D3 Preview: Familiar Foes May Lock Again

February 25, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Dundee and Richmond have become predictable opponents for the MHSAA Division 3 championship match over the last few seasons.

They’ve faced off for the last three Division 3 titles, plus in four of the last five Finals for that division and five of the last eight. And heading into this weekend, they own the top seeds again.

Below is a look at all eight teams competing in Division 3, 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. (Records below are based on those submitted for the Individual Finals.)

#1 Dundee

Record/rank: 23-5, No. 1
League finish: Tied for first in Lenawee County Athletic Association.
Coach: Tim Roberts, 16th season (437-60-1)
Championship history: Eight MHSAA championships (most recent 2014), five runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 119 Drew Scholl (27-14) soph., 125 Tylor Orrison (35-16) fr., 130 Kenny Reinhart (45-5) sr., 130 Drew Mandell (17-5) jr., 135 Zach Blevins (48-1) jr., 145 Sean Sterling (42-4) soph., 160 Donny Mandell (40-4) sr., 171 Brandon Whitman (50-2) fr., 189 Tye Thompson (41-6) sr., 215 Gabe Heiserman (36-10) jr.
Outlook: The impressive numbers just keep building – 13 straight appearances at Kellogg Arena, two straight MHSAA championships after a seventh title match appearance in eight seasons. Reinhart, Donny Mandell, Blevins and Sterling all were Individual Finals placers last season, and Thompson was runner-up at 171 pounds. Reinhart, Mandell and Thompson are the only seniors in the lineup, meaning a third straight title might not be the last one of the current streak.

#2 Richmond

Record/rank: 29-5, No. 2
League finish: First in Blue Water Area Conference.
Coach: Brandon Day, 11th season (358-74)
Championship history: Six MHSAA championships (most recent 2012), five runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Roy Costello (36-8) soph., 112 Connor Behem (38-10) sr., 119 Aaron Kilburn (38-6) jr., 119 Cody Keller (30-17) jr., 130 Graham Barton (9-11) jr., 145 Austin Vannatter (37-8) sr., 152 Colton McKiernan (26-14) fr., 160 Devin Skatzka (47-2) sr., 171 Jordan Adams (37-8) sr., 189 Brady LaFore (25-16) sr., 285 Adam Boyd (35-11) sr.
Outlook: Richmond gave up a combined 23 points to four opponents in returning to the Quarterfinals for the seventh consecutive season. A group of nine seniors dominates the lineup including every weight from 140-285. Skatzka can enter an elite group of champions next weekend when he competes for his fourth Individual Finals title, and Behem, Kilburn and Vannatter also were placers in 2014.

#3 Remus Chippewa Hills

Record/rank: 26-3, No. 3
League finish: First in Central State Activities Association.
Coach: Nate Ethridge, 15th season (432-88)
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 125 Mike Felix (40-10) sr., 135 Slade Todd (41-13) jr., 140 Jaycob Sharp (49-4) fr., 145 Mason Dey (51-4) sr., 152 Kevin Briscoe (44-6) sr., 285 Kyle Vandenbrooks (35-14) sr.
Outlook: Chippewa Hills will compete in its eighth Quarterfinal over the last decade and for its second Semifinal berth (and first since 2007). The Warriors moved up from a sixth seed at last season’s Finals and defeated No. 5 Whitehall to advance this time. Briscoe and Dey placed fourth and sixth, respectively, at 145 pounds at last season’s Individual Finals and man a veteran half of the lineup that includes five seniors over the heaviest six weights. All but two starters have at least 32 wins.

#4 Saginaw Swan Valley

Record/rank: 39-1, No. 9
League finish: First in the Tri-Valley Conference Central.
Coach: Darrell Burchfield, 13th season (412-72)
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Edwin Hernandez (48-8) jr., 119 Jose Hernandez (52-4) sr., 125 KJ Suitor (52-1) jr., 130 Matt Santos (52-1) jr., 140 Collin Dole (51-3) sr., 145 Gerad Bott (47-7) soph., 152 Sam McLean (47-5) sr.
Outlook: The Vikings are a combined 120-4 over the last three seasons and advanced to the Semifinals last season before falling to Dundee. Swan Valley edged No. 6 Caro 38-36 in the Regional Semifinal on the way to Battle Creek. Seven starters have at least 45 wins this season; four Individual Finals placers from last winter anchor the lineup, with Suitor returning after finishing runner-up at 112 in 2014.

