Allegan's Simaz Adds to Family Title Run

March 2, 2014

By Chris Phifer
Special to Second Half 

AUBURN HILLS, MI – For the past decade, the name Simaz has rung through the walls of The Palace of Auburn Hills in early March.

And it's had a championship ring. 

Four Simaz brothers – Eric, Cam, Taylor and Kyle – have won eight individual titles at the MHSAA Individual Wrestling Finals, starting with Eric and Cam in 2005, and ending with Kyle on Saturday in the 145-pound match in Division 3.

He beat Chad Decker of Grass Lake 27-12 for his second title. 

Total family titles: one by Eric, three by Cam, two by Taylor and two by Kyle.

“I think that's awesome,” Simaz said. “Our family is very competitive. A jog around the Simaz house is a race. We have a very competitive family.” 

Simaz says this title did not come without trepidation.

“This weekend is a very stressful weekend,” Simaz said. “I'm glad it's over, and I'm glad I came out on top.” 


Champion: Tristan Serbus, Corunna, Soph. (46-1)
Decision, 10-6 over Brendan Abrigo, Manchester, Jr. (52-3)

Serbus had something to prove.

He lost to Abrigo earlier this season, but that would not stop him from achieving what he had been working for his whole season – beating Abrigo in the 103-pound championship match.

And he stayed on the offensive to do that, beating him 10-6 for the title.

“It feels awesome,” Serbus said. “I worked hard and attacked, attacked, attacked. I am so glad I have my coaches and teammates.”


Champion: Aaron Kilburn, Richmond, Soph. (40-5)
Decision, 4-1 over K.J. Suitor, Saginaw Swan Valley, Soph. (54-3)

Kilburn improved on last year's third-place finish by controlling Suitor for a 4-1 victory.

Kilburn cruised through his first match with a fall in the second period. He continued with a 9-2 victory over Nolan Saxton from Lakeview. In the Semifinal, he outlasted Arthur Paine from Montrose 3-0, setting up his final match with Suitor.

“I thought that I wrestled well the whole tournament,” Kilburn said. “It feels better taking first than third, I can tell you that.”


Champion: Devin Schroder, Grand Rapids Catholic Central, Soph. (40-4)
Decision, 5-2 over Kanen Storr, Leslie, Soph. (57-2)

Schroder won his second straight MHSAA title in what proved to be one of the most competitive weights in the Finals tournament, regardless of division.

His Semifinal match was a repeat of last year’s championship matchup, as Schroder worked his way to a 10-3 decision over Alex Martinez of Ida.

He continued to roll in the Final, defeating Leslie’s Storr, a champion himself in 2013.

It was sweet accomplishment for Schroder, who focused on this weekend to fuel his work ethic and dedication the last few weeks.

“You have down points during the season,” said Schroder, who lost four matches this year after going undefeated last year. “However, you look forward to the state tournament, because it pushes you to get better.”


Champion: Foster Karmon, Allegan, Soph. (58-2)
Decision, 2-1 over Jerry Fenner, Birch Run, Jr. (48-6)

Karmon had to endure two close matches to claim his first title. He used strategy and savvy wrestling to overcome Fenner in the Final.

This coming after he beat Matt Santos of Saginaw Swan Valley in the Semifinal 2-1.

“I had to keep my offense going (during the third period up 2-0),” Karmon said. “I knew if I backed up I would get called for stalling, so I had to stay on him like I did earlier in the match.”


Champion: Grant Turnmire, Almont, Jr. (47-4)
Fall, 0:38 over Zane Corey, Allegan, Sr. (45-4)

All it took was one big headlock, and support from his dad, to propel Turnmire to his first MHSAA title. Turnmire used an impressive headlock to pin Corey in 38 seconds. 

After that he rushed to hug his father and coach, Bill Turnmire.

“It is special to win a state title,” Grant Turnmire said. “My dad has supported me throughout. This is very special.”


Champion: Nate Limmex, Grand Rapids Catholic Central, Jr. (23-0)
Technical Fall, 17-2 in 3:42 over Alex Young, Portland, Jr. (34-9)

Being injured in January did not stop Limmex from capturing his second MHSAA title in two years. Limmex had some tight matches on his path to the Final, but came away unscathed.

He dominated talented Young from Portland from the start, completing his 17-2 technical fall in the second period.

