D1 Preview: Davison Seeks Return to Top

February 20, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Davison is arguably the most storied wrestling program in MHSAA history. And for seven seasons, the Cardinals have looked to add another championship chapter.

This weekend at Kellogg Arena, they are favored to win their first Division 1 title since finishing a string of five consecutive championships in 2006.

Below is a look at all eight teams competing in Division 1, listed by seed. Their Quarterfinal matches begin at 3:15 p.m. Friday, with Semifinals at 9:30 Saturday morning and the championship match at 4 p.m. All matches this weekend will be streamed live on a subscription basis on MHSAA.TV. For results throughout, check the MHSAA Wrestling page. Rankings below are from MichiganGrappler.com


Record/rank: 23-4, No. 1
League finish: First in Saginaw Valley Association
Coach: Roy Hall, 17th season (426-72-1) 
Championship history: Eight MHSAA championships (most recent 2006), two runner-up finishes. 
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Devon Perez (31-11) soph., 112 Max Johnson (35-7) soph., 125 Lincoln Olson (38-1) jr., 130 Derek Humphrey (36-4) sr., 135 Matt Miller (30-7) sr., 140 Justin Oliver (40-1) sr., 145 Dominic Russ (33-8) sr., 152 Thomas Garty (33-3) sr., 152 Brenden McRill (22-11) fr.,171 Jordan Cooks (36-2) sr., 215 Jake Ellis (25-16) jr.
Outlook: Davison just missed the title last season, falling to Detroit Catholic Central 29-26 in the Final. But 11 starters from that match are back this weekend. The starting lineup features five 30-match winners, with five more 20-match winners able to sub in. Cooks was a repeat individual champion last season, while both Olson and Oliver have won multiple titles during their careers and Miller was a runner-up in 2013. Total, six of this weekend’s probable starters placed at last winter’s Individual Finals.


Record/rank: 38-2, No. 3
League finish: First in Kensington Lakes Activities Association
Coach: Todd Cheney, 22nd season (601-91-2)
Championship history: Four MHSAA runner-up finishes (most recent 2007).
Individual Finals qualifiers: 125 Sage Castillo (49-7) soph., 130 Nate Hughes (48-7) sr., 135 Austin Eicher (33-1) sr., 145 Jacob Gorial (52-1) jr., 160 Logan Vish (39-15) soph., 285 Josh Charneski (46-8) sr.,
Outlook: Hartland again is contending for its first MHSAA team title, moving up from a third seed a year ago as it makes its 13th straight Quarterfinal appearance. Eicher defeated teammate Gorial in one of last season’s most talked about Individual Finals, at 130, and Gorial is the team wins leader this season. Once again, the path to Battle Creek was a tough one, with No. 4 Brighton and No. 5 Holt among those Hartland downed along the way.


Record/rank: 15-4, No. 2
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic High School League
Coach: Mitch Hancock, seventh season (146-32)
Championship history: Ten MHSAA championships (most recent 2013), two runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Parker O’Brien (26-17) sr., 119 Trevor Zdebski (20-2) jr., 130 Evan Toth (27-13) sr., 135 Greg Johnson (32-10) sr., 140 Myles Amine (35-6) jr., 145 Malik Amine (27-3) sr., 152 Nick Bennett (36-0) sr., 171 Drew Garcia (34-1) sr., 189 Nick Giese (19-8) jr., 215 James Russell (36-7) sr. 
Outlook: Detroit Catholic Central has won three Division 1 team championships in four seasons, including at the end of the last two, and should be in the hunt again despite the third seed. The Shamrocks’ only losses were to No. 1 Davison, Division 2 No. 1 Lowell and No. 2 St. Johns and Illinois power Oak Park River Forest. Malik Amine and Garcia are reigning individual champions, and Zdebski, Myles Amine and Giese also placed last season.  


