Ben Bennett striving for more, a national title, in senior season
Four-time All-American.Nobody in the wrestling program, which has garnered 16 Mid-American Conference tournament championships, has earned the honor.
Yet it is a title that is not important to senior Ben Bennett, who could secure the accolade come March.
“My goal was never to be a four-time All-American,” he said. “My goal is to be a national champ.”
This has been a goal of his since high school when his eyes were set on the TV when it aired college wrestling, and he was on his way to three-state championships in Michigan with a 213-3 record through high school.
The senior's response when he heard four-time All-American was that it's not good enough.
He placed sixth in the NCAA Championships last season at 184 pounds, and, in his first two seasons at 174 pounds, he placed sixth and eighth, respectively.
This year, at 184 pounds, will be different because of consistent work on technique, strategy and having a good game plan.
Head coach Tom Borrelli said he believes the steps he made could equate to reaching the promised land.
“There’s no question in my mind he has the ability to win the NCAA Championship,” Borrelli said. “I think he’s been really close. I think a little technical error here and there has been the difference.”
Like any athlete and coach, they did not make excuses, but, in the NCAA Championships last year Bennett might have had one of those miniscule things not go his way.
He got sick.
He said he did not know what he had, but one of his many symptoms was sweating away four pounds every night in St. Louis.
“I try to not think about that too much,” he said, after giving out a long sigh. “There wasn't much I could do about it, just the cards I was dealt. All I could do is wrestle through it.”
Borrelli said, by the third day of the tournament, it did affect him, but he said Bennett had to just fight through it.
Moving on, Bennett is 17-0 in his final season.
He won the much-acclaimed Midlands, beating Robert Hamlin of Lehigh 2-1 in the championship.
It was his 100th win at CMU, not a surprising benchmark for someone who, Borrelli said, has probably not missed a practice in his career.
“I have high expectations for myself,” Bennett said. “That’s one thing I hate – missing a practice. So I will do whatever I can to not miss a run; not miss a lift, not miss a wrestling practice.”
In 21 years of coaching Chippewas wrestling, Borrelli said he has given out about three to five full scholarships.
One of them went to Bennett, a junior and senior national champion before coming to CMU.
“He’s been one of our more fortunate guys we’ve had here,” Borrelli said. “He was good as anyone in high school, and it has carried over into college."
Borrelli will have a tough time filling the void left by Bennett when he graduates this spring.
"There will be a missing piece of the puzzle at CMU when he leaves," Borrelli said.“Obviously, for our team, it’s going to be a big loss. He’s been a very integral part of our program the last three-and-a-half years.”
But before then, he could set new heights for Chippewas to come, by making history by being a four-time All-American as well as earning what’s most important to him - a national championship.
“That’s what I’ve been working for since before I got to college," Bennett said. "It would be awesome for me; it would be awesome for my family, coaches and the program."
If he accomplishes his goal, Borrelli said that would solidify him as 'the most prolific wrestler we've ever had here.'