D3 Preview: 2 More Seek Induction Into 4-Time Champs Club

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

March 3, 2022

No matches draw in more of the Ford Field wrestling crowd than those featuring potential four-time MHSAA Finals champs. And spectators will have multiple opportunities to watch history this weekend in Division 3.

Clinton’s Logan Badge and Dundee’s Casey Swiderski are seeking to become the next four-time title winners, joining a list that has grown to 30 since Mount Pleasant’s Mike Mills became the first in 1979.

With the starting weight 189 pounds, Badge – whose team wrestled in Division 4 his first three seasons before moving into Division 3 this winter – could have a chance to celebrate in the first match of the final round Saturday afternoon.  

The Grand March on Friday begins at 10 a.m., with wrestling through semifinals that evening. Wrestling begins again at 9 a.m. Saturday with championship matches at 3:30 p.m. Tickets may be purchased at Ford Field. All matches will be broadcast live on MHSAA.tv, and we’ll talk to all 14 champions in each division for our Second Half coverage published later that evening and overnight. See the MHSAA Wrestling Finals page for more information and to follow results this weekend.

112 Connor Younts, Clinton sophomore (40-7) – Last year’s 103-pound champ in Division 4 won a Regional championship two weeks ago and could run into the top seed in this bracket in the semifinals.

119 Braeden Davis, Dundee junior (37-2) – He’s looking to add a third Finals championship after winning 112 as a sophomore and 103 as a freshman.

130 Kade Chinavare, Dundee junior (32-3) – Last year’s winner at 119 gives this bracket two 2021 champs set up to potentially decide the title. Chinavare also finished third at 112 as a freshman.

130 Zachary Gibson, Lake Odessa Lakewood senior (35-0) – The top seed at this weight won at 125 last year and is a combined 88-1 over the last two. He’s also earned fifth places at 112 and 103 and has a 179-15 career record.

140 Ryker Johnecheck, Williamston senior (34-2) – He’s looking to follow up last year’s undefeated run to the 130 title with his third championship after also winning 125 as a sophomore.

145 Aiden Davis, Dundee junior (39-0) – The top seed at 145 is wrestling for his second title after winning 135 last year and finishing the 125 runner-up as a freshman.

152 Casey Swiderski, Dundee senior (41-0) – His past championships were at 145 last year, 135 in 2020 and 103 in 2019, and he’s bringing a career record of 154-3 into the weekend.

160 Connor Owens, Flint Powers Catholic junior (14-0) – After losing by decision in last season’s 160 championship match, he’s back as the top seed and with that his only defeat since his freshman season when he finished fourth at 140.

189 Logan Badge, Clinton senior (33-5) – He’s seeking his third title at 189 after winning that weight in Division 4 the last two seasons and 215 in Division 4 as a freshman. He'll also no doubt be eager to get back on the mat coming off a rare defeat, to Alma's Jacob Munger during last weekend's Team Semifinals.

285 Levi Harber, Montrose senior (40-4) – The top seed at this weight is returning after finishing runner-up last season, to go with a third place at 215 as a sophomore.

Other 2021 champions: 112 Kade Kluce, Dundee sophomore (37-6, 103 last year); 135 Coy Perry, Clinton sophomore (44-8, 112 in Division 4 last year).

Other 2021 runners-up: 103 Talan Parsons, Ovid-Elsie sophomore (33-1, 103 last year); 119 Gavyn Merchant, Kingsley sophomore (33-3, 112 last year); 119 Connor Busz, Clinton junior (45-2, 112 in Division 4 last year); 125 Zak Shadley, Clinton junior (39-10, 119 in Division 4 last year); 135 Caeleb Ishmael, Coloma senior (43-3, 125 last year); 160 Kent McCombs, Clinton senior (30-2, 145 in Division 4 last year); 171 Randy Pyrzewski, Gladwin senior (46-2, 171 last year).

Additional No. 1 seeds: 112 Easton Moran, Yale senior (48-2); 125 Cameron Chinavare, Dundee sophomore (35-2); 135 Aidan Bernard, Montrose senior (42-1); 171 Randy Pyrzewski, Gladwin senior (46-2); 215 Hunter Huguelet, Gladwin senior (40-1).

Also undefeated: 145 Cody Ueberroth, Saginaw Swan Valley junior (43-0); 160 Nick Marienfeld, Napoleon senior (51-0).

PHOTO Dundee's Casey Swiderski gains control of his opponent during Saturday's Team Semifinal win over Imlay City. (Click to see 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.)