D4 Preview: Return of Familiar Championship Match Anticipated

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

February 23, 2022

After a few seasons with a new champion changing things up in Division 4, expectations are we'll see the return this weekend of one of our most familiar MHSAA Team Wrestling Finals title-deciding matchups.

With two-time reigning champion Clinton now in Division 3, Hudson and New Lothrop occupy the top two seeds heading into Friday's Quarterfinals at Wings Event Center. They are lined up to see each other in Saturday's finale, just as they did five straight seasons from 2014-18.

Division 4 Quarterfinals – matchups below – begin at noon Friday at Wings’ Arena, with Semifinals at 9:30 Saturday morning and the championship match at 3:45 p.m.

#1 Hudson (19-4) vs. #8 LeRoy Pine River (27-11)
#4 St. Louis (23-3) vs. #5 Decatur (24-6)
#3 Bronson (32-6) vs. #6 Manchester (21-6)
#2 New Lothrop (21-2) vs. #7 Iron Mountain (19-3)

Tickets for Quarterfinals, Semifinals and Finals will be sold by the Wings Event Center box office. All matches for all three rounds also will be viewable on MHSAA.tv with subscription.

Below is a look at all eight teams competing in Division 4, listed by seed.

19-4, No. 1
League finish: Tied for second in Lenawee County Athletic Association
Coach: Scott Marry, 34th season (862-198)
Championship history: Eight MHSAA championships (most recent 2019), four runner-up finishes. 
Individual Finals qualifiers: 119 Cole Marry (18-12) soph., 125 Austin Marry (21-11) soph., 130 Jackson Miller (23-10) sr., 130 Kannon Marry (16-7) jr., 135 Payton Rogers (27-6) sr., 140 Bronson Marry (21-2) sr., 145 Aden Barrett (26-12) jr., 152 Calix Campbell (27-11) jr., 171 Logan Ryan (16-21) soph., 189 Cameron Kimble (37-1) sr., 215 Logan Sallows (27-8) jr.  
Outlook: Hudson is back as the top seed with no end to its success in sight as the starting lineup includes only six seniors, while seven of 11 Individual Finals qualifiers have one or more high school seasons remaining. Bronson Marry was the individual runner-up last season at 130 and won 112 as a sophomore, and six other 2021 individual placers also are back – Cole Marry, Rogers, Austin Marry, senior Tristan Bolenbaugh, Miller and Barrett. The Tigers emerged from a league that also includes Clinton and reigning Division 3 champion Dundee.   

21-2, No. 2
League finish: First in Mid-Michigan Activities Conference
Coach: Jeff Campbell, 21st season (525-97)
Championship history: 15 MHSAA championships (most recent 2016), seven runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Blake Wendling (28-14) fr., 112 Daven Lockwood (29-12) jr., 130 Dalton Birchmeier (27-10) fr., 145 Jack Kulhanek (37-13) soph., 189 Cooper Symons (19-4) sr., Grayson Orr (42-4) jr., 285 Isiah Pasik (40-0) sr.
Outlook: New Lothrop returned to its first Final last season since 2018 and finished runner-up, and is expected to reach the championship match again with a much younger lineup featuring only two seniors. Pasik is the returning champion at 285 and hasn’t lost a match since his sophomore season, and junior Brady Gross also is a returning Finals placer.

32-6, No. 5
League finish: Second in Big 8 Conference
Coach: Chad Butters, ninth season (226-60)
Championship history: Division 4 runner-up 2002 and 2003.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Aiden Fill (38-12) soph., 119 Perry Lake (42-11) jr., 145 Devlin Duff (29-19) jr., 152 Carson Norton (29-15) soph., 171 Jacob Britten (41-14) soph., 189 Jacob Dixon (28-15) jr.
Outlook: The Vikings are back at the Finals for the first time since 2017, and with only one senior starter are built to return. They defeated No. 4 Union City and Springport to advance this time and have reached Regionals all nine seasons under Butters. Junior Mathew Blankenship (43-12 at 214) leads the team in wins this winter, and eight regulars have at least 30.

