Hutchinson Makes Name at Divine Child

By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half

September 13, 2017


DEARBORN – Often, a child of a successful athlete has difficulty living up to that standard.

To this point, that’s not the case with Aidan Hutchinson.

He plays a similar position as did his father Chris, an All-America defensive lineman at University of Michigan in 1992. But there are differences as well between father and son – although like his dad, Aidan also will head to Ann Arbor after he graduates from Dearborn Divine Child.

All Falcons fourth-year coach John Filiatraut knows is that he hit the lottery when the Hutchinsons decided Aidan would attend Divine Child – not that he didn’t see it coming, given Aidan’s mother, Melissa Hutchinson, and his two older sisters, Mia and Aria, all attended the Catholic school.

“They’re great people,” said Filiatraut, a 1986 Divine Child graduate. “It’s a treat. Coaches can complain and whine with the best of them. But we’re lucky to have Aidan.

“And Chris is not very intrusive. I was worried about that at the beginning. With his background, it would be easy to step in. We as coaches are trying to do things right here. (Chris) is committed to Aidan and for him to do this on his own, and not cast a shadow on Aidan.”

Coming off its winningest season (10-3) since 1985 and a Division 3 Semifinals berth in 2016, Divine Child is off to a 3-0 start this fall.

As for those differences between father and son, size is one. The elder Hutchinson was 6-foot-2 and weighed 221 pounds when he graduated from high school. His playing weight at U-M was 250. His son is 6-6 and weighs 255 pounds, and is considered one of the top prospects in the class of 2018. Aidan plays defensive end and tight end. His father was a defensive tackle.

Chris Hutchinson grew up in Houston and played football at Cypress Creek High before going on to University of Michigan, where he played four seasons and was named first team All-America as a senior defensive lineman in 1992. Chris Hutchinson said private school education was all new to him, but he couldn’t be more pleased with the educational – and now with his son – athletic experiences his family has enjoyed.

Not surprisingly, Aidan has accepted a scholarship offer to attend U-M. He did make unofficial visits to Notre Dame and Wisconsin, in addition to his interest in attending Penn State, but eventually U-M won out.

And so far his senior season has unfolded as planned.

“We’re 3-0. It’s great,” he said. “Michigan is undefeated. We’re undefeated. It’s all great.”

Chris Hutchinson didn’t allow Aidan to play tackle football until he was in the seventh grade. Aidan did play flag football, and other sports like soccer, but his father held him out of the physical contact until he thought Aidan was ready.

“It was a big change for me,” Aidan said of playing tackle football. “I had to learn a lot because most of the other kids had been playing two or three years. It wasn’t too bad a transition. I just had to learn quickly.”

Despite his size, and his weight as an infant (11 pounds, one ounce), Aidan wasn’t a large child growing up. He weighed 135 pounds when he was in the eighth grade, then 160 as a freshman playing on the line on Divine Child’s junior varsity team. Over the next two years, he grew seven inches and added 70 pounds.

“I’ve been (growing) all through high school,” he said. “Am I done growing? I don’t think so, but I’m hoping I am.”

The answer is likely the former. Aidan just turned 17 last month (Aug. 9).

Though his size is a plus once he gets to college, there are times when it can work against him at the high school level.

“It’s different when you’re 6-6 going against a 6-foot kid,” Chris Hutchinson said. “You have to keep your head down, and stay low.”

Chris Hutchinson, who’s a doctor in the emergency room at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, understands it’s not his place to coach his son from the sideline, even though, as the team physician, it’s his job to be on the sideline. He keeps a safe distance and allows Filiatraut and his staff do their jobs.

At home, it’s a different story. The two view film constantly to determine where improvements can be made.

“Thank God for Hudl,” Chris said. “I only focus on technique. When Aidan tells me they’re using a double team, I ask what type? There are different ways you can use a double team.

“It’s important not to be that dad who coaches. There are way too many dads who do the coaching thing. The hardest thing for me is not to say something, and have him come to me. When they do ask, then you can go forward.”

Aidan is quick for his size, and he attributes much of that quickness and his ability to react quickly to the other sport he plays, lacrosse. He started playing lacrosse the same year he began playing tackle football, and to him they go hand in hand.

