Central Michigan wrestler Ben Bennett would not be a three-time All-American and three-time Mid-American Conference Champion without a little help throughout his career.
Bennett said he received extensive training when he was younger and credits his past coaches and others who have helped him for his collegiate success.
And now, he along with several other CMU wrestlers are helping assistant coach Steve Brown run a wrestling club called ‘Training Station’. The club gives local high school and middle school wrestlers an opportunity to learn from established college wrestlers.
“I’ve been blessed to have a lot of people help me over the years, and so when I get a chance to be able to help coach people, it will hopefully make an impact like people made for me,” Bennett said. “It’s enjoyable for me. It’s wrestling; it’s what I love to do. And I get to help other kids and help them accomplish their goals.”
Brown said they receive between 25-40 participants every practice and have guys commuting from an hour away.
“We’re drawing kids from all directions,” Brown said. “We have kids from Houghton Lake, Gladwin, Bay City and even as far west as Chip Hills. Our retention rate has been phenomenal and I think it’s because the kids are really buying into the system and really having a lot of fun.”
Brown has been helping local wrestlers on the side for the past two years, and as more local wrestlers became interested, it spurred the idea to begin the spring camp.
Like Bennett, Brown was fortunate to have many people in his community growing up assisting in his development and he felt obligated to further young wrestlers in their careers.
“If it wasn’t for my high school coach especially, I never would have been a Division I athlete. And I ended up becoming an All-American here, so I owe a lot to wrestling and this is an opportunity to give back to the sport.”
Brown said the willingness to volunteer by some of the CMU wrestlers speaks volumes about the quality of the program.
“I think it shows the integrity of a wrestler,” Brown said. “When our season ended, that’s their time to relax. But the fact that they can find a way to give back to the sport, it just shows a lot about their personality.”
Not only do Bennett and fellow wrestlers Zach Horan, Joey Kielbasa, Lucas Smith and Kurt Alder get to work with each other, they get to help other kids and develop a keen coaching sense that may help them later in their careers.
“I think it’s great for those guys because they can interact with these kids and help coach as well,” Bennett said. “At first, I think sometimes the kids are a little bit hesitant working with the older guys, but I think over time, they figure out we’re just another person and really enjoy it.”
Kenneth Dittenber is entering his senior year at Carson City-Crystal High School and said he has improved tremendously after working with Brown and other CMU wrestlers over the past couple of years.
“The one-on-one teaching and learning to do certain moves better has really helped me out,” he said. “I think they have really helped me with my takedowns.”