Division 4: Chasing Hudson

February 21, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

With a fifth-straight MHSAA Division 4 championship Saturday, Hudson would join Davison as the only two schools to accomplish that feat since the Team Finals began in 1988. 

But seven other teams at Battle Creek's Kellogg Arena will do their best to make their own history instead this weekend. 

Below is a look at all eight teams competing in Division 4, listed by seed. Their Quarterfinal matches begin at 5:30 p.m. Friday, with Semifinals at 11:45 Saturday morning and the championship match at 4 p.m. All matches this weekend will be streamed live on MHSAA.tv. For results throughout, check the MHSAA Wrestling page. Rankings below are from MichiganGrappler.com


Record/rank: 27-6, No. 1
League finish: Second in Lenawee County Athletic Association
Coach: Scott Marry, 25th season (654-141)
Championship history: Four MHSAA championships (most recently 2012).
Individual Finals qualifiers: 285 Zach Rieger (48-1) sr., 103 Roddy Hamdan (42-5) soph., 112 Tyler Roberts (36-16) soph., Isaac Dusseau (44-6) jr., 125 Mason Lopinski (33-19) fr., 130 Cole Weaver (46-0) jr., 130 Carlos Randall (26-4) jr., 135 JD Waters (35-5) jr., 135 Wyatt Spangler (27-22) sr., 152 Kyle Johnson (41-15) fr., 215 Jake Morgan (37-12) jr.
Outlook: Only Hudson, Davison and Dundee have won at least four straight Team Finals championships. Last year’s run was led by a pair of seniors who went on to individual championships, but Hudson merely has reloaded led in part by Weaver, who claimed last season’s Division 4 title at 119. And only three of this weekend’s expected starters are seniors.


Record/rank: 33-2, No. 2
League finish: Tied for first in Central State Activities Association
Coach: Doug Baird, 12th season (399-41)
Championship history: MHSAA champion 2008, four runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 285 Wyatt Conkle (39-13) soph., 103 Corey Agens (38-15) jr., 103 Davian Gowens (36-11) fr., 119 Zack Yates (46-1) jr., 130 David Jacobs (49-7) jr., 135 Chase Siersema (52-3) jr., 140 Mark Workman (37-13) fr., 145 Cash Bolles (37-7) sr., 160 Lee Siersema (49-7) sr., 189 Eldon Graham (42-8) jr., 215 Scott Rosencrans (25-13) fr.
Outlook: Last season was the only one over the last nine in which in the Panthers didn't make it to Battle Creek, and they've made the Semifinals six times during that span. Two of Hesperia’s runner-up finishes came against Hudson in 2011 and 2009 by a combined 14 points. Yates was an individual runner-up last season, to Hudson’s Weaver at 119, and Chase Siersema was an individual runner-up in 2011. Like Hudson again, only two of Hesperia’s expected starters this weekend are seniors.


Record/rank: 31-4, No. 3
League finish: First in Genesee Area Conference
Coach: Jeff Campbell, 12th season (307-62)
Championship history: 12 MHSAA championships (most recently 2004), four runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Cole Hersch (43-11) fr., 119 Johnny Robinson (33-14) fr., 125 Gabe Bennett (40-11) soph., 130 Dalton Birchmeier (28-22) soph., 140 Jacob Perrin (55-2) sr., 145 Josh Wendling (41-5) jr., 152 Aaron Bauman (45-6) jr., 160 Taylor Krupp (46-3) jr., 171 Dakota Clark (26-23) jr., 189 Cody Symons (53-2) jr., 215 Owen Wilson (35-10) jr.
Outlook: New Lothrop has reached the Quarterfinals all 12 seasons under Campbell and eclipsed 30 wins two of the last three. His line-up has only one senior, but that senior – Jacob Perrin – is coming off an MHSAA individual championship at 130. Four others are ranked among the top four in their individual weight classes this winter.


