Teammates, Gracious Opponents As Well

March 2, 2013

By Bill Khan
Special to Second Half

AUBURN HILLS — It was a surreal scene at the edge of the mat when Austin Eicher and Jacob Gorial met for the 130-pound title in the MHSAA Division 1 wrestling tournament Saturday at The Palace.

Coaches can often get quite animated when their wrestlers are going for a championship. But the coaches in Eicher's and Gorial's corners sat quietly in their chairs, occasionally smiling as they took in the action as passive observers. One coach even got up to grab a cup of water while the match was in progress.

None of the four coaches watching matside was taking sides, not when both competing wrestlers wore the blue and gold of Hartland High School.

"We're both teammates," Gorial said. "It would've been unfair."

In only the sixth MHSAA championship match involving teammates, Eicher won a 5-0 decision over Gorial.

Eicher, a junior who finished 52-1, was the 119-pound runner-up last season. The teammates never met this season, with Eicher winning the District and Regional finals over Gorial by injury default.

"It was definitely different," Eicher said. "He's one of my best friends. We both wanted it. We've been working hard this whole year. It was both of our goals to win the state championship. I took something away from him, but I wasn't going to let him take it away from me.

"Once we're out there, we're just wrestling. We know we're friends before the match when we're warming up, but once we're wrestling, it's go time."

Gorial, a sophomore who finished 56-5, credited Eicher for making him a better wrestler in practice.

"I'm glad Austin won," Gorial said. "He worked hard. If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be here right now."

Click for full results, and read below for recaps of each championship match and comments from all the winners.


Champion: Robert Coe, Detroit Catholic Central, Sr. (45-4)
Decision, 3-0, over Parker Tillman, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central, Jr. (41-4)

Coe had a tougher battle this year against Tillman, but still prevailed to win the championship. Coe pinned Tillman at the 2:16 mark in a first-round match in last year's MHSAA Final.

Coe used an escape to break a 0-0 stalemate with less than 30 seconds remaining in the match.

"I was a little nervous at the beginning of the match," Coe said. "He came out really strong. He's bigger than I remember. I pinned him last year here. He got better this year."


Champion: Benny Gomez, Holt, Soph. (47-0)
Fall, 1:25, over Michael Volyanyuk, Farmington Hills Harrison, Soph. (45-8)

Gomez got his only pin in four matches at The Palace in the championship, but he was nonetheless dominant with two majority decisions and a 9-3 victory before the final.

He finished fourth at 103 pounds last year.

"It's still kind of hard to believe," Gomez said. "I had a lot of close matches this year, in and out of state. I grew and basically just competed all summer, no breaks, and pushed myself to get to this level."


Champion: Lincoln Olson, Davison, Soph. (46-2)
Decision, 10-4, over Kyle Gillies, Westland John Glenn, Sr. (55-1)

Olson held up two fingers toward the Davison cheering section after adding this year's 112 title to the 103-pound crown he won as a freshman.

He did so by handing Gillies his only loss in 56 matches this season. Olson also beat Gillies in the quarterfinals last year.

"Last season, I kind of shocked the world," Olson said. "No one knew me. Not much was expected of me. This year, they knew who I am. A lot of kids were content just getting beat by a few points."


Champion: Shayne Wireman, Holt, Sr. (46-0)
Decision, 6-3, over Mitch Rogaliner, Temperance Bedford, Sr. (48-3)

Wireman's victory gave him a 2-2 career record against Rogaliner in a rivalry that always seems to take place on a big stage.

Wireman beat Rogaliner 2-1 in the 103-pound final in 2011 before Rogaliner got revenge with a third-period pin in the 112-pound semifinals last year.

"It's always a fun match against him," Wireman said. "We're 2-2 against each other. We've dominated this weight class. We know each other very well."

Wireman will wrestle at Eastern Michigan, while Rogaliner is heading to Michigan State. "So we'll probably meet each other again," Wireman said.


Champion: Zach Henderson, Hudsonville, Sr. (40-7)
Decision, 6-4, over Martin Rodriquez, Holt, Jr. (17-1)

Henderson won three of his four matches at The Palace by two points or fewer to pull the upset.

Rodriquez beat Henderson by seven points in the Regional final to take an unbeaten record to The Palace.

"My brother looked on (Michigan) Grappler and said I wasn't favored to win at all," Henderson said. "I didn't think anything of it. He told me midway through. I'd already won twice. People were just speaking
wisdom and God's word to me. That gave me confidence."


Champion: Ken Bade, Detroit Catholic Central, Sr. (40-7)
Decision, 4-3 OT, over Matt Miller, Davison, Jr. (29-7)

A point awarded for stalling sent this match to overtime, and another awarded for grabbing head gear decided the title winner.

It was a strange ending for Bade's third MHSAA championship. He won at 125 in 2011 and 130 in 2012.

