D1 Preview: Power-Packed Brackets

February 22, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

This weekend’s Division 1 team wrestling field at Kalamazoo’s Wings Event Center is power-packed again, and that might be an understatement.

Detroit Catholic Central is wrestling for its third straight Division 1 title, but four other teams that have won at least one championship over the last 13 seasons also will compete. The eight teams at Friday’s Quarterfinals have a combined 80 Individual Finals qualifiers who will go on to Ford Field next weekend as well.

Below is a look at all eight teams competing in Division 1, listed by seed. Quarterfinal matches begin at 2:15 p.m. Friday, with Semifinals at 9:30 a.m. Saturday and 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.

#1 Detroit Catholic Central

Record/rank: 23-1, No. 1
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League
Mitch Hancock, 12th season (270-45)
Championship history: 
Thirteen MHSAA championships (most recent 2018), two runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Anthony Walker (26-9) fr., 112 Caleb White (19-7) jr., 130 Camden Trupp (35-6) soph., 135 Joshua Edmond (33-2) jr., 140 Marc Shaeffer (18-4) jr., 140 Derek Gilcher (28-2) jr., 145 Logan Sanom (33-3) jr., 145 Kevon Davenport (31-1) sr., 152 Cameron Amine (33-0) sr., 152 Joseph Urso (36-7) sr., 160 Manuel Rojas (24-7) fr., 189 Easton Turner (34-3) sr., 215 Brendin Yatooma (35-3) jr., 285 Steven Kolcheff (32-3) jr.
Outlook: The Shamrocks are seeking their third straight Division 1 title and sixth in eight seasons, and haven’t lost to an in-state opponent in three seasons. DCC hasn’t given up a team point during this MHSAA Tournament, shutting out all four opponents through the District and Regional. Edmond, Gilcher, Davenport and Turner were Individual Finals champions last year with Amine and Kolcheff runners-up and Yatooma, Sanom and Shaeffer placers. Davenport will be seeking his fourth title and Amine his third next weekend at Ford Field.  

#2 Brighton

Record/rank: 31-0, No. 2
League finish: First in Kensington Lakes Activities Association West and overall
Tony Greathouse, sixth season (151-27)
Championship history: Division 1 champion 2015, runner-up 2018.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Aiden Smith (33-15) fr., 119 Sam Freeman (43-4) jr., 119 Mason Shrader (29-5) soph., 125 Eddie Homrock (49-2) jr., 135 Zach Johnson (39-6) soph., 140 Rhett Newton (14-2) sr., 152 Victor Grabowski (40-10) sr., 152 Harley Berne (28-8) jr., 160 Dane Donabedian (44-9) jr., 171 River Shettler (46-2) sr., 189 Greyson Stevens (46-4) jr., 215 Luke Stanton (25-1) jr., 285 Colby Ford (40-14) sr.  
Outlook: The Bulldogs enter seeded second for the second straight season. Brighton shut out two postseason opponents and defeated No. 10 Holt in the Regional Final to get back to Kalamazoo, after finishing first in a league that included two more top-five teams in Division 1. Stanton, Shrader, Homrock, Johnson, Donabedian, Grabowski and Shettler all were Finals placers a year ago, Shettler a runner-up. Brighton defeated possible Semifinal opponent Davison by 11 in its season opener.

#3 Davison

Record/rank: 15-2, No. 3
League finish: First in Saginaw Valley League
Roy Hall, 21st season (538-97-1)
Championship history: 
Eight MHSAA championships (most recent 2006), five runner-up finishes. 
Individual Finals qualifiers: Aden Williams (21-4) fr., 112 Owen Payne (25-10) fr., 119 Steven Garty (31-6) sr., 119 Andrew Chambal (34-3) jr., 125 Jaron Wilson (8-1) jr., 140 James Johnston (30-5) soph., 145 Landon Kish (20-16) soph., 152 Brian Case (18-7) sr., 160 Alex Facundo (33-2) soph., 171 Jay Nivison (23-9) jr., 189 Cal Stefanko (28-2) sr., 189 Trevor McGowan (20-8) sr., 215 Jimmy Colley (11-3) fr. 
Outlook: Davison has reached the Semifinals six straight seasons and will wrestle Friday in its eighth straight Quarterfinal. Chambal and Facundo are reigning Finals champions and Stefanko was a runner-up last season, and Garty, Case and Nivison also were placers. Nine upperclassmen bolster a lineup that fell to Detroit Catholic Central by only six points Dec. 21.

