D1 Preview: Powerful Pair Seeded to Meet for Finals Rematch

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

February 24, 2022

Three of the past five seasons have seen Davison and Detroit Catholic Central face off for the Division 1 championship. That could play out again this weekend at Wings Event Center in Kalamazoo.

They are once again the top two seeds in the division with Quarterfinals – matchups below – set to begin at 2:15 p.m. Friday. Davison won last season’s championship match 29-24 over the Shamrocks, and defeated DCC this regular season 32-31 on Jan. 28.

#1 Davison (16-4) vs. #8 Warren Woods Tower (7-8)
#4 Macomb Dakota (22-3) vs. #5 Temperance Bedford (30-4)
#3 Hartland (28-1) vs. #6 Holt (21-3)
#2 Detroit Catholic Central (12-3) vs. #7 Grandville (15-3)

Semifinals will start at 9:30 Saturday morning, with the championship match at 3:45 p.m.

Tickets for Quarterfinals, Semifinals and Finals will be sold by the Wings Event Center box office. All matches for all three rounds also will be viewable on MHSAA.tv with subscription.

Below is a look at all eight teams competing in Division 1, listed by seed. (Girls Finals qualifiers are noted with “G” with weight class, as those classes differ from the other Individual Finals brackets.)

16-4, No. 1
League finish: Second in Saginaw Valley League
Coach: Zac Hall, second season (28-4)
Championship history: Nine MHSAA championships (most recent 2021), six runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 119 Justin Gates (25-2) soph., 125 Caden Horwath (23-0) jr., 125 Kyle Jelinek (27-10) fr., 130 Brendan Maybee (23-9) sr., 135 Cameron Freeman (19-7) sr., 140 Evan Herriman (15-2) jr., 145 Owen Payne (9-1) sr., 152 Max Callahan (15-5) jr., 160 Kyle White (25-4) sr., 171 Josh Barr (21-1) jr., 189 Remy Cotton (20-3) jr., 215 Jimmy Colley (25-2) sr., 285 Zane Richardson (29-4) sr.
Outlook: Davison won last season’s championship – its first since 2006 and with five runner-up finishes in between – with eight starters expected to be in the lineup again this weekend. Gates (103), Horwath (119), Barr (160) and Colley (215) all are reigning Individual Finals champions – Barr and Horwath are both two-time title winners – while Herrman was last season’s runner-up at 135 and Freeman, Maybee and White were Finals placers.

12-3, No. 2
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League Central
Coach: Mitch Hancock, 15th season (326-53)
Championship history: Fifteen MHSAA championships (most recent 2020), three runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Nathan Walkowiak (29-6) fr., 112 Simon Dominguez (25-13) soph., 119 Drew Heethuis (25-3) jr., 130 Clayton Jones (29-3) jr., 130 Anthony Walker (25-9) sr., 135 Mason Stewart (27-3) soph., 140 Dylan Gilcher (32-0) jr., 140 Jake Matigian (31-9) fr., 145 Steven Shellenberger (21-13) jr., 152 Tatum Bunn (20-11) jr., 152 Darius Marines (29-4) soph., 160 Cameron Adams (24-8) jr., 171 Manuel Rojas (32-1) sr., 189 Connor Bercume (29-8) fr.
Outlook: DCC has wrestled in five straight Division 1 championship matches – winning four straight from 2017-20 – and this lineup is anticipated to return despite only three senior starters. That hardly means there’s less experience than most. Heethuis (112), Gilcher (135), Marines (145) and Rojas are reigning individual champs, with Gilcher and Rojas wrestling next weekend for their third titles. Walker, Jones and Bunn also are returning Finals placers.

28-1, No. 3
League finish: First in Kensington Lakes Activities Association (overall)
Coach: Kyle Summerfield, first season (28-1)
Championship history: Division 1 champion 2016, five runner-up finishes
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Jake Gillespie (38-3) soph., 112 Patrick Wlodyga (36-8) sr., 119 Easton Culver (22-6) fr., 125 Liam Wiitanen (31-9) jr., 135 Vinnie Abbey (36-4) soph., 140 Gabe Cappellano (39-4) jr., 145 Justin VanVaerenbergh (39-2) sr., 152 Nick Dimitroff (19-1) jr., 160 Nick Rochowiak (31-4) jr., 171 Brayden Bobo (37-3) jr., 189 Chase Kern (39-4) jr., 215 Avery Dickerson (4-1) sr., 255-G Eliana Bommarito (17-6) sr.
Outlook: Summerfield, a past Hartland standout, took over the program this season after longtime coach Todd Cheney retired as the fourth-winningest in MHSAA history. Summerfield has totaled more than 150 coaching wins including at Linden before coming to Hartland, and his team’s only loss this winter was to No. 10 Brighton. The Eagles haven’t given up a point over three postseason matches. Bobo, Dickerson, Kern, Abbey and Dimitroff all are returning Finals placers.

