4-Time Champ Hopes Legacy Is Opportunity

March 2, 2019

By Jeff Chaney
Special for Second Half

DETROIT – Kevon Davenport hopes what he accomplished Saturday night at Ford Field will stretch far and wide in the Michigan wrestling community. 

The Detroit Catholic Central senior became the 26th wrestler to win four Individual Finals titles when he defeated Bay City Western senior Vic Schoenherr 7-3 to claim the 145-pound Division 1 championship.

But more importantly to Davenport is that he is the first Africa-American wrestler from the state to win four championships. 

"In my opinion, the sport of wrestling is not a super diverse sport," said Davenport, who improved to 35-1 with the win. "There is not that many African-American wrestlers out there, and I wanted to come along and inspire people. Hopefully them seeing me be the first four-time African-American state champ, they can try and bring wrestling to the Detroit Public School system. I want to grow wrestling through my own community." 

Like he has throughout his career, Davenport was on top of his game Saturday afternoon, staying in control against Schoenherr (49-1) and giving him his only loss of the season.

"I would have liked to perform a little bit better, but I won and I am grateful for that," Davenport said. "I felt like the only pressure that was on me was the pressure I was putting on myself.”


Champion: Kavan Troy, Rochester, Soph. (50-0)
Fall, 5:04, over Aden Williams, Davison, Fr. (24-5)

Last year Troy failed to qualify for the MHSAA Finals, but he didn't look at that as a negative. Instead, he used it as a positive for this season.

He worked hard in the offseason to add muscle on his frame, and he came back on a mission. That mission was complete when he pinned Williams to claim the 103-pound title. 

"I never gave up," Troy said. "I kept working and lifting in the offseason. And football really made me stronger. I thought my technique was pretty good last year, but I was 100 pounds so I needed to put on muscle. This year I grew and got stronger."


Champion: Brenden Ferretti, Macomb Dakota, Soph. (53-0)
Major Decision, 10-2, over Zein Bazzi, Dearborn Heights Crestwood, Soph. (45-4)

Sometimes giving up the first points in a huge match can cause panic. 

But not for Ferretti, who gave up the first takedown to Bazzi and then went on to earn a workmanlike 10-2 major decision victory and the 112-pound championship. 

Ferretti gave a lot of credit to his workout partners in his team's practice room, and it was easy to see why. 

"I have been working very hard this year, and I know that I have really good stamina," Ferretti said. "I believe I am never out of it, no matter what happens."


Champion: Nick Alayan, Macomb Dakota, Sr. (49-3)
Decision, 6-4, over Andrew Chambal, Davison, Jr. (38-3)

Most wrestlers remember the losses more than the wins. 

And when they get the opportunity to avenge a past Finals championship loss against the same opponent the next year, it's hard to temper the drive for revenge.

That is what took place when Alayan and Chambal locked up for the 119-pound title. This year was Alayan's time, as he beat Chambal 6-4. Last year Chambal took the 112-pound title with a 7-1 win over Alayan. 

"I had nothing to lose this year," Alayan said. "I was the underdog this year, and that felt great not having much pressure. This year me and my team worked a little bit harder to train for this."


Champion: Eddie Homrock, Brighton, Jr. (53-2)
Decision, 3-2, over Justin Triburcio, Macomb Dakota, Sr. (40-4)

When most wrestlers end their seasons, they start preparing for a little down time and some good food.  

When Homrock walked off the mat Saturday evening after winning the 125-pound title with a hard-fought 3-2 win, he did a set of four sprints back and forth on the Ford Field turf.

"I always do sprints at the end of my matches, because it keeps me in better shape," Homrock said. "I have been wrestling forever, and doing those sprints right there is going to get me in better shape for tournaments that come up later."


Champion: Kyle Kantola, Hartland, Sr. (49-0)
Decision, 3-0, over T.J. Daugherty, Waterford Kettering, Jr. (40-1)

Kantola has had to wrestle a full six-minute match three times this season, and two of those came this weekend at Ford Field. 

Kantola beat Detroit Catholic Central's Camden Trupp 6-0 in the semifinals, and then beat 2017 103-pound champion Daugherty in the final 3-0.  

"I practiced hard knowing that I might have to go six minutes this weekend, and it happened twice," Kantola said. 

And now he is a champion, after being a runner-up a year ago.  

"I knew I didn't want to be second again, so I just kept pushing every day to be on top," Kantola said. "Now it feels good."


Champion: Josh Edmond, Detroit Catholic Central, Jr. (37-2)
Decision, 7-3, over Brody Kemper, Grand Blanc, Jr. (41-5)

Even though he had just secured his second straight championship, Edmond walked off the mat a bit upset at himself.  

