D2 Preview: Red Arrows Target Record

February 22, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Three wrestling teams in MHSAA history have won five straight Finals championships.

This weekend, Lowell will attempt to become the first to push its winning streak to six.

There are plenty of upset-minded opponents in the way, however, at Kalamazoo’s Wings Event Center. Five of this weekend’s eight quarterfinalists are seeking their first team title in this sport – with last season’s runner-up Gaylord among the hopefuls.  

Below is a look at all eight teams competing in Division 2, listed by seed. Quarterfinal matches begin at 6:45 p.m. Friday, with Semifinals at noon 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 Lowell

Record/rank: 19-3, No. 1
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference White
R.J. Boudro, fifth season (105-14)
Championship history: 
Eight MHSAA championships (most recent 2018), six runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Ramsy Mutschler (25-8) fr., 112 Nicholas Korhorn (22-8) jr., 125 Zeth Strejc (28-6) soph., 130 Dawson Jankowski (28-6) jr., 135 Jeff Leach (22-9) sr., 135 William Link (36-6) fr., 140 Avry Mutschler (30-2) sr., 145 Doak Dean (34-4) soph., 145 James Fotis (14-3) jr., 152 Austin Boone (26-4) jr., 160 Jacob Lee (27-12) soph., 171 Derek Mohr (20-13) soph., 285 Tyler Deloof (31-5) jr.
Outlook: As noted above, Lowell has a chance to make more history, and has given up just 21 points over four District and Regional matches on the way back to Kalamazoo. Boone is a two-time Individual Finals champion, and Korhorn and Mutschler were runners-up last season. Jankowski, Strejc, Dean, Fotis and Deloof also were placers, and the Red Arrows still will have only three expected senior starters this weekend.

#2 Goodrich

Record/rank: 30-5, No. 3
League finish: First in Genesee Area Conference
Kenneth Sirignano, 10th season (record N/A)
Championship history: 
Two MHSAA championships (most recent 2009), two runner-up finishes. 
Individual Finals qualifiers: 119 Cameron Macklem (40-10) fr., 125 Carson Richards (41-9) fr., 125 Caleb Teague (39-7) sr., 140 Dominic Edwards (32-5) sr., 160 Juwan Vines (30-6) jr., 171 James Penfold (40-3) sr., 215 Honour Kline (46-1) sr.
Outlook: Goodrich is back at the Quarterfinals for the third time in Division 2 in four seasons, and jumped up four seeds from last year. A crew of talented freshman has joined an otherwise upperclassmen-filled lineup that includes seven seniors. Teague was a Finals runner-up last season, while Vines, Kline and senior Blake Coffell also were placers.

#3 DeWitt

Record/rank: 16-5, No. 4
League finish: First in Capital Area Activities Conference Blue
Brian Byars, 19th season (449-196)
Championship history: Has not appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 125 Matt Foddrill (26-14) jr., 145 Tyler Brandt (32-12) jr., 152 Quenten Hall (29-4) sr., 171 Jacob Brandt (33-11) jr., 189 Chandler Murton (31-7) soph.
Outlook: DeWitt is back at the Quarterfinals for the second time in three seasons and second time ever, seeking to advance to Saturday for the first time. The Panthers made it to Kalamazoo with a 30-20 Regional Final victory over No. 2 Eaton Rapids after winning a league that included Division 1 No. 10 Holt and formerly-ranked Grand Ledge. Brandt, Hall and Murton were all Finals placers last season.

