Richmond Takes Latest Dramatic D3 Final

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

February 25, 2017

MOUNT PLEASANT – It took 14 matches and eight steps through the dual meet tiebreaker criteria Saturday to decide the latest edition of the wrestling rivalry between Richmond and Dundee.

But when Criteria H showed a 17-8 advantage for Richmond in total first points scored, it was Blue Devils coach Brandon Day who turned to his team with a triumphant fist in the air, sending the Richmond wrestlers and crowd into hysterics.

“I walked to the table and (Dundee coach Tim Roberts) told me, ‘You already won,’” Day said. “I told him, ‘We’ve got to quit doing this.’”

Richmond prevailed in the back-and-forth Division 3 title match, which ended tied at 28 following a 4-3 win from Richmond 130-pound sophomore Hayden Bastian. The title is Richmond’s eighth, and first since 2015 when it defeated Dundee in somehow less dramatic fashion with a pair of pins in the final two matches.

“It’s crazy, you don’t know what’s going to happen – it’s like the lottery,” said Richmond senior 112-pounder Roy Costello, who had one of those pins in 2015, and won a 3-2 decision on Saturday night. “It’s really suspenseful, your heart’s beating 100 mph, you don’t know what’s going to happen.”

The two teams were deadlocked through the first seven criteria, which includes three varieties of penalty points assessed, total matches won, pinfalls, technical falls and major decisions. It was fitting for a rivalry that has dominated Division 3 since 2006, with the teams now having combined to win 10 of the last 12 titles -- Richmond with six and Dundee with four. Of those 10, seven were won against the other.

“Our programs are intertwined now because we’ve wrestled each other so many times in this situation,” Roberts said. “Today they were that much better than us. It’s pretty close, but they did that much better than us today, so they get to be champs this year. It’s close, but they won.”

The dual was tied three times over the final five matches -- 22-22, 25-25 and 28-28. The final tie was forced by Bastian, who recorded a takedown with less than 30 seconds remaining to send the match to the scorebooks.

“I was stressed -- I was so nervous that I wasn’t going to get a takedown,” said Bastian, who didn’t know if his win would give his team the title. “I’m fairly new to the sport. I started wrestling in seventh grade. I don’t really know much. My first match I didn’t really know what I was doing. I don’t know almost anything, I just go out there and wrestle my best.”

Bastian’s coach had plenty of confidence in him before sending him out onto the mat.

“Hayden Bastian is the best kid in the state nobody knows about,” Day said. “He made 130 for the first time here this weekend, and that was the difference.”

Added Costello: “Hayden performed awesome this whole weekend. Even though he’s not a state qualifier, he performed awesome.”

Dundee jumped out to a 22-9 lead in the match, getting pins from Sean Sterling at 160 pounds and Brandon Whitman at 189, a major decision at 145 from Tylor Orrison and decisions from Zachary Bellaire at 140 and Kyle Motylinski at 171.

Even with the lead, however, Roberts didn’t feel safe.

“We knew we needed more,” Roberts said. “We needed another win down there that we didn’t get. We knew we were kind of in trouble at 22-9. At 119 and 125, our guys did a nice job and came away with wins there, but we knew we were one win short when it was 22-9.”

Richmond stormed back to tie the dual with a major decision from Colton McKiernan at 215, a decision from Tyler Marino at 285 and a pin from Austin Kilburn at 103.

Kilburn’s pin ended a wild match against Dundee’s Caleb Fairchild, which saw both wrestlers taken to their backs in the opening period. Kilburn, a freshman, regained his composure and scored seven more points before getting the pin with 41 seconds left in the match.

Costello’s win put the Blue Devils up 25-22, but Daniel Jaworski (119) and Christian Killion (125) each won decisions for the Vikings to give them the 28-25 lead heading into the final match.

Richmond opened the dual with a pin from senior Owen Vannatter at 135 pounds, and after Dundee took a 7-6 lead with its wins from Bellaire and Orrison, Richmond sophomore Eric Barr pulled off an upset at 152 with a 3-2 win against Dundee’s Alex Motylinski.

“Eric Barr!” Day shouted. “Eric Barr knocked off No. 3 in the state. (Barr) didn’t make it out of our Regional. That was huge.”

The MHSAA Wrestling Finals are presented by the Michigan Army National Guard.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Dundee (left) and Richmond faced off Saturday for the eighth time over the last decade of Division 3 Finals. (Middle) Dundee’s Sean Sterling works toward a pin during his match at 160. (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.)