22-3, No. 4
League finish: First in Macomb Area Conference Red
Coach: Ed Skowneski, 10th season (269-60)
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Ozia Wilson (42-0) fr., 112 Caleb Weiand (42-0) jr., 112 Orion Wilson (10-2) jr., 119 Drew Astorga (30-9) jr., 125 Fritz Mueller (36-6) sr., 140 Jake Ferguson (29-12) jr., 140 Austin Alkazir (38-6) sr., Aiden Criteser (35-8) jr., 215 Anthony Coleman (35-8) jr.
Outlook: Dakota has won seven straight Regional championships and nine in 10 seasons under Skowneski. Weiand was the individual runner-up at 103 last season, while Orion Wilson is a two-time Finals placer and Alkazir joined them last winter. Alkazir also is one of only three senior starters, with seven juniors anchoring a lineup that should be tough again next season.  

30-4, No. 5
League finish: First in Southeastern Conference
Coach: Kevin Vogel, 11th season (255-59)
Championship history: Eleven MHSAA championships (most recent 2001), seven runner-up finishes.  
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Vincent Cole (34-12) soph., 119 Brock Jandasek (38-12) jr., 125 Nathan Gerber (28-10) jr., 145 Jack Nigh (27-13) jr., 152 Tyler Boerst (37-6) jr., 160 Rollie Denker (50-2) sr.
Outlook: After a season away, Bedford is back at Finals weekend for the second time in three years and fifth time under Vogel. The Kicking Mules advanced this time with a 40-27 Regional Final win over No. 9 Westland John Glenn. Senior Randy Boisselle (35-4 at 171) was a Finals placer last season and is one of eight on the team with at least 30 wins.  

21-3, No. 8
League finish: First in Capital Area Activities Conference Blue
Coach: Stan Granger, first season (21-3)
Championship history: Four MHSAA championships (most recent 2008), two runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Jacob Harris (29-11) soph., 112 Ryan Mosher (28-8) jr., 112 Mariano Lopez (31-4) jr., 130 Jason Jones (19-7) sr., 135 Ralph Thompson (30-12) sr., 160 Alex Russell (25-7) sr., 189 Nathan Bremer (14-4) sr., 215 Cole Newman (30-13) jr., 285 Joshua Terrill (38-2) sr.
Outlook: Granger is a past Holt standout and served as an assistant under longtime coach Rocky Shaft since 1998 before taking over the program. The Rams downed No. 10 Brighton 45-29 in a Regional Semifinal on the way to Kalamazoo. A junior-heavy lineup last season has become a group anchored by seven senior starters plus five more juniors. Terrill was the runner-up at 285 last season, while Bremer, Mosher, Jones, Thompson and Russell also were Finals placers.

15-3, No. 6
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Red
Coach: Bubba Gritter, 12th season (187-76)
Championship history: Two MHSAA championships (most recent 1993), three runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Josh Vasquez (35-3) fr., 119 Jaxon Sanchez (27-9) soph., 135 Justin Gorman (23-4) jr., 171 Max Herrema (22-9) soph., 285 Jordan Kaat (32-3) sr., 105-G Beyonkah Rincones (10-11), fr.
Outlook: Grandville is returning to the Finals for the first time since 2017 and fourth time under Gritter, after claiming a 34-25 win over No. 7 Rockford in the Regional Final to advance. Sanchez and senior Anthony Taylor (23-10 at 152) were Individual Finals placers in 2021.

7-8, unranked
League finish: Fifth in MAC Red
Co-coaches: Greg Mayer, 22nd season (409-266) and Russell Correll, ninth season (172-70)
Championship history: Division 2 runner-up 2017.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Dominic Gumtow (27-4) fr., 112 Daniel Staniszwski (15-8) soph., 130 Tyler Daniel (28-10) sr., 135 Aidan Ede (22-10) fr., 145 Josh Howey (24-2) sr.
Outlook: The Titans are headed to Finals weekend for the seventh-straight season, but this time in Division 1 after previously making the trip in Division 2. Daniel and Howey were Finals placers last season, and they are two of four senior starters for an otherwise younger group – eight underclassmen help fill the lineup.

PHOTO Hartland, here against Westland John Glenn, is the No. 3 seed this weekend in Division 1. (Photo by Douglas Bargerstock.)

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.)