Heading in to last summer Ben Whitford helped make up a ridiculous #1 recruiting class for Michigan that included Adam Coon, Brian Murphy, and Domenic Abounader. Whitford appeared to possibly be the most anticipated. However, it became confirmed in early fall that Whitford wasn't enrolled and the rumors swirled. Yesterday, there he was in the 149 bracket in the freshman/sophomore division at the Michigan State open wrestling unattached for Muskegon Community College (Michigan).
Let's back up. Whitford attended Marmion Academy as a freshman and sophomore winning two Illinois state championships before moving back to St Johns High School in Michigan to join the Massa's and win two more state championships. He was dominant with just one high school loss in his career.
He then showed up at Junior Nationals at 60kg (132.25lbs) after wrestling his senior year of high school at 145. He won a loaded bracket that included: James Gulibon, Corey Clark, Mark Grey, Anthony Ashnault, Zane Richards, Mason Beckman, and Corey Keener.
The last time we saw him was at the Junior World Team Trials wrestling at 66kg (145.5lbs) last summer. He lost in the last two seconds to Zain Retherford 7-7 on criteria.
This is (unconfirmed), what we think, the last time we saw him on a mat in competition was. Soon people confirmed he wasn't at the University of Michigan. Rumors swirled on forums for the next 14 months. He was supposed to enroll in Elmhurst College in Illinois prompting more rumors that he was headed after a greyshirt year to Illinois. His social media was silent. There also were no articles only the occasional rumor on a forum. There was just mystery to what happened to the guy who was this top recruit.
Then Sunday, he was there at the MSU Open in the 149lb bracket of the freshman/sophomore division. This wrestler who was supposed to be an all-american at 141 lbs for Michigan last year was making his collegiate debut unattached for Muskegon Community College.
To add to the mystery, his first match didn't go well. He lost a wild 12-9 match to Casey Sparkman (Kent State), an Ohio state champ last year but not a big recruit.
Whitford, however, did not fold. He proceeded to win 6 matches to finish 5th (the highest he could finish after the 1st round loss). Three of those wins were pins and the other decisions were 18-7 and 22-7 before winning his rematch with Sparkman 4-3 in his final match of the day.
I'm very impressed by the resolve to come out and keep wrestling especially after the first loss. I'm impressed with the kid coming back in to the fold and putting himself out there. It'll be interesting to see how he goes about this season. If he regains his form, along with taking care of business off the mat, there will be a lot of teams looking for his services soon. It's great to see and we will be rooting for him.