Dundee Ends Richmond Streak in D3

February 23, 2013

By Chip Mundy
Special for Second Half

BATTLE CREEK – A few minutes after winning the MHSAA Division 3 championship on Saturday, some members of the Dundee wrestling team picked up Sean Keilitz and put him on their shoulders.

Was Keilitz an unlikely hero? Certainly. A junior, he came into his match at 119 pounds with an 18-16 record, including a loss earlier in the day in the Semifinals and another Friday in the Quarterfinals.

Keilitz, however, was deserving of being hoisted on the shoulders of his teammates. He scored a key 12-8 decision in the 119-pound match – the second-to-last match of the meet – as Dundee defeated three-time defending MHSAA champion Richmond 35-26 at Kellogg Arena.

Dundee (23-2) had finished runner-up four of the last five years since winning the title in 2007. Two of those runner-up finishes came against Richmond.

“Winning state is always great, I can tell you,” Dundee coach Tim Roberts said. “I’ve done it a few times, and it doesn’t get old and it doesn’t get any less great. But to beat a team the quality of that team and as well as they wrestled against us, that was a great win.

“Winning at 119 was huge. Their kid is a state qualifier, and our kid – I wasn’t able to enter him in the District because he wasn’t healthy. That was two kids just battling right there, and Sean stepped up and won that match.”

Richmond, which held a 19-4 lead after five matches (the meet started at 130 pounds), had a 26-25 lead after freshman Aaron Kilburn won a 10-2 major decision at 103. But Richmond would not win again.

Dundee freshman Zach Blevins stepped in and won with a major decision, giving the Vikings a 29-26 lead and setting the stage for the match between Keilitz and Richmond freshman Graham Barton.

“I knew I had to win,” said Blevins, who had a 5-0 lead after the first period and nearly picked up a pin late in that period en route to a 15-2 victory. “I was really nervous, but I knew we would be able to finish it out.”

Keilitz and Barton had a closer battle. Keilitz had a 7-4 lead going into the third period, but Barton, who came into the match with a 21-21 record, cut it to 9-8 before Keilitz scored the last three points.

“It’s just unreal,” Keilitz said. “I was looking up at the scoreboard, and I honestly wasn’t even nervous for once in my life. I was just so pumped up. It was so exciting.

“It was scary, but I was so pumped up that I wasn’t even worried about it. I just went out there and did my job.”

The victory left Dundee with a 32-26 lead going into the final match. All Dundee junior Brendan O’Connor had to do was avoid a pin to secure the MHSAA title. However, a pin would have tied the match and caused it to be decided by the sixth tie-breaking criteria.

But O’Connor was never in danger of being pinned and went on to post a 14-8 decision.

Richmond (26-5) won four of the first five matches to build the 19-4 lead. Alex Muzljakovich (130) and Nate Henke (145) each won by fall, while defending individual MHSAA champion Devin Skatzka won by major decision at 152 to improve to 48-2. Senior Austin Cattera (135) also won by decision for the Blue Devils.

The lone victory in the first five matches for Dundee was by junior Doug Rojem, whose major decision at 140 improved his season record to 46-1.

Dundee junior Todd Olson grabbed some momentum for the Vikings with a first-period fall at 160 to improve to 46-3.

“I had to get it going,” Olson said. “I really wanted to wrestle Richmond in the Finals because they’ve beat us so many times. Really, there is no better feeling – no better feeling – this is the best I’ve ever felt in my entire life.”

Tye Thompson’s decision at 171 cut Richmond’s lead to 19-13, and junior Teddy Warren followed with a first-period fall at 189 to make it a 19-19 match and improve his record to 46-2. After Jack McKiernan won by decision over Dundee senior Jay Sroufe to improve to 48-5, Richmond had a 22-19 lead with five matches remaining.

Dundee senior John Marogen took the mat on a mission at 285 and registered a first-period pin to give the Vikings a 25-22 lead. Marogen had won seven consecutive matches in the Quarterfinals, Semifinals and Finals, dating back to the 2010 Finals when he won a majority decision against Richmond.

“This is just amazing,” Marogen said. “It’s the best feeling in the world. I knew I had to go out and get a pin.”

Marogen used the word “scared” twice; one while talking about his feelings when Dundee was down by 15 and again when he described his feelings as the meet went into its final matches.

“I was really scared,” he said of when the team was down, “and I was scared (late in the meet), but those kids are tough. I’m really proud of them.”

Marogen wasn’t the only one who was scared when Richmond threatened to win its fourth consecutive MHSAA title.

“It was kind of scary at first, I’m not going to lie,” Keilitz said, “but once we got those pins, we got rolling.”

Nine of the 14 Dundee wrestlers who had a match in the Final wrestled in last year’s as well against Richmond. Keilitz is the only one who lost last year and won this year. Meanwhile, Blevins, Rojem, Olson and Marogen each went 3-0 this year in the Quarterfinal, Semifinal and Final.

“This is amazing,” Sroufe said. “We’ve been working for it for four years, and it feels awesome. It’s the best thing that has ever happened to me right now.

“I knew our team was going to push it to the end, and I knew we could beat them.”

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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.)