D1 Preview: Returning Stars Fill Lineup

March 5, 2020

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

This weekend’s Individual Finals Division 1 brackets are absolutely loaded with stars, featuring eight champions and six runners-up from 2019’s showcase at Ford Field.

But the best part over the next two days will be watching how 210 more wrestlers seeking similar stardom work to break in against such an experienced group of elite performers.

Below, we look at 10 contenders to watch in Division 1, plus list all of the top seeds heading into this weekend. We no doubt missed a few who will end up among the biggest headliners Saturday – but come back to Second Half early Sunday as we’ll interview and report on all 56 champions.

The “Grand March” on Friday begins at 11 a.m., with five rounds wrestled throughout the day including the semifinals at 7:30 p.m. Wrestling picks back up with consolation rounds at 9 a.m. Saturday, and concludes with the championship matches that afternoon at 3:30 p.m.

Follow all matches on a subscription basis live on MHSAA.tv, and click here for results at MHSAA.com.

119 Brandon Ferretti, Macomb Dakota junior (30-1) – The reigning champion at 112 is the top seed this time at 119 and enters with a combined 83-1 record over the last two seasons. His only loss was to Division 2 top seed Joe Haynes of Warren Woods Tower, by sudden victory in Ferretti’s third match of this season. Ferretti also finished third at 103 as a freshman.

119 Kavan Troy, Rochester junior (44-5) – Last season’s champ at 103 moved up two weights and took a few losses, but is in position to make a big statement early with a possible chance of facing top seed Ferretti in the second round. Troy finished 50-0 a year ago, bringing his combined record the last two seasons to 94-5.

135 Eddie Homrock, Brighton senior (40-3) – Homrock moved up from fourth at 125 as a sophomore to champion a year ago, and will enter his last high school Finals as the top seed in his bracket. His only in-state defeat this season came in December to Lowell’s Austin Boone, who is going for a fourth title in Division 2. Homrock will continue at Michigan State.

140 Josh Edmond, Detroit Catholic Central senior (39-0) – A three-time finalist, Edmond will attempt to win a third championship to go with last year’s title at 135, another at 135 in 2018, the 130 title in 2017 and a Division 2 runner-up finish at 135 as a freshman. The top seed in his bracket, he’s a combined 156-3 over four seasons and wrestling for his second undefeated campaign. He will continue at Missouri.

145 T.J. Daugherty, Waterford Kettering senior (31-0) – Daugherty fell just short of claiming a second championship last season, falling 3-0 to undefeated Kyle Kantola of Hartland in the 130 title match. That was Daugherty’s only loss of 2018-19, and he hasn’t been defeated since. He won the title at 103 as a freshman.

160 Derek Gilcher, Detroit Catholic Central senior (41-2) – Gilcher is wrestling for a third title after winning 140 last season, 135 as a sophomore and finishing fourth at 119 as a freshman. Two wins this weekend will give him 150 for his career, and he enters as the top seed. His only in-state loss this winter was to Davison’s Alex Facundo, the top seed at 171.

171 Alex Facundo, Davison junior (35-2) – Facundo is the top seed at this weight and on a possible four-title track, with championships at 160 last year and 152 as a freshman. He has 18 wins by pin and 11 by technical fall this season and already has committed to continue his career at Penn State after graduation.

215 Brendin Yatooma, Detroit Catholic Central senior (41-1) – The reigning champion at 215 will go for another title and third Finals placing after also taking eighth at 189 as a sophomore. He’s undefeated against in-state competition this winter and a combined 80-4 overall over the last two, and enters as the top seed.

285 Steven Kolcheff, Detroit Catholic Central senior (42-2) – Kolcheff also is attempting to finish his high school career with a repeat and finished runner-up at this weight as well as a sophomore. He’s not the top seed, with his only in-state loss this season to top-seeded Jake Swirple of Livonia Franklin in sudden victory after beating Swirple by decision three weeks earlier.

285 Jake Swirple, Livonia Franklin senior (55-1) – As noted above, Swirple is the top seed at this weight, coming back from a 3-2 loss to Kolcheff on Feb. 1 to defeat him at their Regional 3-2. Swirple was third at this weight last winter and eighth as a sophomore, and he’s 161-14 combined over the last three seasons.

Other 2019 runners-up: 112 Aden Williams, Davison sophomore (31-8, 103 in 2019); 119 Zein Bazzi, Dearborn Heights Crestwood junior (45-4, 112 in 2019); 125 Andrew Chambal, Davison senior (38-5, 119 in 2019); 130 Brody Kemper, Grand Blanc senior (28-1, 135 in 2019); 145 Marc Shaeffer, Detroit Catholic Central senior (29-12, 140 in 2019).

Additional No. 1 seeds: 103 Caden Horwath, Davison freshman (39-2); 112 Dylan Gilcher, Detroit Catholic Central freshman (36-3); 125 Andrew Chambal, Davison senior (38-5); 130 Brody Kemper, Grand Blanc senior (28-1); 152 Josh Barr, Davison freshman (35-0); 189 Greyson Stevens, Brighton senior (38-4).

Also undefeated: 119 Manuel Leija, Lansing Eastern senior (31-0).

PHOTO: Brighton’s Eddie Homrock has his arm raised in victory by the official after his Finals win last season 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.)