The success has become so familiar, and some of the names to match, it’s like Lowell has been sending out the same wrestlers the last eight years.
That’s not true or possible, of course. But more than a handful of current Red Arrows have played major roles in carrying on the program’s seven-year MHSAA Finals record championship streak.
Lowell is the top seed again as it seeks to make that eight in a row Tuesday at Wings Event Center. The Quarterfinal pairings are as follows:
Division 2 - 12:30 pm - The Arena
#1 Lowell vs. #8 Charlotte - Mat 2
#4 Monroe Jefferson vs. #5 Fremont - Mat 1
#3 Goodrich vs. #6 Warren Woods Tower- Mat 4
#2 Stevensville Lakeshore vs. #7 Allendale - Mat 3
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 2, listed by seed.
Record/rank: 17-3, No. 1
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference White
Coach: R.J. Boudro, seventh season (134-21)
Championship history: Ten MHSAA championships (most recent 2020), six runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 119 Ramsy Mutschler (21-4) jr., 125 Landon Miller (10-5) soph., 130 James Link (17-6) jr., 135 Zeth Strejc (17-3) sr., 145 Will Link (21-3) sr., 145 Tacho Gonzales (19-6) fr., 160 Doak Dean (21-2) sr., 160 Carson Crace (17-4) soph., 171 Jacob Lee (18-1) sr., 189 Derek Mohr (19-2) sr., 215 Carter Blough (21-2) jr., 285 Keegan Nugent (24-0) sr.
Outlook: Lowell’s Finals-record championship streak is at seven straight titles and counting. Half of last season’s championship match lineup returns for a team that also starts half seniors. The Red Arrows defeated No. 4 Middleville Thornapple Kellogg 50-22 in the Regional Final. Strejc (130) and Nugent (215) were individual runners-up last season, while Will Link (fourth at 140), Dean (fifth at 160) and Lee (third at 171) also placed.
#2 STEVENSVILLE LAKESHORE
Record/rank: 18-0, No. 3
League finish: First in Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference
Coach: Bruce Bittenbender, 51st season (958-265-2)
Championship history: Class B runner-up 1994 and 1986.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Taylor Lucas (17-5) jr., 119 Cameron Litaker (19-3) jr., 125 Aaron Lucio (19-0) soph., 125 Kyle Stampfly (16-6) jr., 140 Micah Hanau (21-0) jr.
Outlook: Lakeshore is seeded to contend for its first championship match berth since 1994, which would be another achievement for Bittenbender – the winningest coach in MHSAA wrestling history. The Lancers sandwiched a 28-point District win over St. Joseph with a couple of postseason nail-biters, defeating Paw Paw by one and Edwardsburg by three points. Hanau is the reigning individual champ at 130, while Lucio was third at 119 last season and Litaker was sixth at 112.
Record/rank: 16-0, No. 6
League finish: First in Flint Metro League
Coach: Kenneth Sirignano, 11th season (record N/A)
Championship history: Two MHSAA championships (most recent 2009), three runner-up finishes
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Brody Orcutt (19-2) fr., 119 Heremius Cheff (16-3) soph., 125 Ryan Angelo (15-8) jr., 135 Carson Richards (18-2) jr., 140 Easton Phipps (16-3) fr., 152 Brady Benson (19-4) soph., 189 Cameron Macklem (15-5) jr., 215 Zach Schmitz (10-8) sr.
Outlook: Goodrich was runner-up as recently as 2019, when it fell to Lowell by only six points in the Final. The Martians didn’t make it to Quarterfinals last season but return for the fourth time in six seasons and with a starting lineup featuring 10 underclassmen. Richards finished sixth at 140 at the Individual Finals last season.
#4 MONROE JEFFERSON
Record/rank: 12-2, No. 5
League finish: First in Huron League
Coach: Mike Humphrey, 18th season (349-154)
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Cody Richards (16-0) jr., 103 Issac Masserant (13-6) fr., 119 John Allen (14-2) soph., 125 Dylan Garcia (15-3) jr., 130 Hunter Major (16-3) sr., 135 Ethan Brabant (15-5) sr., 145 Seth Minney (14-5) soph., 152 Jac White (15-4) sr., 189 Brendan Bashaw (12-4) sr.
Outlook: Jefferson is making its second trip to the Quarterfinals and first since 1995. The Bears have won District titles three straight seasons, but their league title was the first since 2017. Ten upperclassmen bring experience to the starting lineup, with Richards a returning individual placer having come in sixth at 103 last season.
Record/rank: 26-2, unranked
League finish: Second in Central State Activities Association
Coach: Craig Zeerip, seventh season (155-62)
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 RJ Thome (31-0) jr., 112 Tee Ward (29-2) fr., 119 Eli Beasley (29-4) sr., 130 Trey Myers (26-4) fr., 160 Trey Breuker (30-2) sr., 189 Michael Romero (20-10) soph.
Outlook: Fremont reached the Quarterfinals last season for the first time, in Division 3, and repeated that achievement against larger competition this winter. The Packers have won all four of their postseason matches by at least 16 points. Thome was fifth at 103 last season, and Breuker was eighth at 152.
#6 WARREN WOODS TOWER
Record/rank: 13-8, No. 10
League finish: Third in Macomb Area Conference Red
Co-coaches: Greg Mayer, 21st season (402-258), Russell Correll, eighth season (165-62)
Championship history: Division 2 runner-up 2017.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Tyler Daniel (16-7) jr., 125 Joe Haynes (19-1) sr., 130 Dru Wilson (13-5) sr., 135 Gavin Shoobridge (16-2) sr., 140 Mathew Booth (12-8) sr., 140 Josh Howey (21-1) jr., 152 Dominic Johnson (14-9) sr.
Outlook: The Titans have now reached the Quarterfinals six straight seasons, this time rolling through with every postseason win by at least 36 points. They will miss junior two-time individual champ Omari Embree (171, 17-1), who is out for this weekend, but return another champ in Haynes, last season’s 119 title winner. Also placing last season were Daniel (eighth at 103), Howey (eighth at 125), Wilson (fifth at 130) and sophomore Ryan Radvansky (160, 16-4), who was eighth at 160.
Record/rank: 22-7, unranked
League finish: First in O-K Blue
Coach: Duane Watson, 33rd season (682-259)
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Harrison Meekhof (27-6) fr., 112 Jack Guerrero (26-7) fr., 135 Cris Perez (23-5) sr., 152 Jordan Silva (21-13) sr.
Outlook: After two seasons away, Allendale is back at the Quarterfinals for the third time in five years and with a fifth-straight league title and 14th-straight District championship. The team has four Individual Finals qualifiers, but eight wrestlers have won at least 22 matches this abbreviated season. Perez finished eighth at 130 in 2020.
Record/rank: 18-8, unranked
League finish: Second in Capital Area Activities Conference White
Coach: Korey Knapp, fourth season (63-47)
Championship history: Class B champion 1968, runner-up 1965.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 119 Jayden Schwartz (22-4) soph., 140 Logan Haughton (25-3) jr., 152 Bo Brandt (24-8) sr.
Outlook: Charlotte is returning to the Quarterfinals for the first time since 1990, and second time in program history. The Orioles defeated perennial power Eaton Rapids to win their District, then upset another annual force in No. 7 Mason at the Regional. Charlotte has had individual standouts over the years – their lone individual qualifier last season won a championship – but this week will also see the Orioles send triple that number to the Individual Finals.
PHOTO: Will Link, right, works toward a pin during Lowell’s Semifinal win last season 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.)