"There's no way you can prepare for that, except coach telling us throughout the year that you have to stay composed, you have to keep your cool," Bade said. "I stayed composed and was ready to go and went back on the line."


Champion: Malik Amine, Detroit Catholic Central, Jr. (40-6)
Decision, 11-6, over Eric Rybarz, New Baltimore Anchor Bay, Sr. (54-3)

Amine lost 9-6 to Alex Pantaleo of Canton in last year's 135-pound final, a loss that fueled the Catholic Central junior for the past 12 months.

"I used it as a driving force to have it affect my head in practice when I didn't want to do any more sprints or didn't want to do more shots," Amine said. "I had to push myself to be better."

Amine was fifth at 112 pounds in 2011.


Champion: Travis Mann, Westland John Glenn, Sr. (32-3)
Decision, 10-4, over Andrew Napieraj, Birmingham Brother Rice, Sr. (50-3)

Most high school wrestlers don't drop a weight class the following season, but Mann did so successfully.

Mann was fourth at 152 pounds last year before winning the 145 title on Saturday. Two of Mann's three losses were to Livonia Franklin's Jordan Atienza, the 152-pound runner-up.

"It's the greatest feeling ever," Mann said. "I've been training for this since I was 4 years old. I finally got it my senior year."


Champion: Nick Vandermeer, Clarkston, Sr. (44-5)
Fall, 4:17, over Jordan Atienza, Livonia Franklin, Jr. (58-1)

Vandermeer averted disaster and turned it into a championship, rolling out of a near-pin to record a pin of his own against the previously-unbeaten Atienza.

"I almost felt myself getting pinned," Vandermeer said. "I was warned he throws with his upper body. I didn't expect to be rolling. I had to get out, but I was able to re-roll him and catch him pretty much."

Vandermeer joined his brother, Matt, as MHSAA champions. Matt was the 171-pound champion in 2011.


Champion: Jordan Cooks, Davison, Jr. (43-1)
Decision, 8-5, over Logan Marcicki, Detroit Catholic Central, Jr. (35-6)

Cooks beat Marcicki for the second straight week to repeat as 160-pound champion.

Cooks scored a 5-3 decision over Marcicki in the team championship match, one that Catholic Central ultimately won.

"It feels amazing," Cooks said. "It feels a lot better than the first one. It means a lot, being my second one."


Champion: Drew Garcia, Detroit Catholic Central, Jr. (52-0)
Decision, 8-2, over Mitchel Thomas, Hartland, Sr. (59-2)

Garcia won Catholic Central's fourth and final individual championship of the day, repeating as the 171-pound winner.

Garcia brought big-time experience to The Palace, having also finished as the 152-pound runner-up in 2011. Thomas gave Garcia one of his tougher matches in a perfect junior campaign.

"He was good," Garcia said. "I wrestled him early in the year. He was one of the only kids who didn't gas in the third period, so I knew I'd have to wrestle a full six minutes. He's a tough kid."


Champion: Shwan Shadaia, Rochester, Jr. (54-1)
Decision,  4-3, over Chris Calvano, Clarkston, Sr. (40-5)

Shadaia became only the second Rochester wrestler to win an MHSAA title when he broke a 3-3 tie with an escape in the final seconds. Calvano had tied the match moments earlier.

"We drill these kinds of situations in practice all the time – 20 seconds, 15 seconds to win the state championship," Shadaia said. "That's what I took it as - another practice."

Rochester's only other champion was Shane Camera, a Class A winner in 1987 and 1989.


Champion: Brandon Sunday, Temperance Bedford, Sr. (51-1)
Decision, 5-4 OT, over Jordon Brandon, Westland John Glenn, Jr. (55-5)

Sunday stayed alive when Brandon was penalized for stalling with 10 seconds left in the third period, tying the match at 3-3. Sunday won by getting an escape with 20 seconds left in the final overtime

"It was crazy," Sunday said. "I just wrestled that kid in the team Regionals and individual Regionals. It was close every single time, two or less points. Definitely, he's my toughest opponent this year.
He's only a junior. He wrestles like he's in college."

Sunday was the 189-pound runner-up last year.

PHOTO: Hartland's Austin Eicher (right) works to take down teammate, and for this match opponent, Jacob Gorial during Saturday's Division 1 Individual Finals. (Click to see more at

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.”

2023 Made In Michigan

July 20: Oakridge 3-Sport Star Potts Applying Lessons to 'Second Chapter' in Sales - Read
July 18:
Frankfort Hoops Staff Bolstered by Past Stars Giving Back in Banktson, Kreski - Read
July 12:
Championship Memories, High School Tennis' Impact Stick with Hackett Pair - Read
July 6: 
Brother Rice Finals Hero Aiming to Ace Family Life, Financial World - Read
July 5:
Lapeer West 4-Time Finals Winner Set to Build Champions at Oklahoma - Read

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.)