“It’s a ton of fun (playing lacrosse),” he said. “My whole group of friends play. All six of us started (on varsity) as freshmen, so we should be pretty good this year. There’s no question it helps me in football. One hundred percent. It helps with my hip movement, and in lacrosse it forces you to back pedal.”

Filiatraut said Hutchinson is a special part of a special team at Divine Child. Its quarterback, Theo Day, is one of the state’s best. Day led the Falcons to the Division 3 Semifinals last season and has committed to sing with Michigan State.

“Aidan gives great effort all of the time,” Filiatraut said. “Honestly, he’s on the shy side. He’s trying to figure it all out. He’s doing his best to be a vocal leader, but it’s not in his nature.

“He’s got a ton of want-to. He wants to be good, and to get better.”

Tom Markowski is a columnist and directs website coverage for the State Champs! Sports Network. He previously covered primarily high school sports for the The Detroit News from 1984-2014, focusing on the Detroit area and contributing to statewide coverage of football and basketball. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Deaborn Divine Child’s Aidan Hutchinson grabs a water break while dad and team physician Chris Hutchinson keeps an eye on the field. (Middle) Hutchinson blocks against Benton Harbor during his team’s Week 1 win. (Below) Aidan, Chris, mom Melissa and U-M coach Jim Harbaugh take a photo after Aidan commits to sign with the Wolverines. (Photos courtesy of the Hutchinson family.)

Constantine Football All-Stater, Wrestling Champ Aiming for Grand Finale

By Scott Hassinger
Special for

April 30, 2024

CONSTANTINE – Bennett VandenBerg has earned many accolades over the last four years as a three-sport athlete at Constantine.

Southwest CorridorBut the awards aren't what the 6-foot-3, 240-pound standout will remember most when reflecting on his memories as an all-state football player, state champion wrestler and record-breaking throwing specialist on the Falcons' track & field squad.

"I'll remember how I represented our school and pushed myself to be the best I could be in each sport that I played," said VandenBerg, who has earned 12 varsity letters.

VandenBerg has evolved into one of the most accomplished athletes in the state this school year as a senior, especially standing out among those from smaller communities.

This past fall he was named first-team Division 5-6 all-state at defensive end in football before winning the Division 3 Individual Finals wrestling title at 285 pounds in early March at Ford Field.

VandenBerg's final goal is to win the discus title at the Lower Peninsula Division 3 Finals on Saturday, June 1, in Kent City to end his Constantine career all-state in all three sports.

He broke the school record in the discus his junior year with a throw of 158 feet, 1 inch; the previous mark of 156-6 had been held by Doug Polasek since 1986. VandenBerg has eclipsed his school record twice this spring, most recently with a personal-best toss of 170-9 in a Southwestern Athletic Conference double dual meet with Schoolcraft and Kalamazoo Christian. He ranks No. 4 statewide in the event regardless of enrollment division. Lawton junior Mason Mayne at 175-4 is the only Division 3 competitor with a better throw than VandenBerg.

"It's really cool to have your name up on the school record board, but I'd like to make that mark more untouchable before I'm done," VandenBerg said. "My goal is to be a state discus champion. I've put in the necessary work for it. It would be nice to end my career that way."

Kyle Rimer, Constantine's veteran boys track & field coach, is most impressed with VandenBerg's leadership and presence in working with the Falcons' younger athletes.

VandenBerg, top position, battles Wyatt Spalo in their Division championship wrestling match at 285 pounds in March at Ford Field. "Bennett loves to compete. Ever since he was a freshman, we've also had him on our 400-meter relay team. That's something he really enjoys doing. He's not just a thrower, but a good overall athlete with lots of drive,” Rimer said. “There's a lot of individuality in track & field, but I think he does a great job of leading the younger kids. He has the drive, accountability and technique to achieve his goal of being a state champion in his throwing events.”

VandenBerg is already a two-time Finals placer in the discus, earning sixth as a junior and seventh his sophomore year. He admits being a little disappointed with his distance at the 2023 state meet.

"In that particular event (discus) you need lots of focus and determination because there are a ton of tiny things you can mess up on that affect your throw. To become better you need to be consistent, show up every day and be willing to put in the work," VandenBerg said. "Right now I'm working on my speed in the circle and quickness in my follow-through."

