DCC, Hudson Standouts Next to Chase #4

March 9, 2018

By Jeff Chaney
Special for Second Half

There is no offseason for a championship wrestler.

And if he’s on the verge of making MHSAA history, he may get only a week off before getting back to work.

Hudson's Jordan Hamdan and Detroit Catholic Central's Kevon Davenport are ready to hit the mat again and train for next year in an attempt to become the state's 25th and 26th four-time individual champions. 

Both won their third straight Individual Finals titles last weekend at Ford Field, as Hamdan took the 130-pound weight class in Division 4 with a 10-0 major decision victory over Robert Rogers of Burton Bendle and Davenport won the 145-pound Division 1 title with a 7-1 decision over Vic Schoenherr of Bay City Western. 

"This Sunday and Monday I will get in some practice time and then go from there," said Hamdan, who finished this season with a 52-0 record. "It never ends. If you stop training then someone can catch up, so you have to keep improving."

Davenport is ready as well.

"(Being a four-time champ) is always in the back of everyone's mind when you get here," Davenport said. "I got my three in; now the next step is number four."

Davenport said he is open to advice from the 24 wrestlers who have already forged the path of four straight titles. 

That historic club increased by two members this year as Dundee's Brandon Whitman and Lake Fenton's Jarrett Trombley became four-timers Saturday evening.

"Wisdom is everything; experience is everything," Davenport said. "Even if there is a little bit that they can teach me, I will take whatever I can get."  

If Hamdan and Davenport can become Nos. 25 and 26, they will be the first four-time champions from their highly successful programs. 

Hudson and Detroit Catholic Central have each had multiple three-time champions – for Hudson, Devan Marry (2009-10, 2012) and Cole Weaver (2012-14) were three-timers, and for the Shamrocks Trevor Stewart (2003-05), Alec Mooradian (2009-11), Ken Bade (2011-13) and Drew Garcia (2012-14) claimed three titles.

"There is a lot that can go wrong trying to win four," Hudson coach Scott Marry said. "Injuries, sickness, being in the right weight class and keeping your weight under control. I think Jordan will be a good recipient of it because of what he does. He believes in the process and all the training that goes into avoiding those pitfalls."

Added Detroit Catholic Central coach Mitch Hancock about Davenport: "Kevon could be the first for us. We have created such an environment at Catholic Central so that these guys flourish in it. We have very committed parents and very committed wrestlers."

Commitment is what all great wrestlers can agree is the key to making it to the top of the podium.

"I will put in the work," Hamdan said. "If I do what is necessary, I will still be comfortable no matter what the pressure becomes to be a four-timer. I will be focused on the goal. It all boils down to putting in the work."   

Hopefully that will be enough.

"There is an element of luck involved to win four," Scott Marry said. "But you make your own luck. Keep you weight in control, study your opponents and train and that will help you seize that opportunity.”

PHOTOS: (Top) Kevon Davenport’s arm is raised in victory after the Detroit Catholic Central junior earned his third MHSAA championship Saturday at Ford Field. (Middle) Hudson’s Jordan Hamdan also won his third individual title and receives a salute from the crowd. (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.)