23-3, No. 3
League finish: First in Tri-Valley Conference West
Coach: Kevin Kuhn, 16th season (298-104)
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Colin Kuhn (34-4) fr., 112 Robert Long-Terwilliger (23-13) sr., 130 Dylan Marr (17-9) jr., 135 Nate March (30-10) sr., 145 Martine Wiggins (32-7) fr., 171 Justice Onstott (33-7) jr., 215 Ben Dousuah (19-7) sr., 285 Braden Ball (25-8) sr.
Outlook: The Sharks are coming off their first Regional championship since 1995, and none of four postseason opponents got closer than 34 points of catching them. Onstott is a returning Finals placer after claiming seventh at 189 last season. Three of the team’s top five winners are freshmen; Genaro Soto (28-17 at 125) joins Colin Kuhn and Wiggins in that group.

24-6, No. 10
League finish: First in Southwest 10 Conference
Coach: Mitchell Kennedy, fifth season (65-59)
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 130 Dart Avery (33-12) fr., 140 Andrew Confer (41-6) sr., 189 Gavin Boodt (40-4) sr., 285 Tanner Shugars (30-8) soph.
Outlook: Decatur is returning to Finals weekend for the first time since 2016 off a third-straight District title, and the future is bright with 11 freshman and sophomore starters. Confer was seventh at 130 last season, and junior Braydon Ross (15-3 at 285) also is a returning Finals placer. Total, seven Raiders have won at least 30 matches this season, and Brett Clauser – the team’s only other senior – is right there with 28.  

21-6, No. 7
League finish: Tied for first in Cascades Conference
Coach: Steve Vlcek, 32nd season (678-222)
Championship history: Division 4 runner-up 2008.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Onyx Ostrom (21-24) fr., 112 Jacob Bunn (41-2) sr., 119 Jared Bunn (44-4) sr., 135 Mason Schmitt (41-4) jr., 135 Adam Grebe (33-15) fr., 171 Garett Pope (39-5) sr.
Outlook: After missing last season, Manchester is back at the Finals coming off four-point wins over Laingsburg and Lutheran Westland at the Regional. Pope, Jared Bunn and Jacob Bunn all are returning Finals placers and among even starters with at least 30 wins. Those three also are the only seniors as the team starts nine underclassmen.

19-3, No. 9
League finish: First in Mid-Peninsula Conference
Coach: Cory McLaren, fifth season (66-42)
Championship history: Five Upper Peninsula Finals championships, three UP runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Alexander Wilson (31-8) soph., 119 Tyler Winch (28-13) soph., 119 Shawn McGuire (34-2) jr., 125 Daniel Manier (27-11) fr., 140 Isaac Manier (36-6) sr., 145 Evan Haferkorn (35-6) jr., 152 Parker Stroud (36-6) sr., 152 Kivi Mason (21-7) soph., 171 Fulton Stroud (29-5) soph.
Outlook: The Mountaineers are among the most intriguing teams making the trip to Kalamazoo as they return to Finals weekend for the first time since 2011. The team has only two seniors and 15 wrestlers total, but the second-most Individual Finals qualifiers in Division 4. McGuire, Haferkorn and Parker Stroud all were Finals placers last season. Among postseason wins was a 41-39 victory over Bark River-Harris, which also was ranked in Division 4 at times this winter.

27-11, No. 8
League finish: Third in Mid-Michigan Wrestling Conference
Coach: Terry Martin, second season (47-17)
Championship history: Class C runner-up 1991.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Bryant Wing (11-10) fr., 119 Jordan Nelson (37-15) jr., 140 Ryder Holmes (36-8) soph., 145 Wyatt Underhill (36-14) sr., 152 Phil Rigling (44-9) sr., 160 Cayden Mys (41-12) sr., 171 Rogan Nelson (32-13) sr., 215 Andrew Baldwin (21-16) soph.
Outlook: Pine River is another strong lower seed with eight individual qualifiers from a tradition-rich program. Martin, who also serves as Pine River’s football coach, was a wrestling assistant under former coach Tim Jones for nearly the entirety of Jones’ 20 seasons and 654 wins. Martin has led the team to District titles the last two seasons, and seven seniors and two juniors anchor this lineup.

PHOTO St. Louis, here wrestling during the Division 4 Individual District at Carson City-Crystal, is back at Team Finals weekend for the first time since 1995. (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.)