D1 Preview: Favorites Vie for 1st Title

February 26, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

This weekend’s MHSAA Team Finals Division 1 bracket seems a little upside-down from what we usually expect at Battle Creek’s Kellogg Arena.

Last season’s finalists – champion Detroit Catholic Central and runner-up Davison – will instead face off in a Friday Quarterfinal. The top seeds – Brighton and New Baltimore Anchor Bay – are seeking their first championship match berths.

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. (Records below are based on those submitted for the Individual Finals.)

#1 Brighton

Record/rank: 26-1, No. 1
League finish: First in Kensington Lakes Activities Association (Lakes and overall)
Coach: Tony Greathouse, second season (53-8)
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Lee Grabowski (34-9) soph., 119 Grant Morrison (39-12) jr., 119 Jackson Renicker (39-9) jr., 130 Kyle Bohnsack (30-15) sr., 145 Ryan Salmon (31-9) sr., 152 Tanner Maschke (40-8) sr., 160 Beau Mourer (40-7) sr., 171 Nicholas Brish (41-2) sr., 215 Eric Conquest (40-9) jr., 215 Lucas Ready (45-2) jr.
Outlook: This will be Brighton’s third Quarterfinal appearance in five seasons. Greathouse previously took Tecumseh to the Semifinals in 2012 and can rely on a lineup with 13 upperclassmen including 12 seniors. Brish and Ready were Individual Finals placers in 2014. Brighton’s only loss this winter was to Division 2 top-ranked Lowell, and that dual came down to the final match.

#2 New Baltimore Anchor Bay

Record/rank: 36-0, No. 2
League finish: First in Macomb Area Conference Red.
Coach: Jim Morisette, 25th season (606-223)
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Jack Medley (50-1) soph., 119 Nolan Romanoski (44-8) jr., 125 Jeff Andrews (41-9) jr., 130 Adam Wiscombe (43-10) sr., 135 Joey Dombrowski (41-2) sr., 152 Tyler Grimsley (51-1) sr., 171 Ross Morisette (39-6) sr.
Outlook: Anchor Bay is making its third Quarterfinal appearance and first since 2010; that season it fell to eventual champion Detroit Catholic Central, and in 2006 the Tars lost to eventual runner-up Hartland. Anchor Bay has crushed its postseason competition, allowing only a combined 28 points in four matches. Medley, Dombrowski and Grimsley all were Individual Finals placers last season and are among 14 on the team with at least 30 wins.

#3 Hartland

Record/rank: 29-3, No. 3
League finish: Second in Kensington Lakes Activities Association West
Coach: Todd Cheney, 23rd season (631-95-2)
Championship history: Four MHSAA runner-up finishes (most recent 2007).
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Noah Lopez (38-6) jr., 112 Garnet Potter (45-5) soph., 130 Reece Hughes (46-5) soph., 135 Sage Castillo (41-6) jr., 145 Logan Vish (42-4) jr., 152 Jacob Gorial (51-0) sr., 171 Lucas Laforge (44-8) jr., 171 Andrew Spisz (31-13) soph., 215 Jake Economou (33-6) sr.
Outlook: This is Hartland’s 14th straight trip to the Quarterfinals, and it's seeking its first championship match berth since finishing runner-up for the fourth straight season in 2007. The Eagles defeated No. 6 Walled Lake Central in the Regional on the way to Battle Creek and will try to advance to their sixth straight Semifinal. Castillo and Gorial were Individual Finals placers last season – and Gorial is one of only four seniors on the roster.

#4 Detroit Catholic Central

Record/rank: 22-3, No. 4
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League.
Coach: Mitch Hancock, eighth season (171-35)
Championship history: Eleven MHSAA championships (most recent 2014), two runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Aaron Rehfeldt (32-15) jr., 125 Tommy Herrmann (33-13) sr., 130 Trevor Zdebski (41-5) sr., 160 Myles Amine (42-0) sr., 171 Tyler Morland (22-1) soph., 189 Nick Giese (37-14) sr., 285 Nick Jenkins (37-14) soph.
Outlook: The Shamrocks have won four Division 1 titles in five seasons and entered as only the third seed last year before winning again – although this year’s fourth seed comes with a rematch of last year’s Final. DCC rebuilt a bit this winter after graduating some strong contributors from the last few seasons, but still enters this weekend with reigning champions Amine and Zdebski and another placer from last season in Giese.

