Clio's Williams Caps Season of All Wins, All by Pin, with Finals Victory

By Scott DeCamp
Special for

March 5, 2023

DETROIT – Khloe Williams wasted no time securing her second career state championship during Saturday’s MHSAA Individual Wrestling Finals at Ford Field.

It took the Clio senior only 30 seconds to post a victory by pinfall over Kalamazoo Loy Norrix sophomore Heaven Cole in the 170-pound title match.

All four of Williams’ victories this weekend resulted in pinfalls that took a minute or less. In fact, all 32 of her matches this season resulted in wins by pinfall.

“I just wanted to do that this year. I just wanted to pin everyone,” said Williams, who won a Michigan Wrestling Association state title as a freshman, finished second in MWA as a sophomore and then runner-up again in last year’s MHSAA Tournament.

Immediately following her victory over Cole (14-2) on Saturday, Williams stopped long enough to conduct an interview, but she had places to be. Two mats over from hers, a Clio teammate was vying for a Finals title of his own.

“I was trying to watch Jacob,” she said about Clio senior Jacob Marrs, who was wrestling in the Division 2 190-pound final as Williams wrapped up her match against Cole.

Marrs lost a 4-2 heartbreaker in his championship match.

Williams and Marrs have known each other a long time and they’re cut from the same cloth, according to Clio coach Tony Vance.

He said Williams tends to be businesslike, and that she’s very talented – but she also puts in the work.

“Her and my 190-pounder (Jacob Marrs), I mean, they’re both very technical wrestlers and they grew up wrestling since they were 5, 6 years old, and they’ve been around each other for a long time,” Vance said.

Would you believe that wrestling isn’t necessarily Williams’ favorite sport? She’s been wrestling for 13 years. She followed in older brother Kam’s footsteps. He was a Finals runner-up in high school.

Softball is No. 1 for Khloe Williams now, however. She intends on playing it at Mott Community College.

Williams plays center field, showing that in addition to her prowess on the mat she can also cover some ground in the outfield.

When asked if it would be difficult to give up a sport like wrestling in which she’s had so much success, she just shrugged.

“Kind of, a little bit,” she grinned.

“She’s very humble. She just comes in the room and works hard – doesn’t really have much to say. She’s there every day. She puts her work in,” Vance said.

“That comes from her family. She comes from a very hard-working family. Her dad was a very good wrestler in high school, her brother was a state finalist in high school, so … she’s been around wrestling since she was 5 years old.”


Champion: Madison Nieuwenhuis, Plainwell, Fr. (34-7)
Decision, 4-3, over Mackenzie Burger, Mount Pleasant, Sr. (26-12)

Nieuwenhuis was dealing with a few broken bones in her left foot, but she wasn’t thinking about any kind of pain. As for thousands of eyeballs watching her from the stands, that was more stressful for her.

She suffered the injury a few weeks ago in practice.

“It was definitely nerve-racking,” she said. “Not as bad yesterday, but seeing all the people just right there watching you and you’re in the middle mat – it was definitely nerve-racking, but it also raised my spirits.”


Champion: Nakayla Dawson, Westland John Glenn, Fr. (41-2)
Fall, 3:33, over Natalie Gibson, Remus Chippewa Hills, Soph. (25-6)

Posting 41 victories in a freshman wrestling season is quite a feat. It’s almost as impressive as capturing a state title in one’s first year in high school.

Dawson accomplished both of those things.

“I just went out there and did me – didn’t really worry about who I was wrestling or what they placed or what their rank (was),” Dawson said.


Champion: Sky Langewicz, Algonac, Soph. (46-5)
Decision, 5-3, over Sunni LaFond, Gaylord, Soph. (30-15)

Langewicz captured her second Finals title in as many years, this time bumping up a weight class after winning at 105 pounds and finishing with a 19-0 record as a freshman.

On Saturday, she took a 2-0 lead in her Finals rematch against LaFond and rode it out.

“I think that’s the best part of it to be honest because, like, growing up I was always singled out, always, because I was the only girl,” Langewicz said. “I was always singled out, and I was always the only girl anywhere. It’s really cool to see this many girls. We grew enough to have our own, entire division, which is really cool.” 


Champion: Faith Burgess, Grand Blanc, Soph. (29-3)
Fall, 2:49, over Morgan Irwin, Westland John Glenn, Sr. (30-7)

Moments after she captured the Finals title, Burgess raced up the stairs with one thing in mind.

“I was sprinting to my parents. It’s very big. It’s what I look forward to the most. I like celebrating with family and friends,” said Burgess, who noted she’s also been working on her diet and cardio plan.

“(I) kind of have faith in just my pursuit for the week – get it done.”


Champion: Cecilia Williams, Mason, Fr. (23-5)
Fall, 5:28, over Isabella Cepak, South Lyon East, Soph. (45-10)

Williams tore the UCL in her left arm in January, but she wasn’t feeling too much pain Saturday at Ford Field – she was feeling just fine after capturing a Finals title in her first try.

“When I got into the season, I was going to wrestle in the guys’ division at 113, but I tore my UCL and I actually have surgery Monday,” she said. “It didn’t heal in time for guys’ Regionals so I was like, ‘I’m going to (compete with the) girls.

