Davison's Facundo Earns Historic Opportunity

March 7, 2020

By Dan Stickradt
Special for Second Half 

DETROIT — Alex Facundo suffered a blow when he was disqualified one week ago during a match at the Division 1 Team Finals against eventual champion Detroit Catholic Central. 

But Facundo, the top-ranked wrestler in both the state and nation, did not let last weekend’s setback deter his goal this weekend of winning a third Individual Finals title.

Facundo, a junior who has committed to Penn State, posted a 13-5 major decision victory over Grandville’s Josh Kenny at 171 pounds at Ford Field. 

“I wanted to win this really bad and prove that I was the best in the state — and nation,” smiled Facundo. “I did that today. (Last week’s opponent) didn’t beat me. I lost on a (technically). I had something to prove.”

Facundo, who finished 39-2 this winter, will try to join an elite crowd next season as he’ll pursue a fourth MHSAA individual title.

“I’m really happy with the third title. I knew I could do it,” he said. “Next year, I’ll come back and go after my fourth title.”

Kenny, a senior who was third at 152 last season, finished 38-2.


Caden Horwath, Davison, Fr. (43-2)
Decision, 7-2, over Louden Stradling, Battle Creek Lakeview, Fr. (51-2)

One of five finalists for Davison, Horwath wrapped up a stellar 44-2 freshman campaign.

“I got a couple of takedowns early, rode him pretty hard on top and I took control,” said Horwath. “It means a lot to me because all of my hard work paid off. It’s a little relief off my shoulders.

“There’s a lot of (history) at Davison and because we lost (in the Team Final) it feels good for all of us to do well here,” added Horwath. “Now I hope to be back next year.”


Dylan Gilcher, Detroit Catholic Central, Fr., (40-3)
Technical fall, 18-3 (4:29), over Aiden Smith, Brighton, Soph. (39-11)

One of the state’s premier freshmen, Gilcher joined Catholic Central’s long list of Finals champions.

“There’s so much history at CC, and it’s incredible to be able to win a title,” said Gilcher. “It’s an incredible feeling and such a blessing to wrestle here at (Catholic Central). There’s some really high expectations.”


Brendan Ferretti, Macomb Dakota, Jr. (34-1)
Decision, 7-2, over Andrew Hampton, Rochester Hills Stoney Creek, Jr. (52-2)

Ferretti has been nearly unstoppable the past two seasons, posting a 90-1 record during that span. The junior outlasted Hampton to capture his second straight title.

Ferretti won at 112 last season. 

“I never wrestled (Hampton) in my life. I just know I’m the best in my (weight) class and I wanted this,” said Ferretti. “I was nervous coming in, but it’s always good to work out those nerves and just go out there and win. I love this. I thrive off of (the big crowds). It makes it so much better, I think."


Andrew Chambal, Davison, Sr., (42-5)
Decision, 5-1, over Mason Shrader, Brighton, Jr. (41-7)

Davison had five finalists, and top-seeded Andrew Chambal came through with the victory in his final high school match. 

He finished second at 119 last season. 

“I went to a really dark place last year after I lost,” said Chambal. “Things were different for a while. Coming out here and doing what I love and coming out on top means the world to me. This changes my life. I feel like I’m on top of the world again.”


Sam Freeman, Brighton, Sr. (41-5)
Decision, 3-2, over Dylan Phelps, Holt, Sr. (39-5)

Freeman put together four years of hard work to reach the summit as a senior. He ended his prep career with a narrow 3-2 decision over Phelps, an opponent he has wrestled several times.

“This is just four years of hard work,” said Freeman. “A lot of guys will peak freshman year, but I didn’t make it to states my freshman year. I kept working, and it means so much more to know that I kept working to get here. It’s a great feeling to be at the top of the mountain at the end of the day.

“It’s not confidence as much as it’s excitement,” added Freeman. “This was two guys on the same level going for it on the big stage with a great match like that.”


Eddie Homrock, Brighton, Sr. (43-3)
Major decision, 9-0, over Camden Trupp, Detroit Catholic Central, Jr. (35-6)

Homrock has gotten used to Finals championships.

He’s now won two of them, after also capturing the title at 125 in 2019. But this deciding match carried some extra significance.

“I was nervous (this time), not because of (my opponent), but because it was my last match,” Homrock said. “I wasn’t scared, just nervous. I went out there and got it done. I knew no matter what I was going to push through it all.”


Josh Edmond, Detroit Catholic Central, Sr. (43-0)
Technical fall, 23-7 (5:50), over Zach Johnson, Brighton, Jr. (41-9)

Detroit Catholic Central has produced legions of all-state wrestlers and champions. But Edmond reached an elite group at his school and statewide with his third Finals title. 

“It means a lot. I really wanted to be a three-time state champ, and I worked really hard for this,” said Edmond. “I think it’s a blessing. I am just blessed to be a part of the CC wrestling family. I thank all of my coaches for helping me get here.

