Division 1 Makes History Adding 3 to 4-Time Champions Honor Roll

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

March 4, 2023

DETROIT – Never in the history of the MHSAA Individual Wrestling Finals had more than two wrestlers won their fourth title in the same year.

On Saturday, three accomplished the feat in Division 1 alone, including, for the first time ever, a pair of teammates.

Detroit Catholic Central’s Dylan Gilcher and Davison’s Josh Barr and Caden Horwath each won their fourth titles at Ford Field, joining an elite group that now numbers 35. 

“I’m honored to be a part of that group,” Barr said after his 17-5 major decision victory against Hartland’s Brayden Bobo at 175 pounds. “It means that everything I did paid off, and I’m not done yet, I’m just getting started. Me and Braeden (Davis of Dundee, who won his fourth title in Division 3) are going to Penn State together. Caden and Dylan are going to Michigan together. I grew up with Dylan and Caden in the Team Donahoe wrestling room, I’ve been wrestling with Dylan and Caden for a long, long time. Caden is one of my best friends. And Braeden, we probably met when I was 8 or 9. We all push each other, for sure.”

Barr and Horwath were the fourth and fifth Davison wrestlers to win four titles, joining Brent Metcalf (2002-05), Lincoln Olson (2012-15) and Alex Facundo (2018-21). 

“It’s pretty incredible just to be a part of something like that,” said Davison coach Zac Hall, who won four titles at St. Johns from 2011-14. “It’s crazy man, absolutely crazy. A couple years ago these kids were 2 feet smaller than me, and we’re playing dodgeball and kind of carefree. To see the level it’s gotten to, and these guys are obviously both in a situation to go on and do great things at the next level. It’s hard to even encapsulate in words. I’m just super proud of those two guys.”

Horwath claimed his fourth title with a 12-2 major decision against Grosse Pointe South’s Wyatt Hepner (39-7) at 126 pounds. His previous titles came at 103, 119 and 125.

“Just coming off the mat now, it feels pretty surreal,” said Horwath, who finished the season 22-1. “There’s no real feeling, I’m just happy right now. Happy me and my teammate did it, and my future teammate Dylan Gilcher, so that’s cool, too.”

Barr won his about an hour and a half earlier to finish off a 33-0 season. His previous titles came at 152, 160 and 171.

“I expected it of myself, so it feels like the right thing,” Barr said. “It hasn’t really hit me yet, all these people here, it’s awesome.”

It was also a record-tying day for Catholic Central, which had seven individual champions. The Shamrocks had seven champions in 2019, as well, a Division 1 record. Dundee holds the state record with eight in 2021.

Gilcher started it all off with a 20-4 technical fall in the second period against Travis Richards of Brighton (29-7) at 150 pounds. 

His previous titles came at 112, 135 and 140. He finished his senior season at 32-0, and became the second DCC wrestler to win a fourth title, joining Kevon Davenport (2016-19).

“It feels real great,” Gilcher said. “Kevon texted me today and said, ‘Make history.’ I said I didn’t want to be No. 2, but I’m glad I am. I’m really glad I was first (on the team to wrestle Saturday), because I was stressing out about my match. But now all the stress is gone and I can watch happy, just cheer on my team, don’t have to worry about getting tired yelling.”

Detroit Catholic Central's Dylan Gilcher and Brighton's Travis Richards wrestle at 150 pounds.


Champion: Wyatt Lees, Detroit Catholic Central, Fr. (42-10)
Decision, 3-2, over Brice LaFleur, Saline, Fr. (43-4)

Lees earned his third victory over LaFleur in four weeks, as the two had met in the District and Regional, as well.

“I felt good, I felt confident throughout the match,” Lees said. “I knew I put in the work and was ready for whatever was thrown at me. It was fun and a great opportunity.”

LaFleur was in the down position late in the match, and nearly was able to score a reversal in the final seconds, but Lees fought it off.

“I had an idea (of how much time was left),” Lees said. “But I was just going to wrestle through no matter what.”


Champion: Bohdan Abbey, Hartland, Fr. (44-3)
Major Decision, 13-5, over Archer Anderson, Clarkston, Soph. (27-9)

Abbey came into the match already owning a victory against Anderson this season, but he knew a second wouldn’t come easy.

“I had him earlier in the year, so I had some confidence going in, but anybody can be beat,” Abbey said. “It worked out my way. I wrestled smart, wrestled hard. It was a good match. It’s great, cause I’m only a freshman. I’ve been on other stages like this, but nothing is like the state tournament.”

Abbey held a 4-0 lead heading into the third period, and managed nine more points to put his first title away. For Anderson, it was a second-straight year placing, as he was fifth at 103 in 2022.


Champion: Caleb Weiand, Macomb Dakota, Sr. (47-0)
Decision, 5-3 (OT), over Josh Vasquez, Grandville, Soph. (41-3)

Weiand finished off an unbeaten season with his second-straight Finals title. The Michigan State-bound senior won at 112 pounds as a junior. He was runner-up at 103 as a sophomore.

“Two years ago, when I was a sophomore, I let the nerves get to me,” Weiand said. “Last year, I kicked that out, tried to get all the nerves away. This year, there were no nerves. I think it helps me perform way better.”

Vasquez forced overtime in the match with a takedown in the final seconds. But Weiand hit a beautiful duck under seconds into the extra frame to claim the victory.


Champion: Drew Heethuis, Detroit Catholic Central, Sr. (53-1)
Decision, 4-3, over Elijah Bunn, Rockford, Jr. (52-3)

Heethuis finished his career with a third Finals championship, as he had won at 112 and 119 the past two years.

He had a 3-0 lead heading into the third period, but had to hold off Bunn, a runner-up at 130 in 2022, in the final seconds.