Record/rank: 17-1, No. 7
League finish: First in O-K Red
Coach: Bubba Gritter, fourth season (66-26) 
Championship history: Two MHSAA championships (most recent 1993), three runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Josh Brower (33-9) soph., 135 Collin Tomkins (32-4) sr., 140 Kameron Bush (39-3) fr., 152 Jake Brower (31-8) sr., 160 Sam Greco (30-11) fr., 215 Eppe Saarenheimo (28-13) jr.
Outlook: Grandville returned to the Quarterfinals last season for the first time since Gritter’s senior year of 2003, and returns four seeds higher this weekend. Half of last season’s lineup is back including returning Individual Finals placer Tomkins. He’s one of five seniors; the probable starters for this weekend also include seven underclassmen looking to make this trip a tradition.


Record/rank: 24-4, No. 8
League finish: First in Oakland Activities Association Red
Coach: Paul McDevitt, 17th season (345-140) 
Championship history: MHSAA Division 1 champion 2011, two runner-up finishes. 
Individual Finals qualifiers:
 112 Alex Hrisopoulos (42-7) soph., 160 Noah Kinne (33-18) jr., 171 Wesley Maskill (46-5) sr., 189 Wyatt Harden (16-4) soph., 189 Grant Krause (31-9) sr., 215 Ben Line (39-7) sr., 215 Jamal Pettiford (18-9) sr., 285 Zach Wood (30-5) sr.  
Outlook: Oxford missed the Quarterfinals last season for the first time in six, but returns this weekend after beating No. 10 Clarkston along the way. Hrisopoulos, Maskill and senior Eddie Schlickenmeyer all have won at least 40 matches this season and were Individual Finals placers in 2013. Maskill, Schlickenmeyer, Krause and senior Zab Throne all were in the lineup the last time Oxford wrestled in a championship match, in 2012 against Detroit Catholic Central.


Record/rank: 36-4, unranked
League finish: Second in Kensington Lakes Activities Association
Coach: Quinn Guernsey, sixth season (112-75) 
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Brandon Harris (47-4) jr., 119 Mohamad Youssef (50-3) sr., 140 Jon Conn (44-7) sr., 145 Sofus Nielson (34-10) sr., 160 Joey Shaver (43-9) sr., 171 Hussein Youssef (45-8) jr.
Outlook: Guernsey, who wrestled at Brooklyn Columbia Central and then Michigan State University and Eastern Michigan University, has led Plymouth to its first Quarterfinal this winter and an increased win total each of the last three seasons. Plymouth defeated No. 6 Temperance Bedford during this run. Mohamad Youssef was an Individual Finals placer last season.


Record/rank: 25-5, No. 9
League finish: First in Macomb Area Conference Red
Coach: Ed Skowneski, second season (62-10)
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 119 Zack Prater (39-11) soph., 135 Kyle Cendrowski (29-19) sr., 152 Alex Bozinovski (42-7) sr., 160 Jake Johnson (48-1) sr., 171 Joshua Burnham (39-8) sr., 189 Greg Brohl (32-17) sr., 215 Antonio Balabani (38-7) jr. 
Outlook: After making the Quarterfinals last season for the first time, Dakota is back with a lineup of half seniors. Half of the lineup also has at least 30 wins, including returning Finals placers Bozinovski and Johnson. Skowneski was a 2003 individual champion for Clinton Township Chippewa Valley before wrestling at MSU.   


Record/rank: 16-7, unranked
League finish: Fifth in Kensington Lakes Activities Association
Coach: David Chiola, 14th season (231-97) 
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Jeremy Nelson (33-23) soph., 119 Nick Robertson (40-14) jr., 125 Nathan Atienza (50-6) fr., 152 Kenneth Steele (32-19) sr., 152 Nick Frazier (42-7) sr., 160 Jordan Atienza (58-0) sr. 
Outlook: Franklin is in the Quarterfinals for the first time after winning its ninth straight District title. Jordan Atienza is 166-1 over the last two seasons and was an Individual Finals runner-up at 152 last winter. Chiola has won 292 matches total as a coach, with six more seasons at Garden City.

PHOTO: Davison wrestlers participate in the "Grand March" before last season's championship matches at Kellogg Arena. (Click to see more at 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.)