2020 Dundee Stakes Claim as Vikings' Best

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

February 29, 2020

KALMAZOO – Nobody was quite ready Saturday to definitively call this Dundee wrestling team the best in program history. 

But simply being in the conversation says enough. 

The Vikings put an exclamation point on a dominant season by defeating rival Richmond 44-18 in the Division 3 championship match at Wings Event Center. It was the third-straight title for Dundee, and the program’s 12th overall. 

“It’s hard to say; I’ve been on two really good teams,” Dundee senior Christian Killion said, when asked if this was the best Dundee team. “If I have to say one thing, this was the funnest. I can’t say if it’s the best or not.” 

The Vikings finished the season 23-1, won the Lenawee County Athletic Association title, qualified 13 of 14 wrestlers who entered the individual postseason for the MHSAA Individual Finals, and walked into Saturday’s Team Final not having given up more than nine points in a postseason dual. 

To further their claim to the top spot in the program’s illustrious history, seven wrestlers are currently ranked No. 1 in the Division in their weight class.  

“Yeah, that’s a good point,” Killion said when reminded of the last point. “It’s a special team.” 

Dundee showed off its power early in its dual against Richmond, which went up 3-0 after one match when Josh Barton won a 5-4 decision at 119 pounds. 

The Vikings won the next eight matches to put the dual out of reach. 

“You don’t control what weight you start at, but where we did, we knew they had a couple tough competitors there,” Dundee coach Tim Roberts said. “They had Austin Kilburn, who is very good, and Austin Fietz steps up and gets the victory there (at 130). Even Aiden Davis getting that major decision at 125. A lot of guys stepped up and made that run of eight straight there. Then it was important to keep working for bonus points. (Richmond does) such a good job of making it hard to get bonus points on them. They’re always very hard to score on, they’re very stingy giving up bonus points. I was really proud of the effort our boys were able to put in to do that.” 

Davis started the run with an 11-3 major decision at 125, followed by Fietz’s 6-4 overtime win at 130. Dundee then put the top-ranked wrestler in the Division on the mat in five of the next six weight classes, getting pins from Casey Swiderski (135) and Tyler Swiderski (152), and major decisions from Kyle Yuhas (140), Killion (145), Dominic Lomazzo (160) and Stoney Buell (171). 

By the time the strongest part of Richmond’s lineup stepped on the mat in the upper weights, the Vikings had clinched the title. 

“We knew we were going to have an advantage up top,” Richmond co-coach Preston Treend said. “We actually got great matches from our kids through the middle. Gavin (Resk), Caleb (Scalachtowicz), (Austin) Bergeon for a bit. We got great matches against their studs through the middle. We were hoping to just save enough points to get something to happen at the end. We needed to flip one or two of those.” 

Noah Montanari gave Richmond (26-6) a win at 189 with a 4-2 decision, and Luke Davis (215) and Dan McKiernan (285) followed that up with pins.  

Dundee closed out the dual with a pin from Braeden Davis at 103 and a 6-3 decision from Kaden Chinavare at 112.  

The Finals meeting was the ninth in 11 years between the two programs, which have accounted for every Division 3 title since 2010 (Dundee winning six, Richmond five). 

“They’re certainly loaded, they’ve got seven No. 1 guys, but we’ve wrestled teams they’ve had before that have been just as tough,” Treend said. “That team we beat in 2015 was loaded. In 2010, they had four guys that ended up being high school All-Americans. It’s kind of the way this has gone – we're the scrappy guys that find a way to get it done, and they have these big guns. When there’s a lot of big guns, that’s tough to beat.” 

While the season didn’t end with a title for Richmond, Treend was plenty happy with how his team performed.  

“This group of kids overachieved,” he said. “Our lineup, we wrestled most of the year without Austin Kilburn. We wrestled most of the year without a true (140)-pounder. We were able to win duals different ways and put it all together at the end to make a run.” 

Roberts, meanwhile, couldn’t have asked for much more out of his group. 

“This team has been fantastic this year with the level they can compete at, and the level of teams that we’ve competed with,” Roberts said. “They had big goals. A lot of our teams, they like to compare themselves, ‘Who is the best Dundee team ever?’ It’s impossible to compare. They’re all my favorite team. But when the guys talk to each other, they all want to leave their legacy of, ‘No, we were the greatest team.’ These guys definitely wanted to do that, and they did a lot of things this year to have staked their claim.” 

Dundee defeated Montrose 65-9 in the Semifinal, while Richmond defeated Alma 40-25. 

Aiden Davis, Fietz, Casey Swiderski, Kyle Yuhas, Killion, Tyler Swiderski, Lomazzo, Buell, Braeden Davis and Chinavare all won three matches on the weekend for Dundee. 

Barton, Montanari, Luke Davis and Dan McKiernan won three for Richmond. 

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Dundee’s Casey Swiderski works toward a pin during his 135-pound match Saturday against Richmond. (Middle) The Vikings won 10 of 14 matches in the Division 3 Final. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)

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.)