D1 Preview: Titans Prepare to Clash

February 23, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

To call the Division 1 Quarterfinal field loaded would be an understatement.

The top seven ranked teams at the end of the regular season all have advanced to this weekend's final rounds at Central Michigan University's McGuirk Arena – paced by a top-seeded Detroit Catholic Central team on one of the most dominant runs in MHSAA history.

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 a.m. Saturday and the championship match at 3:30 p.m. All matches this weekend will be streamed live on a subscription basis on MHSAA.tv. For Friday’s schedule and results throughout, check the MHSAA Wrestling page.

The MHSAA Wrestling Finals are presented by the Michigan Army National Guard.

#1 Detroit Catholic Central

Record/rank: 28-1, No. 1
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League
Coach: Mitch Hancock, 10th season (215-43)
Championship history: 
Eleven MHSAA championships (most recent 2014), two runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Devon Johnsen (31-9) jr., 112 Benyamin Kamali (34-3) jr., 112, Rhett Newton (30-8) soph., 119 Derek Gilcher (27-8) fr., 125 Stone Moscovic (26-10) jr., 130 Kevon Davenport (36-3) soph., 140 Joseph Urso (33-12) soph., 145 Cameron Amine (38-3) soph., 152 Aidan Wagh (28-12) jr., 171 Tyler Morland (30-0) sr., 171 Easton Turner (23-9) soph., 189 Dane Flynn (29-9) sr., 215 Jackson Ross (21-9) sr., 285 Nicholas Jenkins (39-1) sr.
 Hancock has coached four Division 1 championship teams over his decade running the program, but this has been his most dominant so far. The Shamrocks’ only loss was to Ohio power Lakewood St. Edward, and they shut out all three of their postseason opponents so far. Davenport, Amine, Morland and Jenkins all were individual champions last season, while Kamali, Ross and Moscovic were Finals placers.

#2 Davison

Record/rank: 24-3, No. 2
League finish: First in Saginaw Valley League.
Coach: Roy Hall, 19th season (495-89-1)
Championship history: 
Eight MHSAA championships (most recent 2006), four runner-up finishes. 
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Andrew Chambal (33-6) fr., 112 Steven Garty Jr. (30-5) soph., 119 Jaron Wilson (30-5) fr., 125 Marc Shaeffer (28-4) fr., 125 AJ Facundo (32-5) jr., 140 Ryan Schlak (32-7) sr., 140 Jay Nivison (24-6) fr., 145 Brian Case (27-6) soph., 160 Cal Stefanko (27-5) jr., 171 Trevor McGowan (28-7) soph., 189 Brenden McRill (34-2) sr., 285 Arron Gilmore (25-9) soph.
 Last season’s runner-up has eight starters back from the championship match loss to Hartland, despite eight underclassmen (and only three seniors) in this season’s top lineup. McRill won the 189 individual championship last winter, while Facundo was a runner-up (after winning at 112 in 2015) and Case also placed at the Individual Finals. Davison beat DCC in a Semifinal last season by four; in their meeting last month, DCC won 32-22.

#3 Macomb Dakota

Record/rank: 32-3, No. 3
League finish: Second in Macomb Area Conference Red
Coach: Ed Skowneski, fifth season (148-36)
Championship history: Has not appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Brock Prater (41-8) fr., 103 Nick Alayan (48-3) soph., 112 Andrew Barrett (29-9) soph., 112 Justin Tiburcio (45-8) soph., 125 Nick Barrett (45-7) sr., 130 Tyler Sanders (37-2) jr., 152 Christian Karges (41-13) jr., 152 Dustin Solomon (40-6) soph., 160 Layne Malczewski (50-3) jr., 171 Frank Alcini (37-15) sr., 285 Rhami Khalil (47-7) jr.
 Dakota has moved up to a third seed from sixth last season and with 11 Individual Finals qualifiers after coming to CMU with four a year ago. The Cougars got past No. 9 New Baltimore Anchor Bay to return to the Quarterfinals for the fourth time under Skowneski. Sanders was the individual runner-up last season, losing his championship match by just a point, and he’s one of 10 upperclassmen expected to start. Malczewski and Tiburcio also placed individually last winter.