“It feels awesome,” Heethuis said. “It wasn’t as dominant as I would have liked. But it’s awesome to go out on a third champ. It feels nice.”

Heethuis will wrestle next year at Princeton.


Champion: Justin Gates, Davison, Jr. (34-2)
Decision, 2-1, over Mason Stewart, Detroit Catholic Central, Jr. (47-6)

Gates found himself back on top of the podium after finishing runner-up in 2022 to Heethuis. He had won a title in 2021, defeating Weiand at 103 pounds.

“It means a lot more to me,” Gates said. “I feel like I’ve grown a lot more as a wrestler. After taking second, I had a chip on my shoulder.”

He pulled out the victory by scoring a reversal early in the third period and riding Stewart out for the final 1:36.

“I thought I was going to score some more points, but I’ll give credit where credit’s due. DCC always has a good gameplan for us,” Gates said. “I had to overcome and adapt to that. If it’s a close match, you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do.”


Champion: Clayton Jones, Detroit Catholic Central, Sr. (49-3)
Technical Fall, 17-2, over Jay’Den Williams, Roseville, Fr. (47-2)

Jones won his second-straight Finals title, and did so in dominant fashion. 

He led 7-1 after the first period, and 15-2 after the second. His takedown 28 seconds into the third ended the match.

“It felt great,” Jones said. “I just put in all the work that needed to be done. I was confident. I’ve been here before, and I was ready to go get my second one.”

Jones, a Michigan State commit, was DCC’s seventh champion on the night.

“This team was great,” he said. “We put in the work. (Coach Mitch) Hancock gave us a gameplan at the beginning of the season, and we stuck to that gameplan and got it done.”

Davison's Josh Barr readies for the next moment during his 175-pound title match.


Champion: Darius Marines, Detroit Catholic Central, Jr. (36-3)
Major Decision, 11-2, over Vinnie Abbey, Hartland, Jr. (46-3)

Marines set himself up to be the Shamrocks’ next four-time champion, claiming his third title in as many tries.

“It means a lot to me,” Marines said. “I want to make my family proud, make my teammates proud. That’s what I came to CC to do.”

Marines, who won at 145 and 152 the previous two years, scored a takedown nine seconds into the match and rolled from there.

“It’s just business,” Marines said. “Come here and get it done. I’m at the point where this is routine for me. I’m not being cocky, but that’s what we come here to do. It’s business. It’s just work.”


Champion: Cameron Adams, Detroit Catholic Central, Sr. (35-4)
Fall, 1:03, over Nick Rochowiak, Hartland, Sr. (39-4)

Adams had Rochowiak scouted, as they had run into each other several times over the years. So when he saw an opportunity, he was quick to take it.

“We used to wrestle all the time, so I know he’s got that headlock,” Adams said. “He got up to that pinch-like headlock position and I was like, ‘Oh shoot.’ I started backing away, backing away and I reached down for the leg, brought up the leg, grabbed the head when I had the single and put him away.”

Adams had finished seventh at 160 pounds in 2022.

“Honestly, it doesn’t feel real yet,” he said. “But it feels really good. It feels amazing.”


Champion: Brayden Mirjavadi, Romeo, Sr. (52-4)
Decision, 3-2, over Ryan Ahern, Rockford, Jr. (51-3)

Before Mirjavadi stepped onto the mat, his coaches told him to put everything he had into his match. He took that to heart, and after that match ended, struggled to get back to his feet, as exhaustion and emotion pinned his shoulders to the mat.

Eventually he made it to his feet, however, and the celebration could begin as he erased the regret of losing in the 2022 Final at 160 pounds.

“Coaches told me that, ‘At the end of the match, if you can get up to raise your hand, you did something wrong,’” Mirjavadi said. “I definitely did that last year at the state finals. But man, I did it this time.”


Champion: Connor Bercume, Detroit Catholic Central, Soph. (49-4)
Decision, 8-3 UTB, over Matthew Bollman, Lapeer, Sr. (40-4)

Bercume nearly won the match in regulation, but his takedown at the buzzer didn’t beat the clock.

He regrouped in the second overtime, however, scoring five points in the final 30-second period to win his first Finals title.

“I just had to keep wrestling,” Bercume said. “It was hard going to overtime. I thought I won. But I remember last year, I lost my blood round match in ultimate tiebreaker, and I remembered how that felt. And I just found a way to win.”

Bollman, who was Lapeer’s first finalist since 2015, forced overtime with a stalling call on Bercume seconds before the takedown that wasn’t.


Champion: Owen Hawley, Livonia Franklin, Sr. (55-0)
Decision, 4-2, over Judah Kinne, Lake Orion, Sr. (31-2)

Hawley won this match twice. Kind of. 

He appeared to have claimed a 7-2 victory, but a clock malfunction forced officials to put 22 seconds back on the clock and reset the score to 4-2. Unfazed, Hawley was able to ride out Kinne and claim the victory for real.

“I wasted a little bit of energy on that celebration at first,” Hawley said with a laugh. “But looking at my crowd, my parents, my friends, my teammates, my coaches, their faces looked terrible. There was zero belief at that point. All I had to do was give them a thumb’s up, they started cheering, they got excited, and it made me excited.

“I love to wrestle – what’s 22 more seconds?”

Click for full results

PHOTOS (Top) Davison's Caden Horwath, top, works for control against Grosse Pointe South's Wyatt Hepner in their championship match Saturday at Ford Field. (Middle) Detroit Catholic Central's Dylan Gilcher and Brighton's Travis Richards wrestle at 150 pounds. (Below) Davison's Josh Barr readies for the next moment during his 175-pound title match. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)

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.)