Dundee's Kluce Finishes Undefeated Ford Field Run as 4-Time Champ

By Drew Ellis
Special for MHSAA.com

March 2, 2024

DETROIT – It’s not often a previous three-time champion finds himself as an underdog going into a state final.

However, Dundee’s Kade Kluce was up against top-seeded Drew Hansen of Gladstone in the Division 3 126-pound title match Saturday at Ford Field.

Kluce just reminded himself that he has never lost at the venue, and ended up grinding out a 2-1 tiebreaker victory over Hansen to claim his fourth title.

“I like to tell myself in my head that I am a three-time state champ and I can do this. I can do anything, nobody is beating me (at Ford Field),” Kluce said after the match.

Both scored an escape point in the second and third periods, respectively. The final came down to the tiebreaker rounds after neither scored in overtime.

Kluce (30-9) managed to wiggle out an escape in the closing seconds of the first tiebreaker round. He then just needed to stay on top of Hansen (46-2) for 30 seconds, which he did.

“Mentally I was starting to break, but I really put it through my head that I needed these 30 seconds. I needed to keep him down. I’d have been disappointed the rest of my life if I had given that up; that’s what kept me going,” Kluce said.

With the victory, Kluce became the 37th wrestler in MHSAA history to win four Individual Finals titles. He did so winning in four weight classes – 103 in 2021, 112 in 2022, 120 in 2023 and this time at 126.

On top of that, Kluce became the sixth wrestler in MHSAA history to win four individual titles and four team wrestling titles. He is one of four Dundee wrestlers on that exclusive list.

“It feels great. You really can’t explain it,” Kluce said of making history. “I feel like I’m on top of the world right now. There’s no feeling like it.”

Kluce won one of six champions for Dundee on the night.

Champion: Mason Katschor, Dundee, Fr. (46-6)
Major Decision, 11-2, over Kaleb Reece, Frankenmuth, Jr. (47-2)

Katschor has watched plenty of Finals from the stands at Ford Field. On Saturday, he finally got the chance to compete under the spotlight, and he didn’t disappoint.

Katschor scored four takedowns to pick up an 11-1 victory.

“I’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” Katschor said of competing for a Finals title. “It felt really good out there. I felt like I could go out and do anything. I definitely want to do this again.”

Champion: Talan Parsons, Ovid-Elsie, Sr. (45-1)
Decision, 8-4, over Haydn Nutt, Dundee, Soph. (37-8)

Parsons has plenty of experience at Ford Field. As a two-time runner-up and a 2022 champion at 103 pounds, the senior wanted to go out on top once again.

Standing in his way was the 2023 106-pound champion.

Nutt opened the match with a 3-0 lead in the second period, but Parsons managed to capitalize on a scramble and secure near fall points to go up 5-3. Parsons wouldn’t trail again.

“He’s a tough kid, but I have worked on scrambling my entire life,” Parsons said of the turning point. “I went out there, sat the corner, got a leg in. I’ve practiced that for years, it seems like. I’ve practiced that exact scenario in practice, and it paid off. To be able to execute, and go out with a state title, it’s the best feeling in the world.”

Champion: Dale Gant, Grand Rapids Catholic Central, Soph. (44-2)
Decision, 6-3, over Braden Broderick, Dundee, Soph. (16-2)

Gant is two-for-two.

The Catholic Central sophomore earned his second championship Saturday, adding to his 113-pound title won in 2023.

“A lot of people look up to you (as a state champion), and there’s pressure with that, but I just tried to work hard and make the people that have supported me proud,” Gant said.

Saturday’s match saw Gant win thanks to three takedowns and staying off his back.

“It was about letting the match come to me and not force anything,” Gant added. “I just had to stay calm and stay composed and be ready for anything that came my way.”

Champion: Cameron Chinavare, Dundee, Sr. (39-2)
Decision, 3-2, over Connor Younts, Clinton, Sr. (55-3)

Chinavare recorded his third championship, but had to grind out this final. He scored a takedown in the first period and then a quick escape in the second to go up 3-0.

However, Younts earned an escape in the third and got another point on a hands-to-the-face violation by Chinavare.

Still, the Dundee senior made sure he closed out his prep career on top, avoiding any late takedown attempts.

“There’s always a lot of pressure when you come here as a defending state champion, but I just managed to overcome it and wrestle my match,” Chinavare said. “I’ve got some of the best teammates to train with that push me every day, so I am prepared for a tough match. 

Champion: Michael Wilson, Grand Rapids Catholic Central, Jr. (18-0)
Decision, 5-4, over Buddy Leonard, Alma, Jr. (43-2)

Wilson wasn’t even sure if he’d make it to Ford Field at times this season.

The Grand Rapids Catholic Central junior dealt with some serious injuries, keeping him from getting to wrestle for a large part of the year. But his persistence and resilience showed Saturday.

“I’ve worked my butt off to get to this moment, and I’ve had to go through a lot of adversity to get here,” Wilson said. “I lost part of my finger at the beginning of this year, I’ve got a sprained LCL, but to me it was all about mindset. I kept my head up and kept working hard, and it feels great to get that championship. I really feel like I have earned it.”

Wilson scored a pair of takedowns in the first period that proved to be the difference.

Champion: Blake Cosby, Dundee, Soph. (44-1)
Decision, 7-0, over Jonathan Krebs, Lakewood, Sr. (39-3)

A runner-up as a freshman, Cosby wasn’t going to let that happen again Saturday.

“That loss last year drove me crazy, so I made sure I put the work in this year,” Cosby said. “It feels really good to win this year. I really challenged myself this season, and I think I knew what to expect this time around.”

Cosby scored takedowns in each period and added an escape in the second. From there he was able to keep Krebs on the ground and prevent a comeback.

