6) sr., 160 Brayden Bobo (22-2) soph., 171 Avery Dickerson (26-0) jr., 189 Chase Kern (26-1) soph., 215 Paul Corder (20-2) sr.
Outlook: This will be Hartland’s 20th-straight trip to the Quarterfinals, and the Eagles will be seeking their first Semifinal berth since 2017. Wlodyga was fourth last season at 103, Dickerson was fourth at 171, and sophomore Nick Rochowiak was fifth at 140 and will wrestle 152 this week. Hartland allowed only a combined 15 points over its first four postseason wins.
Record/rank: 25-1, No. 6
League finish: First in Capital Area Activities Conference Blue
Coach: Rocky Shaft, 41st season (624-107)
Championship history: Four MHSAA championships (most recent 2008), two runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Ryan Mosher (25-3) soph., 125 Zach Platte (21-5) sr., 130 Jason Jones (19-6) jr., 140 Ralph Thompson (28-2) jr., 152 Alex Russell (23-4) jr., 160 Adam Russell (23-5) sr., 171 Nathan Bremer (22-3) jr., 285 Joshua Terrill, 21-3) jr.
Outlook: The Rams eliminated Finals regular Brighton 43-29 in the Regional Final to advance to the Quarterfinals for the first time since 2013. A Semifinal berth would be Holt’s first since its runner-up run in 2009. Only two seniors start, with seven juniors who could help the Rams continue to rise next winter. Platte, Bremer and Terrill were Finals qualifiers last season.
Record/rank: 19-3, No. 9
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Red
Coach: Brian Richardson, 12th season (255-114)
Championship history: Two MHSAA championships (most recent 2009), three runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Jak Keller (24-1) soph., 119 Elijah Bunn (24-2) soph., 130 Logan Schwartz (13-7) soph., 140 Brysonn Aulbach (18-8) jr., 152 Trenton Wachter (19-1) sr., 152 Colin Harju (10-4) sr., 160 Ryan Ahern (21-1) fr., 171 Moses Bosscher (22-5) sr., 189 Luke Watkins (21-4) sr.,
Outlook: Rockford is making its third-straight trip to the Quarterfinals and seeking to take the next step into the Semifinals for first time since its runner-up season of 2010. The Rams defeated another regular, Grandville, 37-16 in the Regional Final to advance. Wachter was third at 140 last season.
Record/rank: 16-7, No. 10
League finish: Third in Oakland Activities Association Red
Coach: Brian Gibbs, first season (16-7)
Championship history: Class A champion 1991, runner-up 1995.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 125 Ashton Anderson (21-4) sr., 130 Auggie Anderson (10-3) soph., 152 Grady Castle (21-3) sr., 160 John Lord (14-11) sr.
Outlook: Gibbs moved up to take over the program after three seasons as an assistant, and the Wolves continued to roll with their third-straight Regional title. They defeated No. 7 Romeo 36-28 in the Regional Semifinal on the way to Kalamazoo this time. Ashton Anderson finished third at 125 last season.
#7 WYANDOTTE ROOSEVELT
Record/rank: 17-4, unranked
League finish: First in Downriver League
Coach: Brett Greene, 18th season (334-161)
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifier: Lu Peterson (22-0) jr.
Outlook: Roosevelt is headed to the Quarterfinals for the first time after edging Westland John Glenn 33-32 in the Regional Final. The Bears also won their third-straight District title and fifth in six seasons. This could be just the start; Roosevelt has only two seniors among its projected starters for Tuesday, but six freshmen.
PHOTO: Davison’s Aden Williams, left, and Detroit Catholic Central’s Drew Heethuis wrestle during last season’s Division 1 Final at Wings Event Center. (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.”
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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.)