Buell Becomes 29th 4-Time Champ as Dundee Sets Finals Record

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

April 3, 2021

KALALAMZOO – Stoney Buell wasn’t exactly a secret as a freshman, already considered one of the state’s best as a top-seeded contender at his first Individual Wrestling Finals in 2018. He would go on to win his first championship on the same night as teammate Brandon Whitman would become the first in Dundee history to claim a fourth Finals title.

Three years later, Buell will be leaving high school wrestling with an even bigger stack of accomplishments, having more than justified those predictions of greatness.

Buell became the 29th wrestler in MHSAA history to claim a fourth Individual Finals championship Friday, earning the Division 3 title at 189 pounds at Wings Event Center. With Dundee’s fourth-straight team championship Tuesday, Buell also is now one of just three in state history to be part of four team and four individual Finals wins – joining 2020 Lowell grad Austin Boone and Davison legend Brent Metcalf, who accomplished the feat from 2002-05.

“I think it just kinda added a little bit to prove people wrong as a freshman – because people talk and it always adds a little bit of fuel,” Buell said. “Just to finally accomplish that goal that I’ve had for so long is unreal.”

Buell, who will continue at Purdue, capped his Dundee career with a 6-1 decision against Constantine senior Isaac Hall (33-2) after pins of 27 seconds, 37 seconds and 30 seconds to reach the finale.

He had won at 135 pounds as a freshman, 152 as a sophomore and 160 as a junior. He ended this shortened season 27-0 and with a career record of 160-15.

Buell also was joined by seven teammates winning titles Friday as Dundee set a Finals record with eight champions.

“I’m just beyond grateful that we got to be here right now,” Buell said. “A huge shout out to Wings Event Center, and just the sport of wrestling for allowing me to be able to wrestle right now, and be able to do it with a team that makes you better every day. I wouldn’t want to do it with anybody else.”


Champion: Kade Kluce, Dundee, Fr. (18-2)
Decision, 7-3, over Talan Parsons, Ovid-Elsie, Fr. (24-1)

With three champions graduating, Kluce is part of the next generation of Dundee contenders – and he’s off to the best-possible start.

Kluce handed Parsons his only defeat of the season in a matchup of standout freshmen.

“It was really important for me, my team, my family. I worked a long time for this,” Kluce said. “And it’s paid off.

“I definitely want to do it three more times.”  

Division 3 Wrestling Finals 2


Champion: Braeden Davis, Dundee, Soph. (27-0)
Fall, 1:26, over Gavyn Merchant, Kingsley, Fr. (28-1)

Davis is halfway to matching Buell. And he’s blazing a similarly dominant trail.

Davis never wrestled past the second period this season, winning all of his matches by pin or tech fall including this finale to hand Merchant his only loss.

The championship followed Davis’ title at 103 a year ago.

“This year I felt more prepared and used to it,” he said. “Less nerves, and I’m used to going to big-level tournaments, so I guess it helped.

“I’m going to take a week off and I’m going right into freestyle training and getting ready for Fargo (Nationals).”


Champion: Kaden Chinavare, Dundee, Soph. (24-0)
Major Decision, 16-5, over Dominic Anguiano, Alma, Sr. (29-4)

Chinavare had placed third at 112 as a freshman and was ready to take his turn among the many Dundee champions over the last two seasons.

He entered as the top seed at this weight and opened with a technical fall and pin on the way to claiming that first title.

“All these guys, they train with me every day. We scrap in the wrestling room 24/7, and it feels great to finally win the first title,” he said. “It’s kinda what we work for in the room all season.”


Champion: Zachary Gibson, Lake Odessa Lakewood, Jr. (33-1)
Decision, 2-1, over Caeleb Ishmael, Coloma, Jr. (30-5)

Gibson jumped from finishing fifth at 103 as a freshman and fifth again at 112 last season to claim his first title. He scored a reversal in the third period and held on.

