D1 Preview: Facundo Seeks to Make Champion's Climb One More Time

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

March 31, 2021

Helping Davison to its first Division 1 team championship since 2006 on Tuesday was just the latest of many highlights over the career of senior Alex Facundo.

And it might have been just the start of his most memorable week as part of the Cardinals program.

On Saturday at Wings Event Center in Kalamazoo, Facundo will attempt to become the 29th wrestler (or 30th, depending on the results of Dundee’s Stoney Buell in Division 3 on Friday) to win four MHSAA Individual Finals championships. Facundo previously won at 152 pounds as a freshman, 160 as a sophomore and 171 last season, and he’ll be looking to repeat at that weight in his final Davison match.

Below we look at Facundo and nine more contenders to watch Saturday in Division 1, plus list all of the top seeds heading into the tournament, champs and runners-up back from 2020 and every wrestler who will make the trip to Kalamazoo with an undefeated record.

Even then, we surely missed a few who will end up making headlines Saturday – but make sure to come back to Second Half late that evening as we’ll interview and report on all 14 Division 1 champions.

Wrestling begins that day at 10 a.m., and this season it’s a one-day event. Spectators remain limited, but all matches will be broadcast live on MHSAA.tv. See the MHSAA Wrestling Finals page for more information and to follow results this weekend.  

119 Caden Horwath, Davison sophomore (23-0) – He’s the top seed at this weight after winning 103 last season as a freshman top seed, when he finished 43-2.

119 Louden Stradling, Battle Creek Lakeview sophomore (26-0) – The 119 bracket is loaded, and Stradling hasn’t lost again since dropping a 7-2 decision to Horwath to finish runner-up at 103 last season.

125 Andrew Hampton, Rochester Hills Stoney Creek senior (31-3) – He missed becoming Stoney Creek’s second Finals champion ever with a 7-3 loss to Dakota’s Brendan Ferretti (see below) in last year’s 119 title match, but Hampton is back as the top seed at this weight and also earned a third place at 112 as a sophomore.

130 Brendan Ferretti, Macomb Dakota senior (30-0) – The top seed at this weight will look to finish his prep career with his third-straight championship to go with last year’s at 119 and his 2019 win at 112 (and third place at 103 as a freshman.)

135 Dylan Gilcher, Detroit Catholic Central sophomore (22-1) – The top seed at this weight opened his high school career last year with a championship at 112 and 40-3 record.

140 Mason Shrader, Brighton senior (27-0) – After finishing sixth at 103 as a freshman and eighth at 119 as a sophomore, Shrader jumped up to finish runner-up last season at 125 and has earned the top seed at his weight this time.

145 Zach Johnson, Brighton senior (25-1) – He’s earned the top seed at this weight after finishing runner-up at 140 last season, fifth at 135 as a sophomore and fifth at 125 as a freshman.

160 Josh Barr, Davison sophomore (22-0) – The top seed at this weight this weekend won 152 last year also as a top seed and is a combined 61-0 over his two seasons.

171 Alex Facundo, Davison senior (22-0) – The top seed at his weight brings in a career record of 131-2 as he wrestles his final matches for Davison before going on to Penn State.

189 Manuel Rojas, Detroit Catholic Central junior (25-2) – He’s the reigning champion at this weight and enters this weekend as the second seed with a combined 71-3 record over the last two seasons.

Other 2020 runners-up: 130 Aiden Smith, Brighton junior (26-1, 112 in 2020); 145 Camden Trupp, Detroit Catholic Central senior (20-2, 135 in 2020).

Additional No. 1 seeds: 103 Justin Gates, Davison freshman (19-0); 112 Drew Heethuis, Detroit Catholic Central sophomore (26-0); 152 James Johnston, Davison senior (22-2); 189 Remy Cotton, Traverse City Central sophomore (25-0); 215 Jimmy Colley, Davison junior (15-1); 285 Jayson Roy, Jackson senior (27-0).

Also undefeated: 103 Caleb Weiand, Macomb Dakota sophomore (29-0); 112 Cole Dunn, Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse senior (26-0); 130 Tyler Herrema, Grandville senior (27-0); 135 Caden Jacobs, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central senior (28-0), 145 Shamar Askin, St. Clair Shores Lakeview senior (20-0); 152 Vance Jackson, Birmingham Seaholm senior (16-0); 171 Avery Dickerson, Hartland junior (28-0); 215 Lu Peterson, Wyandotte Roosevelt junior (23-0); 285 Nick West, Lincoln Park senior (22-0).

PHOTO: Davison’s Alex Facundo, far right, holds up his chart after winning the 171-pound championship during last year’s Division 1 Finals at Ford Field. (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.)