He was happy to be a champion again, but not thrilled about the way he wrestled. 

"I didn't score enough points," Edmond said. "I wanted to dominate, and I didn't even get a major decision so I think I underachieved." 

And that is how the best become the best. 

"I wanted to dominate this tournament, and every other match I got bonus points," Edmond said. "I'm happy, though."  


Champion: Derek Gilcher, Detroit Catholic Central, Jr. (32-2)
Decision, 7-2, over Marc Shaeffer, Detroit Catholic Central, Jr. (21-5)

All season and offseason you drill with your teammates, so it is never easy to take on a teammate in a match.

Make it an MHSAA Finals match with a title on the line, and that makes the task even harder. 

In what can be described as the ultimate challenge match, Gilcher defeated Shaeffer 7-2 to earn his second straight title.

"It is always hard to see someone on your team, especially at the state finals," Gilcher said. "It's different, because he knows everything that I do and I know what he likes."


Champion: Cam Amine, Detroit Catholic Central, Sr. (37-0)
Major Decision, 11-3, over Jaden Fisher, Lake Orion, Sr. (49-2)

In what was one of the top matches at last year's Finals, Amine lost a heart-breaker to Davison's Alex Facundo, erasing his chance to become a four-time champion. 

Amine used that loss to hone his already elite skills and push his endurance to the limit. And that paid off this year, as Amine capped a perfect season with a major decision victory over Fisher for his third title. 

"It was the whole motivation coming into this year," Amine said. "That drove me every day to get better. (Last year) he got me in that match, and I had to get better so that would never happen again.

"Being a three-time champion is a great accomplishment. When I first came in as a freshman I wanted to be a four-time champion, and that didn't happen so I used that as motivation."


Champion: Alex Facundo, Davison, Soph. (37-2)
Decision, 9-3, over Devin Trevino, Clarkston, Sr. (45-5)

Facundo's path to greatness is still intact, but it wasn't easy Saturday evening.

After cruising through his bracket with two technical falls and a pin, Facundo met a game Trevino and grinded out a 9-3 win. 

"It feels good to be a two-time champion, but I wanted to win by at least a (technical fall in the final); that was my goal," Facundo said. "I like to set goals, so I was a little frustrated with myself. I am not really satisfied with my win, but that will just make me work harder."


Champion: River Shettler, Brighton, Sr. (50-2)
Decision, 2-1 (2OT), over Dylan Wellbaum, Lake Orion, Sr. (47-2)

Shettler said he will take it.

He won his first Finals title when he was awarded a stalling point in double overtime, after finishing runner-up last year. 

Wellbaum made it to the championship match after failing to qualify for the Finals last year. 

"That kid came out of nowhere this year," Shettler said. "He was unranked, and he comes out there and wrestles (well). We both wanted the same thing. We both wrestled awesome, and I have mad respect for him."


Champion: Easton Turner, Detroit Catholic Central, Sr. (38-3)
Decision, 4-0, over Cal Stefanko, Davison, Sr. (31-3)

Turner's left shoulder was wrapped tightly in a brace, protecting what he thought to be a torn labrum that kept causing his shoulder to pop out.  

But Turner fought through the injury and won his second straight title. 

"I was constantly getting yelled at by Coach to toughen up, toughen up," Turner said. "And I just fought through it." 


Champion: Brendin Yatooma, Detroit Catholic Central, Jr. (39-3)
Fall, 3:16, over Kyle Scott, Hudsonville, Sr. (47-4)

With this weekend's tournament starting at the 285-pound weight class, Yatooma put an exclamation point on an impressive Finals by the Detroit Catholic Central wrestlers. 

Yatooma was crowned the seventh champion for the Shamrocks, and he did it in impressive fashion. 

"I just went out there and did what I had to do," Yatooma said. "I have to thank my coaches for pushing me so hard. All the timed miles that we ran, all the in-the-holes we did. And in practice, I want to thank my partners, Steven Kolcheff and Easton Turner."


Champion: Steven Kolcheff, Detroit Catholic Central, Jr. (36-3)
Decision, 4-0, over Mahdi Hazime, Dearborn Fordson, Sr. (47-5)

Kolcheff said he may have left something on the mat when he wrestled for a Finals title last year. The Detroit Catholic Central junior lost a tight decision and knew he could do better. 

He showed Saturday he was right, winning his first championship. 

"I wasn't working as hard as I could," Kolcheff said. "This year I came back and coaches pushed me as hard as I could (go). They broke me a couple times in the practice room, but that paid off a lot."

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PHOTO: Kevon Davenport’s arm is raised after the Detroit Catholic Central senior earned his fourth MHSAA Finals championship Saturday. (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.)