#4 Gaylord

Record/rank: 27-1, No. 5
League finish: First in Big North Conference
Jerry LaJoie, 25th season (696-134-2)
Championship history: Division 2 runner-up 2018.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Gabe Thompson (33-14) fr., 119 Will Sides (31-14) jr., 125 Chayse LaJoie (44-0) jr., 130 John Sosa (33-9) jr., 160 Jacob McKnight (37-4) jr., 171 Quinn Schultz (11-4) soph., 189 Cade Foster (21-6) sr., 215 Aurilius Krumholz (37-10) jr.  
Outlook: Gaylord emerged as a third seed last season to make an MHSAA championship match for the first time, and the Blue Devils are seeded to return to at least the Semifinals after edging No. 9 St. Johns 36-33 in the Regional Final to reach Kalamazoo. Chayse LaJoie is a two-time individual champion, and McKnight and Foster also were Finals placers in 2018.

#5 Tecumseh

Record/rank: 28-5, No. 8
League finish: First in Southeastern Conference White
A.J. Marry, fourth season (90-34)
Championship history: 
Has not appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Joshua Hilton (46-2) sr., 119 Vincent Perez (48-0) sr., 125 Kellen Patton (45-2) sr., 130 Victor Coscarelli (33-14) jr., 135 Lucas Petty (19-21), jr., 189 Clayton Boatright (40-10) sr. 
Outlook: Make it eight Quarterfinals in nine seasons for Tecumseh, which moved up three seeds from the eighth spot a year ago. The Indians have one of the most veteran lineups in Kalamazoo this weekend in any division, with all seniors and juniors expected to jump on the mat Friday. Eight starters are back from the team that faced Lowell in last season’s Quarterfinal. Perez was a Finals runner-up in 2018.

#6 Warren Woods-Tower

Record/rank: 20-6, No. 6
League finish: Third in Macomb Area Conference Red
Greg Mayer and Russell Correll, 19th seasons (372-244)
Championship history: 
Division 2 runner-up 2017.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Josh Howey (31-10) fr., 119 Joe Haynes (30-7) soph., 125 Chaise Mayer (39-3) sr., 160 Omari Embree (33-4) fr., 215 CJ Sheir (35-11) sr., 285 Joel Radvansky (39-4) sr.
Outlook: Tower reached the Semifinals last season after finishing runner-up in 2017, and the Titans are looking to make another run after emerging from a MAC Red that included Division 1 contender Macomb Dakota. Radvansky was a Finals runner-up last season, while Chaise Mayer was a runner-up in both 2016 and 2017 and took third at his weight a year ago. Haynes, sophomore Dru Wilson and senior David Stepanian also were placers in 2018.

#7 Niles

Record/rank: 22-4, No. 7
League finish: First in Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West
Todd Hesson, 12th season (257-86)
Championship history: Has not appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Jamison Zimmerman (33-6) jr., 130 Bryce Brust (18-3) sr., 135 Javond Ball (33-8) jr., 140 Kade Wagley (36-8) jr., 152 Robert Buckland (34-11) sr., 160 Cole Simpson (33-11) sr., 171 Cade Best (33-7) sr., 285 Brian Soto (30-4) sr.
Outlook: Niles fell short of the Quarterfinals a year ago but has advanced for the fifth time in seven seasons. Eight seniors anchor the lineup, six holding down the weights from 152-285. Zimmerman took fifth last season at 103 and is one of eight on the team with at least 29 wins.

#8 Cedar Springs

Record/rank: 20-9, unranked
League finish: Second in O-K White
Nicholas Emery, seventh season (131-84)
Championship history: Class B champion 1995, runner-up 1978.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Trevor Marsman (37-9) soph., 135 Aaron Smith (38-11) sr., 145 Lucas Pienton (34-3) sr., 171 Ryan Ringler (43-0) sr., 189 Sage Serbenta (41-1) jr.
Outlook: A 37-36 win over No. 10 Allendale in the Regional Final vaulted Cedar Springs to the Quarterfinals for the first time since 1996. The Red Hawks will be plenty familiar with Friday’s opponent; Lowell is from the same league. Ringler is the reigning individual champion at 171, and Pienton and Serbenta also were Finals placers last season.

PHOTO: Gaylord’s Rico Brown (top), here competing at Grand Ledge this winter, will try to help his team win its first MHSAA wrestling 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.)