#5 Davison

Record/rank: 19-6, No. 5
League finish: First in Saginaw Valley Association
Coach: Roy Hall, 18th season (445-78-1)
Championship history: Eight MHSAA championships (most recent 2006), three runner-up finishes. 
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Max Johnson (40-7) jr., 112 Augustine Facundo (32-8) fr., 119 Deven Perez (42-10) jr., 130 Ryan Schlak (32-14) soph., 135 Lincoln Olson (46-0) sr., 140 Hunter Fifield (37-7) sr., 145 Kurt Schlak (33-14) jr., 160 Brenden McRill (36-9) soph., 171 Mike Kennedy (25-14) sr., 189 Tanner Thomas (24-8) jr., 215 Dakota Powers (32-12) sr., 215 Jake Ellis (36-8) sr.
Outlook: The runner-up the last two seasons, Davison is looking to continue its championship match streak from a tougher spot after entering last season as the top seed. But the Cardinals do have Olson – who next weekend will go for a fourth individual title – and another reigning champ in Johnson plus a returning placer in McRill.

#6 Monroe

Record/rank: 37-3, No. 10
League finish: First in Southeastern Conference Red.
Coach: Don Mayes, seventh season (162-73)
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Neil Antrassian (48-9) fr., 112 Carl Antrassian (53-2) jr., 140 Logan DiCarlo (41-5) sr., 160 Travis Labell (39-9) sr., 171 Tyler Hammack (53-3) sr.
Outlook: Monroe is making its second appearance in the Quarterfinals after also advancing in 2003 and winning its first District title since 2010. Monroe may have the most senior-dominated lineup at the Finals this weekend, with 10 starters and one at every weight from 125-189. Carl Antrassian is only a junior, but was Individual Finals runner-up at 103 last winter.

#7 Grand Haven

Record/rank: 26-3, No. 7
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Red.
Coach: James Richardson, 17th season (304-92)
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 125 Camden Bertucci (39-0) sr., 135 Antonio Reyes (35-4) sr., 140 Evan Johnson (34-11) sr., 160 Aaron Cummings (38-6) sr., 189 Nick Mulcahy (39-9) sr., 285 Chase VanHoef (38-3) sr.
Outlook: Grand Haven is back in the Quarterfinals for the second time and first since 2012 after edging No. 8 Grandville 31-30 in their Regional Final. The Buccaneers have 15 District titles in Richardson’s 17 seasons but this winter have set a high for victories during his tenure. VanHoef was an Individual Finals placer last season.

#8 Oxford

Record/rank: 16-7, unranked
League finish: First in Oakland Activities Association Red.
Coach: Paul McDevitt, 18th season (362-147)
Championship history: Division 1 champion 2011, two runner-up finishes.  
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Ryan Miller (34-11) fr., 112 Sergio Borg (39-9) fr., 125 Alex Hrisopoulos (45-3) jr., 130 Vinny Vackaro (34-14) soph., 135 Collin Campbell (42-6) sr., 189 Wyatt Harden (35-7) jr., 285 Adam Schlickenmeyer (29-12) jr.
Outlook: Oxford is making its seventh Quarterfinal appearance in eight seasons. Hrisopoulos was the Individual Finals runner-up at 112 in 2014 and is the only non-senior captain for a lineup that starts only two seniors total and has eight underclassmen among regulars.

PHOTO: Detroit Catholic Central's Nick Giese (right) and Davison's Jake Ellis faced off in last season's Division 1 Final and will help lead their teams back to Battle Creek on Friday. (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.)