Dundee Runs Title Total to 14, Championship Streak to 5 in D3

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

February 26, 2022

KALAMAZOO – It had to be Casey Swiderski.

The best way to cap off another dominant season for Division 3’s dominant wrestling program was by having its most dominant wrestler on the mat for the final match.

Swiderski, who will compete for a fourth straight individual title in a week, won by pin Saturday to close out Dundee’s 55-12 Division 3 Final victory against Alma at Wings Event Center. It was the fifth-straight Finals title for the Vikings.

“Nothing beats that, man,” Swiderski said. “It’s crazy that’s the weight that was drawn. I weighed in above 160 by a pound, and I knew I was going to go 171. It’s just crazy that was drawn. It’s awesome. No better feeling than this right here.”

The Vikings (17-4) have now won eight of the past 10 Division 3 Finals titles, and 14 total. They’ve made at least the Final in each of the past 11 seasons.

“It’s the first time in our school’s history that we’ve won five in a row,” Dundee coach Tim Roberts said. “Where this team was when we started the year, I knew we had a lot of good guys coming back, but when we started, everybody was 152 and below, and we had a bunch of guys at 145. Some guys had to just wrestle over their heads. Connor Collins, he’s a 152-pounder is what he should be. We had him wrestle 160 all year then had him get heavy so he could wrestle 189. Then this weekend, he’s wrestling 189, winning matches, and that Jacob Munger (of Alma) is the No. 1-ranked kid in the state right now, and he kept it to a regular decision. So you’ve got guys giving efforts like and fighting like that.”

As Saturday’s match ended, Roberts and Swiderski shared an embrace on the edge of the mat.

“When we drew that weight, we’d weighed him in at (160) this weekend for a purpose, but we just decided that no matter what, he’s wrestling last,” Roberts said. “He’s been special to this program with all the things he’s accomplished. The level he wrestles, it’s just really fun to watch. All the things he’s done, I’m really proud of him.”

Alma/Dundee wrestlingSwiderski is one of multiple returning individual champions and top-ranked wrestlers for the Vikings, who actually fell behind 9-0 in the dual.

Munger opened with the decision for Alma, and Adam Garcia won by pin at 215 to get the Panthers’ crowd on its feet.

It only took 45 seconds, however, for Dundee to take a lead it wouldn’t relinquish, as Kaiden Hubbell (285) and Ashton Viers (103) each won with first-period pins.

That was the beginning of 10 straight victories for the Vikings. Kyle Smith (119), Braeden Davis (125), Logan Sander (140) and Aiden Davis (152) won by pin, Kaden Chinavare (135) won by major decision, and Kade Kluce (112), Cameron Chinavare (130) and Trey Parker (145) each won by decision.

“I thought we had a better chance,” Alma coach Randy Miniard said. “I thought we could take the four top weight classes by pin, so I thought if we could sneak in two or three other matches, we might be able to sneak it in there. But we had a hell of a run. At the beginning of the season, we wanted to make the Finals. This year, we thought we had a chance. Knowing that you have a chance and getting here is really, really special. Even though we didn’t get the job done, there’s no shame in losing to Dundee.”

The trip to the Final was the first for Alma (28-2). The Panthers had qualified for the Semifinals the previous two seasons, and its large senior class had finished every season at Kalamazoo.

“I’ve got 10 seniors that put the work in ever since they were in youth wrestling until now, and they deserve every bit of it,” Miniard said. “There’s so many people that it takes to be a championship-quality team. The tradition of Alma wrestling, for five years in a row being here, is unbelievable, and it took a lot of people and a lot of effort. It takes a community of people to win championships, and we’ve got a community of people in Alma that love their wrestling program.”

Cole O’Boyle (160) also picked up a victory for Alma in the Final.

Dundee defeated Imlay City 74-5 in the Semifinals. Both Chinavares, both Davises, Sander, Swiderski, Hubbell, Viers and Kluce all had three wins on the weekend for Dundee.

Alma knocked off Clinton – the 2020 and 2021 Division 4 champion – 33-29 in the Semifinals. The match was sealed by a Fabian Facundo decision, but turned on its head when Munger defeated three-time individual champion Logan Badge at 189. Munger and Garcia each finished with three wins on the weekend for Alma.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Dundee’s wrestlers celebrate their fifth-straight Division 3 championship Saturday. (Middle) Alma’s Jacob Munger works toward a decision at 189 pounds. (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.)