Record/rank: 21-0, No. 7
League finish: First in St. Joseph Valley Conference
Coach: Al Sosinski, 30th season (474-234)
Championship history: MHSAA runners-up in 2002 and 2003.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 119 Jake Littlefield (36-10) sr., 125 Hunter Machus (42-5) sr., 130 Kahle Scheenks (33-15) soph., 145 Brandon Losinski (42-9) sr., 160 Dan Erwin (25-7) sr., 171 Leo Mora (33-6) sr., 189 Brett Burtrum (25-7) soph.
Outlook: Bronson has won its District the last 12 seasons and is making its first trip to the Quarterfinals since 2009. The line-up features eight seniors including five who will also compete at the Individual Finals. Machus and Mora are ranked among the top four in their respective weight classes. Sosinski’s record qualifies for listing among the top 20 winningest wrestling coaches in MHSAA history.  


Record/rank: 25-9, unranked
League finish: First in Tri-County Conference
Coach: Marc Spicer, fifth season (106-64)
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 285 Gabe Beaubien (40-17) sr., 103 Terry Burns (31-12) fr., 112 Michael Petee (37-19) soph., 145 Roger Fox (35-8) jr., 160 Nick Garza (45-7) sr., 189 Charlie Robertson (38-11) soph., 215 Garrett Miller (51-5) sr.
Outlook: Sand Creek has continued to build under Spicer with three straight District Titles and its first Regional championship under him this season. Garza finished individual Finals runner-up last season at 152 and leads a line-up with eight 30-match winners. All seven wrestlers between 145-285 have won at least 31 matches this season.


Record/rank: 26-6, No. 9
League finish: First in Central Michigan Athletic Conference
Coach: Kacy Datema, third season (57-28)
Championship history: MHSAA runners-up in 2000 and 2001.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Taylor Barkley (29-15) fr., 112 Kenneth Dittenber (49-4) sr., 119 Dallas O’Green (46-6) fr., 140 Garner Cusack (46-7) jr., 145 Dillan Decker (47-5) soph., 152 Darren Decker (50-2) soph., 160 Lincoln Burnham (14-9) soph.  
Outlook: Datema, a former Carson City-Crystal wrestler himself, has guided the Eagles back to Battle Creek after steady improvement during his first two seasons as coach. They could be back for a few more with nine underclassmen expected to start this weekend. Dittenber is a two-time Individual Finals champion, and Dillan Decker also is considered a top contender next weekend.   


Record/rank: 25-4, unranked
League finish: First in O-K Silver
Coach: Chad Kik, 13th season (255-138)
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 285 Tom Devos (35-12) jr., 135 Brendon Rodenburg (44-9) fr., 140 Jayson Ellicott (44-12) jr., 152 KJ Herremans (39-12) jr., 171 Shane Rodenburg (52-2) soph., 215 Konner Wolter (53-1) sr.
Outlook: Kent City has increased its win total four straight seasons, won its District the last three years and will make its first Quarterfinal appearance under Kik – who won an individual championship for Sparta in 1992. Wolter is one of only two seniors, but with Rodenburg is expected to contend for an individual championship next weekend. Kent City beat No. 10 Bangor in a tie-breaker at the Regional.


Record/rank: 21-2, unranked
League finish: First in Mid-Peninsula Athletic Conference
Coach: Nick Burklund, fourth season (43-26)
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 125 Cayleb Winkler (29-13) sr., 152 Taylor Bonetti (37-16) soph., 171 Jacob Rehn (30-13) soph.
Outlook: Norway too has increased its win total each of the last four seasons and despite posting sub-.500 marks in Burklund’s first two. The Knights could continue to surge with only two seniors on the roster this winter. Norway won its District matches by a combined score of 129-15, and then got past tough competitors Rogers City and St. Ignace at the Regional. 

PHOTO: Hudson's Cole Weaver (top) battles to an 18-6 major decision in his match at 125 pounds during last seaon's Division 4 Final at Battle Creek's Kellogg Arena. Click to see more at 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.)