Champion: Trey Parker, Dundee, Sr. (34-13)
Ultimate Tie-Breaker, 3-2, over Donny Beaufait, Dundee, Soph. (40-9)

Parker suffered a tiebreaker loss to teammate Beaufait in the Regional when he wasn’t able to escape him in the extra frame. The two found themselves in the same position with the Finals title on the line.

Parker needed an escape with 13 seconds remaining, and he managed to get it. Then, in the ultimate tie-breaker, Parker won the toss and elected to start on the bottom, where he managed another escape to win.

“We were in the same position (at Regionals) and I made sure that if I ever got caught in that same position again, I would fix it,” Parker said. “It feels great. It feels amazing. I can’t really describe it.”

Parker’s late escape shifted the momentum.

“I just had to get out. I couldn’t look at the time. It was one move at a time and just get out,” Parker said. “It was more mental than anything. I believed I could get out, and I did it.”

Champion: Kole Katschor, Dundee, Jr. (45-6)
Decision, 5-1, over Jeremy Griffith, Yale, Sr. (46-4)

As a previous Finals champion, Katschor was mentally prepared for what he had to do to win a second title.

The junior turned up the pressure after a scoreless first period, scoring takedowns in both of the final two to secure a 5-1 victory.

Katschor won the 150-pound title as a sophomore.

“My nerves weren’t too high, because I have been in this position before. I thought I wrestled all right. I thought I could have opened it up more and got more offense in, but overall it feels great to win the title again,” Katschor said. “My hard work has been paying off.”

Champion: Tyler Schofield, Olivet, Sr. (57-0)
Decision, 8-3, over Lee Braun, Grand Rapids Catholic Central, Sr. (42-5)

Schofield was heavily motivated after finishing runner-up at 157 pounds last winter.

The senior did everything he could to be prepared for Saturday, and it showed as he capped off an unbeaten season.

“I didn’t like the outcome last year, so I knew coming into this year that I had something to prove,” Schofield said. “I worked my butt off this summer and this winter, and it paid off. I was extremely confident coming into the match. I know that if I wrestle my match, there’s nobody that can beat me.”

Schofield led throughout the match and had a takedown in each period.

Champion: Gavin Craner, Whitehall, Jr. (54-0)
Major Decision, 10-2, over Bryce Randolph, Clinton, Soph. (54-3)

It was a new year and a new look for Craner.

After finishing runner-up at 175 pounds in 2023 for Belding, Craner returned to Ford Field on Saturday looking to capture that same title, this time for Whitehall.

Craner put on a strong performance, scoring five takedowns on his way to a 10-2 win.

“I’ve been (at Ford Field) and it can be scary, but you just have to keep your composure,” Craner said. “I’ve worked really hard to be strong on my feet. That’s where most of the match takes place. If you get takedowns, you win matches.”

Alma’s Cole O’Boyle, right, works for an opening against Hillsdale’s Stephen Petersen.

Champion: Cole O’Boyle, Alma, Sr. (48-0)
Decision, 3-1, over Stephen Petersen, Hillsdale, Sr. (41-5)

O’Boyle kept his strategy for the 190-pound final pretty simple.

“All I needed was a takedown, and I knew I’d win that match,” he said. 

That proved to be true.

O’Boyle scored a takedown in the second period after trailing 1-0, giving him a 2-1 advantage that he wouldn’t relinquish. O’Boyle added an escape point in the third for insurance to cap off an unbeaten season.

“I’ve been working hard all year, grinding. I owe this all to my coaches. Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to do this,” O’Boyle said. “It means so much to me (to go undefeated). To have this all come together in my senior year, it means the world.”

Champion: Jack Ward, Belding, Sr. (54-2)
Decision, 2-1, over Elizin Rouse, Kingsford, Sr. (35-2)

After seeing a one-point lead slip away in the closing seconds of a 2023 semifinal, Ward was determined to not let that happen again.

Up 2-1 going into the third period, Ward rode out Rouse for two minutes to secure his first championship, defeating the reigning 215-pound champ in the process.

“Last year I was up one in the semifinals, and I lost it. I thought that was my chance to win a state title. It was heartbreaking, but that heartbreak really made me better,” Ward said. “It’s come full circle. Last year I was in so much pain. This year, it’s just a dream.”

Ward got a takedown in the second period, but Rouse was able to escape. That’s when Ward knew he’d have to dig deep in the third and stay on top.

“Our team really stresses your lungs and being in shape. I knew going into this match, nobody can go six minutes with me. I knew it was going to be a grind. I knew what the task was ahead of me. I just grinded it out and won,” Ward said. 

Champion: Bennett VandenBerg, Constantine, Sr. (54-0)
Decision, 3-0, over Wyatt Spalo, Reed City, Jr. (46-4)

The disappointment of a runner-up finish in 2023 stuck with VandenBerg for a full year.

But he was finally able to let go of that moment Saturday as he grinded out a 3-0 win.

“I worked my butt off all year. Throughout the summer, throughout the fall, all the winter, just to get to this point. It’s the best feeling in the entire world. I can’t describe it,” VandenBerg said. “It’s like going from -100 to 100. There’s no way to explain it.”

One of the biggest hurdles for VandenBerg on Saturday was his head gear. Early in the match, he couldn’t keep it on his head, even attempting to go to a second set. However, he shook it off and managed a third-period takedown to secure the win.

“My one focus was just win the match. I wasn’t going to let anything get in the way. It was a minor issue, but I made sure I pulled through,” VandenBerg said.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Kade Kluce’s arm is raised in victory after clinching his fourth Individual Finals championship Saturday. (Middle) Alma’s Cole O’Boyle, right, works for an opening against Hillsdale’s Stephen Petersen. (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.)