Dundee's Roberts Retires as 1st to 10 Finals Championships

By Doug Donnelly
Special for MHSAA.com

March 9, 2022

Tim Roberts had an awakening.

After winning the Division 3 championship in 2007, his Dundee Vikings lost in three consecutive Finals matches. Each were excruciating losses – 30-27, 33-25 and 24-23.

“We had a good program,” Roberts said. “We were doing well. But there was a period there where we were in the running but not winning. In 2011, I think it was the pinnacle. I realized we had to be different.

“We’d get close every year and lose at the state tournament. Too many times we were close. I knew we had to do something different.”

Not many coaches would have had the guts to change a program that had the success of Dundee, but Roberts wanted something more. The results speak for themselves.

The Vikings recently captured their fifth consecutive Division 3 title and ninth since 2011. The latest championship gave Roberts 10 total. He is the first wrestling coach in state history to win 10 Finals titles.

“We’ve been really fortunate,” said Roberts, who announced at last weekend’s Individual Wrestling Finals that he was retiring after 23 seasons and more than 500 career wins at Dundee. “It’s pretty cool to be the first to 10. There’s a lot of great coaches on that list with a lot of championships. It represents a lot of hard work by a lot of people.”

Roberts went into this Finals weekend tied with another coach from Monroe County, Bill Regnier, with nine championships. Roberts was an assistant at Dundee when Regnier coached his final match for Bedford. He’s a coach that Roberts still holds in high regard.

“He’s the legend,” Roberts said. “In every conversation, every poll, every time you talk about, Bill Regnier is considered the best wrestling coach ever in the state. To be mentioned in the same sentence as him is something special. He really is the legend.”

Temperance Bedford wrestlingHudson’s Scott Marry tied Regnier for second place on the list with his ninth Finals title last weekend. Lowell’s R.J. Boudro won his eighth title. Mike Rodriguez won seven at Detroit Catholic Central and one at River Rouge, and Mitch Hancock has won eight at Detroit Catholic Central.

“I might have been the first to 10, but I won’t be the last,” Roberts said. “There are a lot of great coaches still coaching with a lot of championships. Scott Marry is not done winning state titles. He’ll be at 10 real quick. R.J. has won eight in eight tries.

“I don’t think 10 will stand long.”

Roberts’ run is remarkable, nonetheless. His Vikings won a District title all 23 years he was head coach and have won 30 straight overall. Dundee won its Regional in 22 of his 23 years.

Roberts doesn’t beat around the bush about Dundee’s goals every year. League championships are nice, District and Regional championships help fill up the trophy case. But, for the Vikings, winning the Finals championship is always the goal.

“That sounds arrogant, I know,” Roberts said, “but that’s the way it is. That is the goal every year. In all 23 years I coached, that was the goal.”

Roberts said his changes to the program around 2011 included adding strength training to the Dundee repertoire, and that was when Vikings coaches also started focusing more on the mental approach to the sport.

“After 2011, we hit our stride,” he said.

Roberts gives a lot of credit for the “Viking Way” to others in the program.

“Doing it this way starts long before the varsity level,” he said. “The kids club has to be strong. The middle school program has to be strong. You have to have a coaching staff on the same page and dedicated to all aspects of the team. It’s not one person, not even close.”

Dundee wrestlingRoberts learned under Jim Wittibslager, who led Dundee to four straight Finals championships from 1995-98.

“That put me on a really good path,” Roberts said. “I learned how all of this works. Over time, you keep learning. You figure things out as you go. You have to build relationships with a lot of people because you can’t do this alone, not if you want to sustain success.”

Roberts has won numerous coaching honors, local and state, and was named the National Wrestling Coaches Association Boys Coach of the Year in 2020. The honors are likely to continue after this season. Dundee defeated Alma 55-12 in the Division 3 Final to conclude another dominating season.

Roberts said he had an idea this would be his last coaching the Vikings.

“Coming into this season, I was pretty sure I was going to be done,” he said. “As the season went on, I realized that it would be. This isn’t a decision I took lightly. I’ve pretty much been doing this my whole adult life.”

Roberts said no one should expect Dundee to fall off the mountain. Six Individual Finals placers were underclassmen, and kids from the middle school team to the youth programs won multiple championships.

“There are a lot of good people in place and some good wrestlers coming up,” he said. “The youth club is doing really well. It’s just time. It’s time to let someone else who has the passion and drive to do this take over.”

Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Dundee coach Tim Roberts shows his characteristic celebratory enthusiasm during last weekend’s Individual Wrestling Finals. (Middle) Bill Regnier, here in 2009, built a legendary career at Temperance Bedford. (Below) Roberts holds up his team’s 2020 Division 3 team championship trophy. (Roberts photos by Tom Hawley; Regnier photo courtesy of the Monroe News.)

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.)