“I have been working on transitioning from leg attacks to turks because it will lead to more opportunities for back points,” Limmex said. “It is not boring winning two state titles. It feels good knowing that the hard work pays off.”


Champion: Zehlin Storr, Leslie, Sr. (61-0)
Decision, 3-1 over Doug Rojem, Dundee, Sr. (47-6)

Wrestling a returning champ at the same weight might seem intimidating to the average person.

However, when you are a person like Storr, it is not intimidating; it is motivating.

He used wrestling knowledge and craftiness on his way to a second MHSAA championship, beating a very talented Rojem, who also was attempting to win his second title.

“I wanted to beat his defense with my offense,” Storr said. “This year, I can say I had a blast. ”


Champion: Devin Skatzka, Richmond, Jr. (40-3)
Fall, 1:01 over Eric Coval, Manchester, Sr. (37-1)

“Pin to win” is a motto that many wrestlers and coaches use to motivate.

However, Skatzka takes this to heart.

He went through the entire Finals pinning every opponent in the first period, one in just 15 seconds.

That led to his third MHSAA title.

“I really did not expect it, especially against Coval (when talking about pinning every opponent in the first period),” Skatzka said. “I was really looking for that pin. I am very proud of myself.”


Champion: Tristen Zienkiewicz, Farwell, Sr. (49-2)
Decision, 4-3 over Jared Elliott, Birch Run, Sr. (48-6)

Many wrestlers have moves they try to execute during every match. The trick is to be able to utilize them in different positions. 

Zienkiewicz did just that.

With only eight seconds left in is final match against Elliott, he executed a fantastic inside trip, dragging his feet in bounds for the two-point takedown to secure a 4-3 victory.

“(Hitting an inside trip with eight seconds to go), I thought my God, my God, my dream came true,” Zienkiewicz said. “Whatever is there, I take it.”


Champion: Andy Donoho, Lake Fenton, Sr. (52-7)
Decision, 4-2 over Tye Thompson, Dundee, Jr. (43-7)

Last weekend, Donoho did what was best for his team, bumping up a weight to wrestle Dundee's MHSAA runner-up Teddy Warren at 189 pounds.

This weekend he was able to avenge a loss his teammate Trent Hilger suffered last week at Team Finals, as he beat Thompson in the championship match at 171.

“Gratification, I got it here from great coaches and great workout partners,” Donoho said. “Everyday, we get after it. It was worth it.”


Champion: Jake McKiernan, Richmond, Sr. (37-5)
Decision, 5-0 over Teddy Warren, Dundee, Sr. (25-4)

Wrestling has three positions – neutral, top, and bottom.

McKiernan utilized strategy in the neutral position to come away with a 5-0 victory over Warren.

He knew Warren was good on his feet, so he had to be better than him there, because he knew he could take him on the mat.

“This feels incredible,” McKiernan said. “My coaches helped me mentally. I never really pictured myself in this situation. Getting better in the neutral position was the key, especially in this match.”


Champion: Danny Drummond, Grand Rapids Catholic Central, Sr. (33-9)
Decision, 7-4 TB3 over Colin Beebe, Allendale, Sr. (48-1)

Wrestling is a very physical sport. Sometimes matches last a very long time.

Drummond figured his final match with favored Beebe would go into overtime. In fact, it took three overtimes for Drummond to outlast Beebe.

Drummond was able to score an escape with time still remaining. He then was able to secure a late takedown to secure his first title.

“I wrestled him four or five times in two years, and he's beat me every time,” Drummond said. “He is one of the best wrestlers I have ever wrestled. I wanted to pound it on for three periods physically. This feels amazing.”


Champion: Eric Fader, Sandord-Meridian, Sr. (48-5)
Decision, 7-6 TB1 Glenn Geurink, Allendale, Sr. (46-1)

When you think of heavyweight wrestling, you think of a slow-paced chess match, especially when you are talking about title deciders.

Fader and Geurink would disagree.

That's because this match had non-stop action to the end. And in the end, it was Fader that came away with a 7-6 tie-breaker victory.

“I just went out there and did my best,” Fader said. “I had to grind it out, do some set ups, and hit my blast double.”

Click for full results.

PHOTO: Allegan's Kyle Simaz has his hand raised in victory during the Division 3 Individual Finals. (Click to see more fromHigh School Sports Scene.) 

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.)