“The game plan was to just wrestle hard. Things opened up, and I was able to pull away,” added Edmond. “I felt pretty good that I could win my third.”


T.J. Daugherty, Waterford Kettering, Sr. (35-0)
Decision, 3-1 (OT), over Marc Shaeffer, Detroit Catholic Central, Sr. (32-13)

Daugherty posted bookend Finals championship wins, earring titles as both a freshman and again as a senior.

“(Shaeffer) took a shot and I doubled by and went behind and got the point, and I did it,” said Daugherty of his win. “I beat him at (Oakland) County and I beat him at the Clarkston Duals. But this is where it matters most.

“When I was a freshman, I didn’t really know what was going on,” added Daugherty, who won at 103 in 2017. “This year I wanted to win it more than anything. I was able to get the win this year.”

Shaeffer previously finished runner-up at 140 in 2019. 


Josh Barr, Davison, Fr. (39-0)
Decision, 5-3, over Logan Sanom, Detroit Catholic Central, Sr. (42-10)

Davison’s future is bright, to say the least. There will be 11 returning starters next winter from a team that finished as the Division 1 runner-up, Barr among them.

The talented freshman was one of five finalists and three champions for the Cardinals, and a top seed at his first Individual Finals.

“I worked so hard all season to get here,” said Barr. “It’s a great feeling to win as a freshman. But this is just the beginning. I want to come back and go for it again. Plus we’re going to be really good again next year with almost everyone returning. We only had three seniors. So this is just a step (forward).”


Derek Gilcher, Detroit Catholic Central, Sr. (45-2)
Decision, 3-2, over Jay Nivison, Davison, Sr. (36-6)

Just a couple of hours after his freshman brother Dylan Gilcher claimed a title, Derek Gilcher followed suit with his third straight championship and fourth placing at the Finals. 

“Right now I feel great. But before my match I was a little nervous, really before my brother’s match. He’s new, he’s a freshman and never been through states before like I have,” said Gilcher. “But he did his job, and I had to go do mine.” 

Gilcher has been a four-year starter during Catholic Central’s four-year reign as the Division 1 team champion.

“I don’t think that’s been done before — the first time in CC history we’ve won four in a row,” smiled Gilcher. “We never won four in a row before, and now the three individual wins. It’s crazy. It adds to the legacy of the program, and the accomplishments show all of the hard work of the athletes and coaches.”


Manuel Rojas, Detroit Catholic Central, Soph. (46-1)
Decision, 7-3, over Colin Jagielski, Temperance Bedford, Sr. (47-3)

After getting the win with Facundo’s DQ at last weekend’s Team Final, Rojas heeded some advice from his coaches this week – and won his first individual championship.

“I went to school on Monday and sat down with (CC head coach Mitch Hancock). We decided to give up social media, stay off of it, and get away from all of the negativity. Just focus on all of the positive things,” said Rojas. “I just had to concentrate on getting prepared for this weekend and try to win here. Just be around my teammates and the people that care for me. That’s all that matters.

Rojas was poked in the eye during the first period Saturday, which drew a little blood, and the scratch forced his eye to swell throughout the match. 

“I hear it’s pretty nasty. I can’t see it yet,” added Rojas of his swollen eye. “It happens. That’s wrestling.”


Brendin Yatooma, Detroit Catholic Central, Sr. (45-1)
Decision, 4-2, over Luke Stanton, Brighton, Sr. (32-4)

One week after helping DCC to another team title, Yatooma aided his team’s run to nine individual state finalists and six individual champions. The reigning champ at 215 capped his prep career with a repeat.

“This is for our coach and our entire coaching staff. They work so hard for us to get to this point,” said Yatooma. “We wrestle as hard of a schedule as anyone, and we come here to win. It’s an incredible brotherhood at CC. Not just wrestling, but for everyone. There is nowhere else I’d rather be than here competing for CC.”


Steven Kolcheff, Detroit Catholic Central, Sr. (45-2)
Decision, 3-2 (OT), over Jake Swirple, Livonia Franklin, Sr. (58-2)

Kolcheff doesn’t mind a little overtime. He had to put some in Saturday night, and it resulted in a victory over top-seeded Swirple in the rubber match between the rivals.

Kolcheff won at the District level, while Swirple turned the tables during the Regional round.

“We’re the most conditioned team in the state,” said Kolcheff. “In overtime I felt good, felt confident. I didn’t want to win a state championship on a coin toss … so I went for it in overtime.

“It’s a great rivalry between us. For me, wrestling is my sport and it’s really dear to my heart. I want to win state titles, and that’s what I did today.”

Click for the full bracket.

PHOTO: Davison’s Alex Facundo (right) gets ahold of a leg of Grandville’s Josh Kenny on the way to winning his third Individual Finals championship. (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.)