#5 Grand Rapids Catholic Central

Record/rank: 19-3, No. 7
League finish: Second in Ottawa-Kent Conference Gold.
Coach: B.J. Schroder, fourth season (73-15)
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 119 Devin Schroder (40-1) jr., 130 Kole Krauss (36-3) jr., 140 Nate Limmex (37-0) sr., 145 Foster Karmon (25-0) jr., 145 Dominic Forbes (30-10) jr., 215 Grant Tennihill (34-3) sr.
Outlook: B.J. Schroeder has led the Cougars to two league, three District and two Regional titles over the last three seasons, and GRCC just missed making its first Semifinal in 2014 with a four-point Quarterfinal loss to Swan Valley. Devin Schroder and Limmex are two-time MHSAA champions, and Limmex hasn’t lost a match since his freshman season. Tennihill also was a placer at last season’s Individual Finals and joins those two and junior Kole Krauss – a 2013 individual placer – among Cougars with at least 33 wins this winter. Karmon was an individual champ last season for Allegan.

#6 Allegan

Record/rank: 29-6, No. 8
League finish: First in Wolverine Conference.
Coach: Murray Rose, 28th season (718-151-2)
Championship history: Two MHSAA championships (most recent 2007 in Division 2), two runner-up finishes. 
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Davynn Schneider (42-12) soph., 119 Richard Jefferson (30-16) soph., 125 Justin Wiseman (26-20) soph., 130 Joey Orr (32-13) jr., 171 Levin Sabin (47-7) jr., 189 Chase Beard (50-2) soph., 189 Austin Ferrell (39-12) jr.
Outlook: This is Allegan’s seventh straight trip to the Quarterfinals and second straight in Division 3 after a run in Division 2. Allegan also has made three straight Semifinals and is seeking its first championship match berth since 2010. Five juniors anchor the bottom of a lineup that could be on the verge of two special runs – the team doesn’t have a senior. Beard and Sabin were individual placers last winter.

#7 Birch Run

Record/rank: 22-9, No. 4
League finish: First in Tri-Valley Conference East.
Coach: Bart Bennett, eighth season (228-40)
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 119 Mason Breece (36-8) fr., 125 Jerry Fenner (47-3) sr., 130 Adam Grim (43-12) sr., 135 Joe Damm (35-18) jr., 140 Ean Taylor (33-9) sr., 145 Tyler Childs (32-10) jr., 160 Logan Bovee (33-8) jr., 215 George Lahar (46-3) sr., 285 Colin Slavik (39-9) sr.
Outlook: The Panthers missed Battle Creek last season but are making their third trip in four seasons to go with five straight league and six straight District titles. Fenner was an Individual Finals runner-up at 125 last season and Lahar also was a placer. They are two of only four seniors in a starting lineup that features 10 athletes with at least 30 wins this season.

#8 Mason County Central

Record/rank: 29-7, unranked
League finish: Third in West Michigan Conference.
Coach: Jim Allen, seventh season (128-78)
Championship history: Class C runner-up 1979. 
Individual Finals qualifiers: 135 Jacob Shoop (48-5) soph., 145 Logan Merrick (44-7) jr., 160 Spencer Knizacky (47-3) jr., 160 Jordan Steiger (41-7) sr., 189 Josh Quinn (49-3) sr., 285 Matt Quinn (40-13) soph.
Outlook: For the second straight season, Mason County Central is the last team standing from the loaded West Michigan Conference, which also includes annual powers Whitehall (ranked No. 5 in Division 3 heading into the postseason) and Shelby. Josh Quinn and Knizacky are returning Individual Finals placers and among six 40-match winners in the lineup. 

PHOTO: Dundee's Kenny Reinhart (left) and Richmond's Aaron Kilburn wrestled to a 5-4 decision (for Kilburn) in last season's Division 3 Final. Their teams could meet again this weekend.  (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.)