D1 Preview: Bracket Packed with Power

February 27, 2020

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

The power stacking up at this season's Division 1 Quarterfinals begins at the top and continues all the way through the final seed in Friday's bracket. 

Leading off of course is three-time reigning champion Detroit Catholic Central, followed by Davison, Brighton and Hartland the only other teams to wrestle in a Division 1 championship match over the last seven years.

But the lower half of this weekend's bracket appears historically strong. While the top four teams will send a combined 49 qualifiers to next weekend's Individual Finals at Ford Field, the combination of Temperance Bedford, Rockford, Clarkston and Macomb Dakota will send 37. 

The Division 1 Quarterfinals will be wrestled at 2:15 p.m. Friday. Top seed Detroit Catholic Central will wrestle Macomb Dakota, No. 2 Davison will take on Clarkston, No. 3 Brighton will face Rockford and No. 4 Hartland will match up with Temperance Bedford. Semifinals are 9:30 a.m. Saturday, with the championship match that afternoon at 3:45 p.m. All matches this weekend will be viewable live on a subscription basis on MHSAA.tv. For Friday’s schedule and results throughout, check the MHSAA Wrestling page.

Below is a look at all eight teams competing in Division 1, listed by seed. 

#1 Detroit Catholic Central

Record/rank: 17-3, No. 1
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League
Mitch Hancock, 13
th season (290-48)
Championship history: Fourteen MHSAA championships (most recent 2019), two runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Drew Heethuis (34-6) fr., 112 Dylan Gilcher (36-3) fr., 112 Anthony Walker (30-7) soph., 125 Caleb White (25-16) sr., 125 T.J. Bunn (23-9) fr., 135 Philip Burney (36-8) jr., 135 Camden Trupp (29-5) jr., 140 Josh Edmond (37-0) sr., 145 Marc Shaeffer (28-11) sr., 152 Logan Sanom (38-8) sr., 160 Derek Gilcher (38-2) sr., 189 Manuel Rojas (39-1) soph., 215 Brendin Yatooma (38-1) sr., 285 Steven Kolcheff (39-2) sr.
Outlook: The Shamrocks will be trying to build on three straight Division 1 titles, again bringing a full 14 individual qualifiers to Kalamazoo. DCC expects to maneuver its lineup to start 13 of those qualifiers this weekend, led by two-time reigning individual champs Edmond and Gilcher. Yatooma and Kolcheff also won individual titles in 2019, Shaeffer was a runner-up (to Gilcher) and Walker, Trupp and Sanom were Finals placers. DCC shut out three of its first four postseason opponents, allowing three points in the fourth match.

#2 Davison

Record/rank: 18-2, No. 2
League finish: First in Saginaw Valley League
Roy Hall, 23rd season (556-99-1)
Championship history: Eight MHSAA championships (most recent 2006), five runner-up finishes. 
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Caden Horwath (36-2) fr., 112 Aden Williams (29-7) soph., 119 Cameron Freeman (14-10) soph., 125 Andrew Chambal (35-5) sr., 125 Kyle White (23-13) soph., 130 Jaron Wilson (21-8) sr., 135 Evan Herriman (26-8) fr., 145 James Johnston (19-6) jr., 152 Josh Barr (32-0) fr., 160 Jay Nivison (31-4) sr., 171 Alex Facundo (33-1) jr., 189 Max Callahan (19-4) fr., 215 Jimmy Colley (29-8) soph., 285 Tyler Jelinek (21-12) jr.  
Outlook: Davison has made nine straight Quarterfinals and seven straight Semifinals, but is looking to get back to the championship match for the first time since 2017. The Cardinals have given up a combined 23 points over four postseason wins, and done so impressively with a lineup starting eight underclassmen and with three more among top reserves. Davison has 14 Individual Finals qualifiers as well. Facundo is a two-time individual champion and Chambal won a title as a sophomore and finished runner-up at his weight a year ago. Williams also was a Finals runner-up last season, and Nivison and Colley placed.

#3 Brighton

Record/rank: 22-3, No. 3
League finish: First in Kensington Lakes Activities Association West and overall
Al Freeman, first season (22-3)
Championship history: Division 1 champion 2015, runner-up 2018 and 2019.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Quaylon Newton (34-7) soph., 112 Aiden Smith (36-10) soph., 119 Travis Richardson (36-14) fr., 125 Mason Shrader (37-5) jr., 130 Sam Freeman (35-5) sr., 135 Eddie Homrock (38-3) sr., 140 Zach Johnson (37-7) jr., 152 Aiden Brown (24-17 sr., 171 Harley Berne (20-7) sr., 171 Dane Donabedian (34-7) sr., 189 Greyson Stevens (38-2) sr., 215 Luke Stanton (27-3) sr.
Outlook: Brighton is seeking its third-straight championship match appearance after coming within 15 points of DCC in last year’s Final. The Bulldogs again emerged from a KLAA that had three teams ranked among the top nine in Division 1, then beat No. 6 Holt 55-8 in the Regional Final. Al Freeman formerly served as Walled Lake Central’s head coach from 2006-18 and has built a lineup with seven senior starters led by last year’s 125-pound champion Homrock. Smith, Sam Freeman, Shrader, Johnson, Donabedian, Stevens and Stanton all placed as well at last year’s Individual Finals.  