#4 Oxford

Record/rank: 24-5, No. 4
League finish: First in Oakland Activities Association Red
Coach: Paul McDevitt, 23rd season (488-177-2)
Championship history: 
Division 1 champion 2011, two runner-up finishes. 
Individual Finals qualifiers: 119 Daltan Myers (16-12) jr., 130 Garrett Tyrrell (38-10) sr., 135 Sergio Borg (22-5) jr., 140 Ryan Miller (32-12) jr., 145 Caleb Tabert (39-12) soph., 152 Trent Myre (38-12) soph., 160 Devin Trevino (43-6) soph., 215 Byron Schlickenmeyer (33-4) sr.
 Oxford has won 10 straight league titles and 12 District championships over the last 13 seasons under McDevitt, who also has led nine of his last 10 teams to the Quarterfinals and reportedly will retire from coaching after this season. The next coach will inherit a strong group; McDevitt’s team will march into this weekend with only four senior starters but eight individual qualifiers. Borg was a placer last season.

#5 Hartland

Record/rank: 32-3, No. 5
League finish: First in Kensington Lakes Activities Association West
Coach: Todd Cheney, 25th season (699-100-2)
Championship history: Division 1 champion 2016, f
ive MHSAA runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Wyatt Nault (47-8) fr., 112 Corey Cavanaugh (49-9) soph, 119 Kyle Kantola (47-9) soph., 130 Hayden Culver (41-14) sr., 140 Tanner Culver (30-6) soph., 145 Reece Hughes (37-1) sr., 152 River Shettler (48-6) soph., 160 Joey Livingston (43-5) jr., 189 Andrew Spisz (49-4) sr.
 After a number of just-misses, Hartland finally got its championship last season and returns five starters from that title match. Along the way this time, the Eagles avenged an earlier loss to No. 8 Walled Lake Central, in the Regional Semifinal, after clinching their 16th league title over the last 17 seasons. Hughes won the individual title at 140 last season and Spisz, Kantola and Cavanaugh also were placers.

#6 Westland John Glenn

Record/rank: 29-6, No. 6
League finish: First in KLAA South, Kensington and overall
Coach: Bill Polk, 19th season (369-115)
Championship history: Has not appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Kyle Borthwell (23-5) soph.; 119 Mikey Mars (53-2) jr., 125 Isaac Lefler (48-7) jr., 135 Anthony Gibson (49-4) jr., 145 John Siemasz (47-6) jr., 189 Lional Cornish (28-19) fr., 215 JaWuan Peete (46-5) sr., 285 Brandon Carreathers (34-11) sr.
 John Glenn is back at the Quarterfinals for the first time since back-to-back trips in 2009 and 2010 and after upping its win total each of the last three seasons. The Rockets beat Novi and No. 8 Walled Lake Central to win the overall KLAA title, and earned an eight-point win over Temperance Bedford to get to CMU. Mars won the individual title at 112 last season, and Siemasz was runner-up at 135; Borthwell also placed.

#7 Grandville

Record/rank: 14-5, unranked
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Red
Coach: Bubba Gritter, seventh season (113-38)
Championship history: Two MHSAA championships (most recent 1993), three runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 125 Anthonie Taylor (30-9) fr., 130 Mason Priest (34-8) sr., 145 Allan Matthews (19-10) jr., 152 Kameron Bush (35-1) sr., 160 Jake Paganelli (28-15) soph., 171 Sam Greco (38-4) sr., 189 Ryan Vasbinder (18-1) sr., 215 Ian Hall (29-8) sr., 215 Bryce Henning (15-19) sr.
 An experienced lineup with six seniors and nine upperclassmen among the starting 14 will bring Grandville back to the Quarterfinals. The Bulldogs advanced with a 20-point win over league rival and No. 10-ranked Rockford in the Regional Final after losing to the Rams by nine in January. Bush is the reigning individual champion at 152 pounds

#8 Brighton

Record/rank: 16-8, No. 7
League finish: Second in the KLAA West
Coach: Tony Greathouse, fourth season (89-24)
Championship history: Division 1 champion 2015.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Logan Kehres (29-16) fr., 103 Ben Manly (37-8) soph., 119 Eddie Homrock (30-9) fr., 125 Seth Soto (27-18) sr., 135 Dane Donabedian (22-17) fr., 140 Lee Grabowski (40-6) sr., 145 Nick Bleise (215) jr.) 171 Jake Soop (31-12) sr.
 Brighton is another contender from the loaded KLAA and got to CMU in part by avenging last year’s Regional upset by Grand Ledge. The Bulldogs have five freshmen among eight underclassmen in the starting lineup, but three that have qualified for the Individual Finals – and this tournament experience no doubt will pay off for seasons to come. In the meantime, Brighton is the rare state-ranked eighth seed filling out a strong field. 

PHOTO: Hartland's Reece Hughes (left) and Davison's Cal Stefanko, facing off at last season's Division 1 Final, have led their teams back to McGuirk Arena. (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.)