2-Time Champion Langewicz Paving Historic Path Amid Growing Spotlight

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

December 20, 2023

Sky Langewicz knows she’s part of something special. 

Bay & ThumbThe Algonac junior started her high school career the same year the MHSAA Girls Wrestling Finals debuted. And as she’s brought home a pair of Finals titles to cap her first two years, she’s also watched the sport grow rapidly around her.

“There were other girls state tournaments, so I always knew I could do that,” Langewicz said. “But I’m really thankful my freshman year was the first year. … It’s kind of cool to be part of it all happening. It happened so fast. I went from being one of the only girls in youth wrestling, now there are women’s high school teams around me. It’s cool to see all these girls joining. It’s really cool to be part of it.”

Langewicz is not just part of it – she’s one of the best, not only in the state, but the nation in a sport that’s booming. She’s ranked No. 11 in the nation at 110 pounds by FloWrestling and has built up an impressive resume over her first two seasons.

Her two Finals titles – at 105 and 110 pounds – are joined by a pair of MUSAW Freestyle state championships. During her sophomore year, she won the Michigan Grappler Fall Classic and placed fourth in the USAW Central Regional Championships. She also placed second in the Macomb County Invitational and third in the Blue Water Area Conference championships, both boys tournaments.

She’s never lost a girls high school match, and this season, she’s off to a 6-3 start at 113 pounds, with all her matches coming against boys. Two of her three losses came to unbeaten wrestlers. 

Most of her matches are still wrestled against boys, and she’s OK with that. She was 42-5 a year ago against the boys – 14-0 against girls – and her freshman year she was torn on whether to enter the boys or the girls MHSAA Tournament before ultimately deciding to become part of history.

“That was the big question,” said Langewicz, who was 19-0 against girls as a freshman. “That wasn’t completely my decision, but I thought it was better to win it in the girls than to be a boys state placer.”

Both of Langewicz’s Finals titles finished with wins against Gaylord’s Sunni LaFond. Langewicz won 5-3 in the 2023 Finals, and 3-0 in 2022.

Langewicz’s arm is raised in victory.She isn’t sure what weight class she will eventually wind up at for this year’s tournament, but seeing LaFond, who is also a junior, is certainly a real possibility.

“I think it’s pretty cool to have that rivalry,” Langewicz said. “It’s a pretty big part of wrestling, to have a rivalry like that.”

A girls rivalry is fairly new for Langewicz, as she’s been competing against the boys her entire life. She played quarterback on a boys football team in third grade, and in her first youth wrestling season, mostly against boys, she went 15-3.

“It was pretty quick,” Algonac coach Brian Ranger said of when he knew Langewicz could be special. “I knew if I could just point her in the right direction, and do what I can here locally, she had the ability. It was just a matter of making it happen.”

While Clawson’s Katlyn Pizzo, a two-time MHSAA Finals qualifier and 2017 placer, is the one girl Langewicz remembers watching compete when she was younger, Langewicz’s older brothers really sparked her interest in the sport.

“I always went to their tournaments and always thought it was fun,” she said. “I was already involved in other sports, football was one of those, and those boys were my friends, so I wanted to be part of it.”

Now, however, Langewicz is giving girls in Algonac and around the state someone to look up to as their interest in the sport grows. Among them is Ranger’s daughter, Emma, a third grader in Algonac’s youth program.

That’s not lost on Langewicz.

“I feel like I have a lot of responsibility with that,” she said. “Knowing that I have a lot of girls, even in Algonac, there are so many that look up to me, and so many that tell me they started wrestling because they saw me.”

As Langewicz handles the duties of being a role model, she’s also chasing her own dreams on the mat and juggling decisions about her future. 

As a junior, what happens after high school is still an open question. But it’s not just where Langewicz will go, but if she will wrestle at all.

She’s undecided on that, currently, as even though the number of women’s collegiate wrestling programs is growing, it’s still relatively small. That means finding the right athletic and academic fit is tougher, and Langewicz – who has spoken with multiple colleges – currently wants to become a chiropractor. 

Whether or not she chooses to wrestle in college, she has a chance to become part of an exclusive club.

Thanks to great timing – and great wrestling – Langewicz has a chance to become one of the first four-time girls MHSAA Individual Finals champions. Both her and Fowlerville’s Margaret Buurma are on pace through two years. 

“That’s the vision,” Ranger said. “She’s good enough, she just has to believe in herself. Now that she’s done it a couple times, she knows that she’s good enough. There are so many factors – being healthy, having great training partners in the room. She does a lot in spring and summer. We’re excited for her to have a chance at No. 3 this year, then hopefully there’s a chance to win four.”

Paul CostanzoPaul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Algonac’s Sky Langewicz, left, wrestles Gaylord’s Sunni LaFond during last season’s Individual Finals at Ford Field. (Middle) Langewicz’s arm is raised in victory. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)

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

By Scott Hassinger
Special for MHSAA.com

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.)