“After I got the two, I figured, I couldn’t turn the kid the first two periods … so just stay smart. State champ match, you’ve gotta stay smart,” Gibson said.

He gave Lakewood a champion at the Finals for the second straight season, after entering as the second seed at this weight and getting pins in his first two matches of the day.

“It’s really awesome, really sets an example for the rest of the guys,” Cooper said. “My team, they see me as an upperclassmen. They want to fight to get up there with me, and it’s awesome. I work with all the guys, all the underclassmen.”

Division 3 Wrestling Finals 3


Champion: Ryker Johnecheck, Williamston, Jr. (27-0)
Decision, 6-2, over Brock Holek, Durand, Sr. (25-4)

Both were making repeat appearances in a championship match, Johnecheck after winning 125 last year and Holek after coming in second at 130.

Holek defeated Johnecheck’s brother Camden 5-3 in a semifinal, setting up this clash.

“I’ve wrestled him at Districts and Regionals, and I know what he likes to do,” Ryker Johnecheck said. “I was just waiting for the opportunity, and I got the takedowns when I needed to, and it turned out with me on top.”

Williamston has produced its share of champions in the past, including a pair of the best-known in MHSAA history. Johnecheck became the Hornets’ first repeat champion since Andy Simmons won his fourth title in 2002.

“We’ve had a lot of guys coming up around my age,” Johnecheck said. “We brought five guys to states today; we’ve got five placers. It’s all a team. We push each other at practice, and it shows.”


Champion: Aiden Davis, Dundee, Soph. (27-1)
Decision, 5-1, over Jack Sherman, Millington, Sr. (28-1)

Davis had come up just short as a freshman, losing the championship match at 125 to Johnecheck on a last-second ultimate tiebreaker takedown last winter.

After this win he talked about always getting better, by baby steps or leaps and bounds. And he finished the season by making that next move and handing Sherman his only defeat.  

“This was one was pretty sweet, because last year I lost in literally the last second,” Davis said. “So I felt like this one meant something to really get it.

“I knew I deserved it last year. This year I just had to prove that.”


Champion: Max Brown, Whitehall, Jr. (35-1)
Decision, 7-1, over Austin Fietz, Dundee, Sr. (23-4)

Brown made some noise when he started Tuesday’s Team Final against Dundee with a win over the top-seeded Fietz, a 2020 champion.

Then it was back to preparing for a possible rematch, as Brown was the second seed in this bracket. He lined up a pair of pins Friday to earn the opportunity.

“After our match Tuesday at team states, we went back to the practice room, we worked hard, we got a strategy and went out and executed the strategy,” Brown said. “I knew what to block for, what to look for, how to keep working the whole time.”

Brown had finished third at 130 as a sophomore and fourth at 125 as a freshman.


Champion: Casey Swiderski, Dundee, Jr. (28-0)
Major Decision, 20-7, over Dametrius Castillo, Alma, Sr. (29-5)

It seemed appropriate that Swiderski earned not only Dundee’s last championship of the day, but also the last win of the Division 3 meet – because after this weekend, the spotlight is sure to turn his way even more.

Swiderski will have the opportunity next year to join the prestigious group of four-time champs, with Friday’s Finals win at 145 adding to his past titles at 135 as a sophomore and 103 as a freshman.

He won his first three matches this time by pin before the major decision against Castillo, who was a champion as a freshman and runner-up as a junior.

“State titles are state titles. If my goal is this high, this is just a stepping stone to my goals – Division I college, NCAAs, all that,” Swiderski said.

“Getting that fourth (would be) awesome for the history. And being one of those guys, not many people get to do that. Not many people alone get (one) state title.”


Champion: Nick Dodman, Sanford Meridian, Sr. (31-5)
Decision, 9-2, over Nicholas Blanchard, Whitehall, Jr. (30-7)

Dodman became his school’s third Individual Finals champion, and first since 2014 – and also Meridian’s first non-heavyweight title winner.

