KALISPELL, Mont. - There’s a battle brewing between the wrestling community and the Montana High School Association, as community members try to honor 9-year-old Maverick Bench, who passed away in January.
Maverick Bench was known for his beautiful blue eyes, his love for his four brothers, who he called ‘the boys’, and his obvious playfulness and love for the world around him.
But he was particularly known throughout the community for being really, really good at wrestling.
“Maverick learned to walk on the flathead braves wrestling mats,” Logan Bench, Maverick's father said.
So when Maverick was diagnosed with aplastic anemia in 2020, it was in part the wrestling community that rallied.
“Wrestling families are the best families.”
And that’s how “Maverick’s Army” was born.
A Facebook group with over 28 thousand members from throughout Montana and across the country, first responders even rallying around him all the way from Vermont.
Logan Bench tells me the support was incredible, even as Maverick’s fight became more difficult.
“There were three separate times when Maverick was at death’s door, and he fought his way back each time,” Bench said.
Then, on Jan. 11 of this year, Maverick Bench passed away. And through their grief and pain, Maverick’s family set out to honor him in any way possible.
That’s how this mat was created- specially to honor Maverick at this year’s high school state AA wrestling championship, to be held next month in Maverick’s hometown of Kalispell.
Logan assumed getting the mat made in time would be the easy part. But he was wrong.
“We have a 12 thousand dollar memorial mat that does nothing more than honor our son and honor those people that loved him, not trying to sell anything, nothing other than to say thank you to people and united the state of Montana, there’s no other benefit, and we’re told MHSA won’t allow it,” Bench said.
The Montana High School Association, which oversees the tournament, said absolutely no branding or advertisements on mats, no exception.
Their reasoning? According to Logan, they are afraid then everyone would want to do something similar.
“So I guess my question is, who cares if it happens again? Why can’t we come together for the next family too if they want to go buy a wrestling mat?” Bench said.
Logan tells us Senator Daines and Governor Gianforte’s offices have tried to reason with MHSA, to no avail.
Senator Daine’s staff sent me this statement, which says in part: “[Daines] urges the MHSA to work with the Bench family to find a way to honor Maverick.”
I’ve tried calling and leaving messages several times in the last few days, no one has gotten back to me.
So now, Logan is asking for your help. He’s urging people to call Brian Michelotti at MHSA and encourage them to honor Maverick. That number is 442-6010.
“Is there anything else you’d like people to know?” Bench said. “I just want to make sure that whether this happens or not, the whole state of Montana understands that the Bench family is so appreciative, so thankful, and so humbled that they’ve all come together and been so supportive of us this whole time and we love you all.”