D2 Preview: Rematch Brewing Again

February 20, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

St. Johns and Lowell have met in the last two MHSAA Division 2 Team Wrestling Finals. St. Johns won both.

But the Red Arrows entered the postseason ranked No. 1 in the state poll and enter this weekend's Quarterfinals seeded number one – with St. Johns No. 2 and looking like the championship match opponent once again.

Below is a look at all eight teams competing in Division 2, listed by seed. Their Quarterfinal matches begin at 5:30 p.m. Friday, with Semifinals at 11:45 Saturday morning and the championship match at 4 p.m. All matches this weekend will be streamed live on a subscription basis on MHSAA.TV. For results throughout, check the MHSAA Wrestling page. Rankings below are from MichiganGrappler.com


Record/rank: 21-1, No. 1
League finish: First in O-K White
Coach: Dave Dean, ninth season (232-38) 
Championship history: Three MHSAA championships (most recent 2009), six runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Sam Russell (24-9) fr., 112 Lucas Hall (30-0) soph., 119 Zeth Dean (29-4) soph., 125 Derek Krajewski (23-8) sr., 130 Bailey Jack (28-4) sr., 135 Jordan Hall (27-3) jr., 160 Kanon Dean (26-6) sr., 171 Max Dean (28-1) soph.,189 Garett Stehley (25-1) sr., 215 Josh Colegrove (29-0) jr.
Lowell's only loss was to Illinois power Chicago Marist, and the Red Arrows own wins over Detroit Catholic Central and Richmond among others. Eight individuals won Regional titles last weekend, and Jack is a reigning Finals champion with Zeth Dean and Stehley runners-up in 2013. This run shows no signs of slowing, as Lowell has only four senior starters.


Record/rank: 18-2, No. 2
League finish: First in Capital Area Activities Conference Red
Coach: Derek Phillips, second season (37-6) 
Championship history: Four MHSAA championships (most recent 2013)
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Emilio Sanchez (33-15) fr.,112 Ian Parker (43-0) soph., 119 Lucas McFarland (36-13) fr., 130 Bret Fedewa (28-17) fr., 140 Zac Hall (45-0) sr., 145 Mark Bozzo (33-6) sr., 152 Logan Massa (44-0) jr., 160 Drew Wixson (27-7) jr.,171 Angus Arthur (40-0) jr., 215 Ty Wildmo (32-5) jr., 285 Jacob Gnegy (11-7) soph.
The Redwings’ only losses were to nationally-regarded teams from Ohio and Illinois, and Hall, Massa and Arthur all are reigning individual champions. Hall will compete next weekend to become the 18th in MHSAA history to win for individual titles. Parker hasn’t lost since falling in last season’s Division 2 individual championship match at 103. Hall and Bozzo are the only senior starters, so the trips to Battle Creek should continue.


Record/rank: 31-2, No. 3
League finish: Tied for first in Southeastern Conference
Coach: Joshua Lindeman, first season (31-2) 
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Ricky Azelton (48-3) sr., 112 Drew Marten (45-9) fr., 119 Robert Comar (43-12) sr., 140 Kyle Humphries (33-18) soph., 189 Kody McCrate (35-9) jr.,215 Landon Pelham (51-3) soph., 285 Preston Pelham (50-1) sr., 285 Kolin Connors (16-5) sr.  
Outlook: Tecumseh is back for its fourth straight Quarterfinal and first under Lindeman, who formerly coached Brooklyn Columbia Central and wrestled at Hudson. He inherited a lineup of half seniors with three more capable of subbing in. Azelton and both Pelhams were placers at last season’s Individual Finals.


Record/rank: 21-4, No. 4
League finish: First in Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference
Coach: Todd Hesson, seventh season (162-68) 
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Andrew Flick (31-9) fr., 112 Brandon Meek (29-10) jr., 119 Josh Dayhuff (33-9) jr., 130 Darek Bullock-Mills (34-6) sr., 135 Noah Hall (35-6) jr., 140 Warren Smith (33-6) jr., 145 Quintin Smith (18-14) soph.
Outlook: A year after winning its first Regional since 1960, Niles has won a second straight and three straight Districts for the first time despite graduating some big-time contributors in the spring. Two Individual Finals runners-up are gone, but five starters are back from last season’s team that fell in the Semifinals – and 10 junior starters should gain valuable seasoning for another run in 2015.


Record/rank: 25-7, unranked
League finish: First in O-K Green
Coach: Tom Barker, second season (54-14) 
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Austin Krantz (39-9) sr., 112 Taylor Rambin (16-2) jr., 140 Nolan Waddell (46-5) sr., 145 Jaxon Smith (38-12) jr., 171 Joshua Lee (46-5) sr., 189 Ryan Vasbinder (43-7) fr.  
Outlook: Byron Center is back in the Quarterfinals for the first time since 2009 and seeking its first Semifinal berth. After winning big in the District, the Bulldogs edged a solid pair, Eaton Rapids and Hastings, in the Regional. Barker has won 307 matches as a coach while also leading teams at Grand Rapids Union, Forest Hills Northern and Wyoming Park. Waddell was a Finals placer last season.


Record/rank: 19-11, unranked
League finish: Second in Macomb Area Conference Red
Coach: Greg Mayer, 14th season (259-211-1) 
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Joe Schindler (36-10) fr., 119 Al-Aminul Haque (31-17) sr., 125 Nick Pipes (43-5) sr., 135 Donald Janice (33-6) sr.
Outlook: Warren Woods Tower has had a solid run under Mayer and now assistant Russell Correll. The Titans won eight straight District titles from 2004-11 before missing the last two seasons and returning to the Regionals this month. This is their first trip to the Quarterfinals since 2007 and came in part via a three-point upset of No. 5 Ortonville-Brandon in the Regional Semifinal. Pipes also was an Individual Finals qualifier last season.


Record/rank: 20-1, No.6
League finish: Second in Saginaw Valley Association
Coach: Steven Goss, sixth season (115-33) 
Championship history: Three MHSAA runner-up finishes.  
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Noah Schoenherr (35-9) fr., 119 Coby Moore (27-7) fr., 125 Blake Jackson (40-6) soph., 135 Thomas Schoenherr (40-4) soph., 140 Christian Schoenherr (13-4) jr., 189 Cody Okes (35-12) jr., 215 Jacob Alarie (40-5) sr. 
Outlook: Bay City Western is back in the Quarterfinals for the first time since its Semifinal run in 2002 and defeated No. 8 Greenville along the way. Christian Schoenherr was an Individual Finals runner-up last season and is part of a lineup that includes seven 30-match winners. Bay City Western has won five straight District titles under Goss, a 1978 graduate, former national Greco-Roman champion and coach at the U.S. Olympic Education Center in Marquette.


Record/rank: 22-9, unranked
League finish: Tied for first in Macomb Area Conference White
Coach: Bill Delia, 15th season (241-151-13) 
Championship history: MHSAA Class A champion 1994. 
Individual Finals qualifiers: 125 Garret Kaercher (43-8) soph., 135 Shawn Lindsey (31-12) soph., 145 Khannor Kaercher (44-6) jr., 160 Dierrien Perkins (37-10) soph., 285 Michael Abouya (38-7) sr.
Outlook: Lincoln’s rejuvenation continues this weekend with its second straight Quarterfinal appearance. The Abes have won or shared four straight league titles and won three straight District championships. Khannor Kaercher was an Individual Finals placer at 140 last season.

PHOTO: Lowell’s Lucas Hall (right) battles a New Lothrop opponent during their match earlier this season. (Click to see more at 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.)