He made good on his top seed Friday after previous Finals finishes of sixth at 140 and eighth at 135 as a junior and sophomore, respectively.

“I knew I could beat anyone in this bracket, and that mindset helped me do it,” Dodman said. “I’d wrestled a lot of them before, and I know nobody here has put in as many hours as me. I knew they didn’t stand a chance.”


Champion: Tyler Swiderski, Dundee, Sr. (27-1)
Decision, 7-2, over Connor Owens, Flint Powers Catholic, Soph. (24-1)

Friday’s win over the previously-undefeated Owens came at the opening weight for this year’s Finals and kicked off the Vikings’ record run of champions while also giving Swiderski his second-straight title to go with last year’s at 145.

Swiderski had opened his high school career with Individual Finals runner-up finishes at 112 as a freshman and 135 as a sophomore. And then the key to taking the next step clicked.

“Just to wrestle my matches like I do in practice and not overthink the whole tournament,” he said.

“I think (this year) was a lot better, just because I think I was a lot more free this year,” Swiderski added, comparing his first and second championships. “And it was my last season, so I thought it was very important.”


Champion: Dominick Lomazzo, Dundee, Sr. (23-3)
Decision, 7-4, over Randy Pyrzewski, Gladwin, Jr. (28-2)

Lomazzo capped his career with a second-straight championship, adding to the title he won at 152 a year ago.

This run certainly was different though, even if the end result was the same. Lomazzo, who earned a pin and then a major decision to start off Friday, did it all with an ankle injury he suffered during last week’s Regional Final.

But he fought through it to finish a career that included multiple team championships as well and a third place in Division 1 at 125 as a freshman wrestling for Detroit Catholic Central.

“I’m just really happy to be part of this team. These are all my best friends,” Lomazzo said. “It just feels great to finish it out on a bang and know that I did everything I could to finish it, and I got it done.”


Champion: Ira Jenkins, Whitehall, Jr. (38-0)
Fall, 0:44, over Ryan Osterland, Algonac, Sr. (31-2)

Jenkins arguably had the most dominating day of any Division 3 competitor Friday, with pins in 1:28, 1:46, 19 seconds and then 44 seconds in the finale to lock down a perfect season and his first championship.

He’d previously finished third at 152 in Division 3 as a freshman and fifth at 171 in Division 2 as a sophomore.

“I wanted to come into this tournament and dominate as best I could,” Jenkins said. “I wanted to get four pins all the way through – that was just my goal, I guess. I know there’s some things I could’ve done better, but I got it done.

“Coming off last year, a fifth-place finish wasn’t where I wanted to end up. So I went back to working and learned from that, and just kept improving. All the offseason work is paying off.”


Champion: Dan McKiernan, Richmond, Sr. (16-0)
Decision, 3-1, over Levi Harber, Montrose, Jr. (18-3)

The McKiernans can wrestle. There’s no doubt about that.

Dan finished his high school career Friday by becoming the fourth McKiernan brother to compete in an MHSAA individual championship match – and the second from his family to win one.

McKiernan earned a last-second takedown for the go-ahead points.

“We were both tired, got barely anything left by the end,” Dan McKiernan said. “I knew it’s not worth resting toward the end of the period, so I just thought I had to get and go.”  

Jake McKiernan had won the Division 3 title at 189 pounds in 2014, while Jordan McKiernan was runner-up at 152 for Richmond in 2006 and Colton McKiernan was runner-up at 189 in 2017 and 215 pounds in 2018.

“I’m so proud of it. I love my family,” said Dan, who had taken fifth at 285 as a junior. “I’m hoping they’re happy.”

Click for the full bracket.

PHOTOS: (Top) Dundee’s Stoney Buell raises four fingers on each hand to the crowd signifying his fourth championship won Friday at the Division 3 Individual Wrestling Finals. (Middle) The Vikings’ Braeden Davis, right, works toward a win at 112. (Below) Lakewood’s Zachary Gibson, right, maintains control during his title match win at 125. (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.)