VandenBerg also has been pleased with his improvement this spring in the shot put. He's increased his distance by over five feet and hopes to break the school record in that event as well. John Kampars (1967) holds Constantine's shot put record at 54-8¼, and VandenBerg's personal best is 48-10 in a double-dual meet this season against Parchment and Centreville.

"Shot put is a difficult event. You need power, but your form has to be top-notch – otherwise it's tough to move that 12-pound ball," VandenBerg said. "I would love to qualify for state in both the discus and shot put and be all-state in each. That would be amazing if I could be a state champion in either of those events."

VandenBerg has put in extra work in the offseason with special instruction from Bill Griffey of Next Throw in Plainwell, along with working with Constantine assistant track & field and head football coach Shawn Griffith.

"Bennett puts a lot of time into working on his throwing. He spends a lot of time in the weight room, and he's a bigger kid who is not afraid to be coached and listens to what other people tell him," Griffith said. "We're excited to see what he can do now that we've had warmer weather recently."

VandenBerg (34) carries the football during a 2023 regular-season home game against Schoolcraft.VandenBerg's motivation this spring follows a tremendous wrestling season that saw him finish 54-0 and capture the 285 championship with a 3-0 win in the title match over Reed City junior Wyatt Spalo.

"I gained 20 pounds of muscle and did everything you need to do to become a better athlete to wrestle the heavyweight division. Winning the title was overwhelming. It was everything I ever wanted, and the first 20 minutes after winning it was relief, especially after losing in the Finals as a junior. I just went into that last match and wrestled smart and confident," VandenBerg said. "My speed and strength gave me an advantage over the bigger heavyweights I faced this year."

Vandenberg, 188-22 with 104 career pins, became the 10th Finals champion in Constantine wrestling history and the first to achieve the feat since Kevin Watkins won a 152-pound crown in 2000.

VandenBerg competed at 189 as a freshman and sophomore. He was a Regional qualifier as a freshman and finished sixth in Division 3 as a sophomore before ending his junior campaign as the Finals runner-up at 215. 

"Bennett is a competitor who hates to lose, and if he does he learns from it. He had a lot of good practice partners on the team his first three years, and he wasn't going to be denied after losing in the Finals as a junior," said Constantine wrestling coach Dale Davidhizar Jr.

VandenBerg played on Constantine's varsity football team for four years. He got a lot of extra playing time as a freshman when Constantine reached the Division 6 Semifinals during in the COVID-shortened season. He led the Falcons in rushing as a sophomore before switching to tight end as a junior. Out of necessity, VandenBerg returned to lead Constantine in rushing and scoring again as a senior.

"Bennett learned a great deal from the older guys on the team his first three varsity seasons. He learned leadership qualities and is a very unselfish kid who is willing to do what's best for his team," Griffith said.

VandenBerg is most proud of Constantine winning a District crown last fall, especially after his senior class went 0-5-1 as eighth graders. VandenBerg posted 164 solo tackles at defensive end during his final high school season and was Constantine's main offensive weapon with 1,354 yards and 16 touchdowns rushing on 186 carries.

"Winning Districts as seniors in football was a special moment. As eighth graders, we weren't exactly the most athletic team, but we put in the work as we got older to become successful," VandenBerg said.

VandenBerg has been invited to play for the West team at the annual Michigan High School Football Coaches Association's East-West All-Star Game this summer.

College coaches have shown interest in VandenBerg in all three sports, especially football and wrestling. VandenBerg, who carries a cumulative GPA of 3.989 and scored 1110 on his SAT, is weighing his options in athletics but knows he wants to study either ecology or forestry in college.

"I love being outdoors and doing what I love to do," VandenBerg said.

Scott HassingerScott Hassinger is a contributing sportswriter for Leader Publications and previously served as the sports editor for the Three Rivers Commercial-News from 1994-2022. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph and Branch counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Constantine’s Bennett VandenBerg competes in the discus during a home meet his junior season. (Middle) VandenBerg, top position, battles Wyatt Spalo in their Division championship wrestling match at 285 pounds in March at Ford Field. (Below) VandenBerg (34) carries the football during a 2023 regular-season home game against Schoolcraft. (Photos by Brandon Watson/Sturgis Journal.)