D3 Preview: Ready to Make More History

February 28, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

The 2018 Division 3 Individual Wrestling Finals gave fans arguably the highlights of the day at Ford Field, with a pair of four-time champions joining a legendary group.

Those are pretty tough acts to follow, of course. But this season’s contenders have opportunities to stack up impressive accomplishments as well.

Below, we look at 10 contenders to watch in Division 3, plus list everyone who finished at least as a runner-up in 2018 and all of the top seeds heading into this weekend. Surely we still missed a few who will end up rising to the top of the podium Saturday – but come back to Second Half early Sunday as we’ll interview and report on all 56 champions.

The “Grand March” on Friday begins at 11 a.m., with five rounds wrestled throughout the day including the semifinals at 7:30 p.m. Wrestling picks back up with consolation rounds at 9 a.m. Saturday, and concludes with the championship matches that afternoon at 3 p.m.

Follow all matches on a subscription basis live on MHSAA.tv, and click here for results at MHSAA.com.

112: Hunter Assenmacher, Ida junior (46-3) – Last season’s champion at 103 and runner-up at that weight in 2017 owns the top seed at this weight this weekend. After going undefeated last season, his three losses this winter were all to Dundee – twice to 103 top seed Casey Swiderski and then to teammate Austin Fietz.

119: Dametrius Castillo, Alma sophomore (33-4) – After last year becoming Alma’s first individual champion since 1993, Castillo is back not as a top seed but with an opportunity to avenge one his losses on the way to the final. His defeats this winter all were to Finals qualifiers, with Montrose’s Jake Elasivich a possible semifinal opponent.

125 Corey Gamet, Michigan Center senior (43-0) – He’s the top seed at this weight, previously winning championships in Division 2 at 103 as a freshman and 112 as a sophomore while attending Parma Western. This also would be his second perfect high school season if he takes the title.

140: Christian Killion, Dundee junior (41-5) – The top seed at 140 was the runner-up last season at 130 and also finished fourth at 119 as a freshman. His in-state defeats this season were to reigning Finals champions from other divisions, Detroit Catholic Central’s Derek Gilcher (D1) and Mendon’s Skyler Crespo (D4).

145: Trevor Robinson, Shepherd senior (41-2) – The runner-up last season at 135 is the top seed this weekend at 145, with losses only to Finals qualifiers from Divisions 1 and 2. He also was the runner-up at 125 as a freshman before taking third at 130 as a sophomore.

152: Stoney Buell, Dundee sophomore (41-8) – Buell is another on a possible four-title track after winning 135 a year ago. He has more losses than some others, but they are quality. In-state he fell to Lowell’s Avery Mutschler and Austin Boone, St. Johns’ James Whitaker and Detroit Catholic Central’s Cameron Amine – all returning champions or top seeds this weekend.  

152: Sean Trombley, Lake Fenton senior (47-1) – Last season’s runner-up at 145 is not the top seed at this weight but is opposite Dundee’s Buell, potentially setting up a high-powered final. Trombley also was runner-up at 140 as a sophomore and took fifth at 135 as a freshman. His loss this winter came to Byron’s Jerry Hall in the District, and Trombley avenged it by beating Hall at the Regional.

160: DJ Daniels, Caro senior (52-0) – Last year’s champion at 152 is the top seed at 160, and he’s won a combined 110 matches over the last two seasons. He also took third at 140 as a sophomore.

171: Owen Guilford, Portland senior (44-0) – The reigning champion at this weight has been even better, what little he could improve statistically, with a perfect record after losing just one match last season. The top seed at this weight, he’s looking to add to a run that also included a fourth at 160 in 2017.

189 Gavin Morgan, Mount Morris junior (50-0) – Morgan enters the Finals as an undefeated top seed for the second season in a row after doing the same last year at 160. He went on to finish sixth in part by taking an injury default in his consolation match, but is back seeking his first title after also finishing runner-up at 152 as a freshman.

Other 2018 runners-up: 119 Khalil Moten, Mount Morris senior (10-5, 119 in Division 3 in 2018 competing for Flint Beecher); 135 Tyler Swiderski, Dundee sophomore (25-10, 112 in 2018); 125 Kyle Schaaf, Clare senior (42-4, 119 in 2018); 140 Nick Felt, Shelby senior (41-3, 140 in 2018), 215 Brockton Cook, Birch Run senior (50-3, 189 in 2018).

Additional No. 1 seeds: 103 Casey Swiderski, Dundee freshman (42-2); 119 Josh Sunnerville, Otsego junior (47-2); 130 Josh Rankin, Michigan Center senior (36-4); 135 Jonathon White, Dundee senior (35-9); 215 Brockton Cook, Birch Run senior (50-3); 285 Mike Nykoriak, Algonac senior (44-1).

Also undefeated: 130 Damian Flores-Luevano, Wyoming Kelloggsville senior (21-0); Seth Konynenbelt, Hudsonville Unity Christian senior (45-0).

PHOTO: Alma’s Dametrius Castillo, here last week against Richmond during the Team Quarterfinals, will attempt to win his second individual title after last year claiming the school’s first in more than two decades. (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.)