“It’s hard to do cradles and stuff because it pulls on it, but it was easy today. It didn’t hurt it that much.”


Champion: Margaret Buurma, Fowlerville, Soph. (31-7)
Fall, 2:35, over Jamie Cook, DeWitt, Soph. (28-7)

Buurma captured her second-straight Finals championship, having collected the title at 115 last season.  She did not take anything for granted, calling Cook “an amazing competitor.”

She leaned on her team to help pull her through the tough moments this season.

“I bonded with this team. They’re all, like, siblings to me. This team, it was definitely a different feeling. I hung out with these kids most every day,” Buurma said. “Even when we weren’t wrestling, we were doing something together. Even when I was upset, they were the ones there saying, ‘Hey, it’s OK, you’ve got the next one. Just focus on what’s ahead of you.’”

Milan’s Angelina Pena, left, and South Lyon East’s Tyler Swanigan lock up in the 130-pound title match.


Champion: Angelina Pena, Milan, Jr. (21-5)
Decision, 5-0, over Tyler Swanigan, South Lyon East, Jr. (38-15)

Pena made it two Finals titles in a row, adding one at 130 pounds after winning it at 120 last season. This time, she defeated another reigning champ in Swanigan, who won the 130-pound title last season.

How can Pena possibly top that going forward?

“Well, maybe training harder over the summer and me getting straight pins (at Finals weekend) next year – we’ll see,” said Pena, who posted three pins Friday before earning her decision Saturday.

“I train with all my friends, who are girls state champs. I’d like to thank my dad and my mom, all my coaches who’ve put in the effort to coach me through the difficult times.”


Champion: Serenity Hayes, Whittemore-Prescott, Soph. (34-6)
Decision, 1-0, over Caylynn Chandler, Birch Run, Sr. (13-3)

Hayes had not defeated Chandler in any previous meetings, but she got the win Saturday when it counted most. Despite the earlier setbacks, she entered with confidence.

“A level to where I wasn’t cocky, but just enough to where I thought I could win,” said Hayes, who placed seventh at 130 pounds last year.

“Especially being only a sophomore and only (at the Finals) for a couple years, I’m really happy.”

Whittemore-Prescott’s Serenity Hayes takes the mat for her championship bout.


Champion: Ryen Allen, Goodrich, Jr. (7-2)
Decision, 5-2, over Danni Swihart, Hanover-Horton, Sr. (35-7)

Allen finished second at 125 pounds last season after capturing a Michigan Wrestling Association championship as a freshman.

She didn’t like the feeling of being runner-up, so she went to work.

“I needed to put more work in. I was not the best that I could be and after I lost last year, I put in all the work I could,” she said. “I went and focused on nationals after, and after that I knew this year was going to be my year and I made it my year.”


Champion: Lydia Roope, St. Charles, Sr. (25-7)
Fall, 4:36, over Rihanna Venegas, Riverview Gabriel Richard, Soph. (23-5)

Roope trailed 4-2 in the third period when she surprised many – maybe even herself – by recording a pinfall.

“I don’t remember (which move she made) honestly. I don’t really remember. I just thought I was in neutral and I thought, ‘I have to score here,’” she said.

“It’s just amazing. My senior year … I don’t know if I’ll ever get a moment like that again on this stage. It feels absolutely amazing.”


Champion: Maddie Hayden, Caledonia, Fr. (25-4)
Decision, 7-5, over Brynn Green, Howell, Sr. (27-3)

After posting a hard-earned win over Green and capturing the title in her first try, it didn’t really hit Hayden until she looked up at her coaches and saw the joy in their faces.

All the hard work this season paid off.

“It’s a lot of ups and downs, obviously,” Hayden said. “I mean, everybody will tell you that, but I think the downs are really what helped me the most. Persevering through the downs really helped me get back up, and I really think that’s what’s shaped me into the wrestler I am now.”


Champion: Sabrina Nauss, Brighton, Jr. (13-0)
Fall, 1:09, over Gabriella Allen, Marcellus, Jr. (30-5)

Last season, Nauss received some fanfare for becoming the first female to win an MHSAA Individual Finals match at Ford Field.

This weekend, she was all business. On Saturday, she went to work and posted a quick pinfall.

“This one, I came in and I knew what I had to get done and I had laser focus. I got my first takedowns, and I just came in and did what I needed to do,” she said.

“Just staying focused and going out there and doing a job, just like normal – sticking to my basics.”


Champion: Mady Frisbie, Belding, Soph. (21-12)
Decision, 5-0, over Lillianna Garcia, Grand Blanc, Jr. (20-9)

After losing in this championship match last year, Frisbie went to work and came into this season with a different mindset. She guarded against “getting too cocky or getting too doubtful.”

She brought a growth mindset into this season and left with the championship. She learned some lessons.

“That it’s OK to lose. It really hurt when I lost last year, but I (learned) that losing makes you better and that’s not what it’s about, really. It’s not everything,” Frisbie said.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Clio’s Khloe Williams shows her chart after capping her high school career with a championship Saturday. (Middle) Milan’s Angelina Pena, left, and South Lyon East’s Tyler Swanigan lock up in the 130-pound title match. (Below) Whittemore-Prescott’s Serenity Hayes takes the mat for her championship bout. (Click for more from High 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.)