#4 Westland John Glenn

Record/rank: 29-5, No. 4
League finish: First in KLAA East
Bill Polk, 21st season (423-124)
Championship history: 
Has not appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Josh Mars (40-13) fr., 112 Ty Cowen (45-12) soph., 125 Caleb Meekins (49-4) sr., 135 Kyle Borthwell (44-4) sr., 145 Brenten Polk (49-5) sr., 160 Graden Bowen (37-16) sr.
Outlook: John Glenn will wrestle in its third straight Quarterfinal and has missed making its first Semifinal the last two seasons by a combined six points. The Rockets edged No. 8 Temperance Bedford by two points in last week’s Regional Final. Meekins and Brenten Polk were Individual Finals placers last season and help lead a lineup with 13 upperclassmen – including eight seniors – expected to start.

#5 Hartland

Record/rank: 29-3, No. 5
League finish: Second in KLAA West
Todd Cheney, 27th season (761-109-2)
Championship history: 
Division 1 champion 2016, five runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Patrick Wlodyga (43-9) fr., 119 Wyatt Nault (27-4) jr., 119 Ethan Kinch (31-10) fr., 130 Kyle Kantola (45-0) sr., 135 Corey Cavanaugh (38-4) sr., 135 Bryce Cheney (39-10) soph., 145 Devon Pietila (32-20) sr., 152 Avery Dickerson (41-7) fr., 160 Tanner Culver (37-5) sr., 160 Reece Potter (21-2) sr., 215 Jon Hartman (31-20) sr.  
Outlook: Hartland has moved up two seeds from last season as it prepares for its 18th straight Quarterfinal appearance. After navigating the KLAA, the Eagles didn’t give up more than 16 points in any of four District or Regional matches. Kantola was an Individual Finals runner-up last season, and Nault, Cavanaugh, Culver and Potter all were placers as well.

#6 Rockford

Record/rank: 30-2, unranked
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Red
Brian Richardson, 10th season (210-109)
Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (most recent 2009), three runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 130 Trenton Wachter (47-1) soph., 135 Evan Kaser (38-11) jr., 140 Connor White (41-5) sr., 145 Jack Richardson (40-4) sr., 160 Noah Anderson (12-1) sr., 171 Cole Gleason (33-9) soph., 189 Tyler Waterstrat (35-5) sr.
Outlook: Rockford is coming off its third straight District title and returning to the Quarterfinals for the first time since finishing Division 1 runner-up in 2010. White and Richardson were both Individual Finals placers a year ago and two of eight senior starters expected to take the mat.

#7 Macomb Dakota

Record/rank: 27-5, No. 6
League finish: First in Macomb Area Conference Red 
Ed Skowneski, seventh season (207-45)
Championship history: 
Has not appeared in an MHSAA Final. 
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Brendan Ferretti (49-0) soph., 119 Nick Alayan (45-3) sr., 125 Justin Tiburcio (37-3) sr., 125 Bradley Weiand (34-15) jr., 130 Andrew Barrett (37-12) sr., 140 Brandon Alkazir (38-14) sr., 145 David McFadden (25-21) soph., 160 Eli Andary (42-12) sr., 171 Dustin Solomon (49-3) sr.  
Outlook: This will be Dakota’s fourth straight Quarterfinal and sixth in seven seasons under Skowneski. Ten upperclassmen including seven seniors bolster the lineup after the team made the Semifinals a year ago for the second straight season. Alayan will be seeking his first individual championship next weekend after finishing runner-up the last two seasons, and Ferretti, Tiburcio and Solomon also were placers in 2018.

#8 Clarkston

Record/rank: 26-5, No. 7
League finish: First in Oakland Activities Association Red
Joe Wood, second season (44-15)
Championship history: Class A champion 1991, runner-up 1995.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 125 Cole Wiegers (40-8) sr., 130 Mackenzie Hanselman (36-11) sr., 135 Conor Donahue (38-6) sr., 135 Grady Castle (35-9) soph., 140 Ethan Polick (35-10) sr., 145 Jacob Billette (37-7) sr., 160 Devin Trevino (42-4) sr.
Outlook: Clarkston is competing at the Quarterfinals for the first time since 2007, with a two-point Regional Semifinal win over No. 9 Oxford the key victory of this run. Billette was a Finals placer last season and this winter is one of six seniors holding down the middle weights.

PHOTO: Josh Edmond, here at last season’s Individual Finals, is one of four returning champions leading DCC on its quest for another team title. (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.)