#4 Hartland

Record/rank: 26-1, No. 4
League finish: Second in KLAA West
Todd Cheney, 28
th season (787-111-2)
Championship history: Division 1 champion 2016, five runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Patrick Wlodyga (41-3) soph., 112 Nick Huntsman (34-12) jr., 130 Gabe Cappellano (36-9) soph., 140 Nick Rochowiak (40-5) fr., 145 Nick Dimitroff (27-9) fr., 145 Justin VanVaerenber (42-3) jr., 171 Avery Dickerson (42-1) soph., 189 Paul Corder (37-7) jr., 285 Cameron Shirley (31-15) jr.
 Hartland will be making a 19th-consecutive Quarterfinal appearance, and this season with just one loss – to Brighton, seeded just ahead of the Eagles. They have given up just 22 points total over four postseason matches and could be even scarier next season – Hartland doesn’t have a senior in the expected starting lineup for this weekend and will be anchored by six juniors. Sophomore Ethan Kinch didn’t advance to the Individual Finals this season, but did place last year as a freshman.

#5 Temperance Bedford

Record/rank: 33-1, No. 5
League finish: First in Southeastern Conference
Kevin Vogel, ninth season (213-52)
Championship history: 11 MHSAA titles (most recent 2001), seven runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Brock Jandasek (35-15) fr., 125 Caleb Jagielski (34-8) fr., 140 Randy Boisselle (42-4) soph., 145 Rollie Denker (42-6) soph., 152 Mason Rimmer (47-4) sr., 160 Logan Frantz (37-12) sr., 189 Colin Jagielski (42-2) sr., 215 Cage Dye (39-8) sr.
Outlook: Bedford is back at the Quarterfinals for the first time since 2016 after winning its fifth straight league and District championships and getting past No. 9 Westland John Glenn 39-24 in the Regional Final. Boisselle was the team’s lone Individual Finals placer last season, coming in eighth at 135 as a freshman. But he’s one of five Kicking Mules with at least 40 wins this winter. Junior Chase Grzegorczyk (119/40-7) is another; he didn’t qualify for Ford Field but has been a top contributor.

#6 Rockford

Record/rank: 26-2, No. 7
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Red
Brian Richardson, 11
th season (236-111)
Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (most recent 2009), three runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Jak Keller (35-7) fr., 112 Elijah Bunn (33-6) fr., 130 Ashton Halland (32-10) sr., 140 Trenton Wachter (32-3) jr., 145 Evan Kaser (34-5) sr., 152 Moses Bosscher (34-7) jr., 160 Josh Hill (29-11) sr., 189 Cole Gleason (33-3) jr., 215 Reid Nicholson (27-10) sr.
Outlook: After reaching the Quarterfinals last season for the first time since 2010, Rockford is back again and an intriguing six seed with nine Individual Finals qualifiers. Ten starters are upperclassmen – half are seniors – while juniors Wachter and Gleason were individual placers a year ago.

#7 Clarkston

Record/rank: 21-4, No. 8
League finish: First in Oakland Activities Association Red
Joe Wood, third season (65-19)
Championship history: Class A champion 1991, runner-up 1995.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 125 Ashton Anderson (34-6) jr., 140 Presley Pearce (31-14) sr., 152 Grady Castle (25-10) jr., 160 Hayden Payne (36-11) jr., 189 Drew Stark (21-15) jr., 189 Frank Davis (30-8) sr., 215 Jacob Jones (24-4) sr.
Outlook: Similar to Rockford, Clarkston reached the Quarterfinals last season for the first time since 2007 and quickly returned with four dominating postseason wins earlier this month. All but two weights in the expected starting lineup are filled by upperclassmen, including six seniors. Castle also was an Individual Finals qualifier in 2019.

#8 Macomb Dakota

Record/rank: 20-8, unranked
League finish: Third in Macomb Area Conference Red 
Ed Skowneski, eighth season (227-54)
Championship history: Has not appeared in an MHSAA Final. 
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Caleb Weiand (36-12) fr., 112 Orion Wilson (41-8) fr., 119 Brendan Ferretti (29-1) jr., 125 Nathan Smith (36-13) sr., 130 Brad Weiand (41-7) sr., 130 Kenneth Crutchfield (24-15) sr., 135 Austen Alkazir (35-7) soph.; 140 Sal Tundis (32-16) jr.; 145 Joseph Papas (37-5) sr., 160 Aiden Dale (26-20) soph.; 215 Josh Stokes (39-9) jr.
Outlook: Dakota is heading into its fifth-straight trip to the Quarterfinals with a strong resume for an eight seed. The Cougars will take 11 qualifiers to the Individual Finals – two more than last season when it was a seven seed. Ferretti was last year’s champion at 112 pounds, and Brad Weiand is a returning individual qualifier.

PHOTO: Detroit Catholic Central's Josh Edmond gets a hold on Brighton's Aiden Brown during the last match of last season's Division 1 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.)