Ben Bennett looks to capture elusive national title in his final season

Ben Bennett is 18-0 this season and has his eyes on a national title.

CMU senior Ben Bennett wins his match against EMU’s Khodor Hoballah 13-3. CMU is now 13-3 overall and 5-0 in the MAC conference. (Neil Barris | GCmag)

The No. 11 Central Michigan Chippewas wrestling squad took on the Eastern Michigan Eagles on Friday during Senior Night, looking for their sixth consecutive win.

One of the premier matchups in the duel featured Central’s Ben Bennett (18-0) taking on Khodar Hoballah (7-9) at the 184-pound weight class.

After four takedowns, a reversal, two back points and riding time advantage, Bennett secured a decisive 13-3 victory over Hoballah. Bennett’s victory contributed to Central’s 31-6 win over Eastern.

Bennett, a three-time All-American, has his eye on the ultimate prize to closeout an impressive career at Central and will be satisfied with nothing less than a national championship title. With just a month and a half of the season left, every match begins to grow more and more crucial. He currently holds an undefeated record in his senior year and ranks No. 2 in the nation via Intermat and Coaches Poll.

Last year, Bennett finished sixth at the NCAA tournament and gained All-American honors for the third time in his career. He has placed eighth once and sixth twice in the national tournament in his career and is set to partake in one last journey to the top of the podium.

“It has been my goal to be a national champion since I came to CMU,” Bennett said. “I knew that in order to reach the top of the podium I would have to improve technically and become more confident in my technique.”

Bennett attributes his success this season to the hard work he put in during the offseason, specifically his work on the neutral position. He also gives much of the credit to his partners in the practice room, who push him week in and week out.

Two years ago, Central wrestling coach Tom Borelli brought in Steve Dwyer as an assistant coach to help improve Bennett as an all-around wrestler. Dwyer was an All-American wrestler at Nebraska and wrestled Bennett several times in his career. Dwyer has been a valuable practice partner for Bennett with great size, strength and veteran experience.

“(Dwyer) gives me a great look in practice,” Bennett said. “I know that if I can consistently beat him in situations in practice, then I should be able to beat any wrestler in the country in those situations.”

With the NCAA tournament just around the corner, Bennett focuses on handling everything one match at a time. He believes that gaining momentum going into the tournament has its advantages, but it is not the most important thing.

“I think that it is better to finish the regular season strong, but it isn’t the end of the world if there is a minor hiccup,” Bennett said. “There have been guys with losing records during the regular season who eventually went to the national tournament and became All-Americans. So I am not too caught up in how I finish during the regular season.”

Bennett will take a similar approach when it comes to mental preparation, if and when he reaches the national finals match.

“I would just treat it like any other match in my career,” Bennett said. “I wouldn’t want to change anything that got me to this point. I would get a good warm-up in, listen to some music and then wrestle.”

Bennett01 Senior Ben Bennett stands in the middle of his parents as each of the CMU senior wrestlers are celebrated Friday night at McGuirk Arena. (Neil Barris | GCmag)Bennett02 Senior 184-pounder Ben Bennett beats Eastern Michigan 184-pounder Khodor Hoballah 13-3 decision Friday night at McGuirk Arena. CMU won the match 31-6. (Neil Barris | GCmag)Bennett03Senior Ben Bennett puts a submission move on EMU Junior Khodor Hoballah Friday night at McGuirk Arena. This win makes it six in a row for the Chippewas. (Neil Barris | GCmag)