Facundo Finishes Unforgettable Run as 30th 4-Time Champ

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

April 4, 2021

KALAMAZOO – Alex Facundo’s wrestling career has taken him around the country and across the Atlantic Ocean, and long ago into consideration as one of the top high school wrestlers in the nation regardless of weight class.

But there’s no way this week doesn’t remain a cherished memory even after Facundo leaves for Penn State and encounters more higher-level opportunities that surely lie ahead.

On Tuesday, he led Davison to its first Division 1 team championship since 2006. On Saturday, returning to Wings Event Center, he capped his Cardinals career by becoming the 30th four-time individual champion in MHSAA Finals history.

“I just treat it like another match. But then I realized the specialness of it. Before I even looked over, I heard all the cheers and stuff,” Facundo said. “I mean, I’m going to miss this a little bit.”

Facundo (25-0) stacked a pin and two technical falls at 171 pounds Saturday, including 26-11 over Kalamazoo Central senior Leonardo Gallasso (30-2) in the championship match. He ended with a 132-2 career record and championships at 152, 160 and twice at 171.

“This week has been the best moment, the best week of my high school career,” Facundo said. “Not only winning the fourth (individual title), but winning the team state title that we haven’t won in 15 years. That’s just special. That’s never going to leave us. That’s never going to leave my name – they’re going to hear four-timer, but they’re also going to hear the 2021 Davison wrestling team.”


Champion: Justin Gates, Davison, Fr. (23-0)
Decision, 8-4, over Caleb Weiand, Macomb Dakota, Soph. (31-1)

Not long after Facundo finished his fourth championship run Saturday, Gates capped his first.

He reached this title match with a pair of pins and a technical fall before handing Weiand his only defeat of this season.

“Nothing really compares – it’s been honestly one of the best weeks of my life,” Gates said. “I’m just hoping I can follow in (Facundo’s) footsteps. Obviously, Josh Barr just won his second next to him, and after that Jimmy Colley got his first. So, it’s a special team we’ve got here.”


Champion: Drew Heethuis, Detroit Catholic Central, Soph. (30-0)
Decision, 9-5, over Zach Phifer, Howell, Sr. (32-5)

DCC junior Anthony Walker and sophomore Clayton Jones finished fourth and sixth, respectively, at 119 on Saturday. They also received assists for training Heethuis up on the way to his first Finals championship.

“It’s pretty much all the difference – being able to have good partners and good people to work with and go against, it’s a main factor in being able to be good and get to the next level,” Heethuis said.

After finishing third at 103 last season, Heethuis did take those next steps with a perfect run.

“It’s kind of expected. I just want to get where I can be at the best I can,” he said. “This is what I’ve been working for my whole life.”


Champion: Caden Horwath, Davison, Soph. (27-0)
Decision, 6-2, over Louden Stradling, Battle Creek Lakeview, Soph. (29-1)

These two also met in the 103-pound championship match last season. The result was nearly identical this time after Horwath had won the 2020 bout with a 7-2 decision.

He reached Saturday’s finale with two pins and a major decision.

“(I was) just working hard, pushing my pace, making sure I get to all of my attacks,” Horwath said. “Not worrying about what they were doing, just try to wrestle my match and how I want to.

“Not too much (was different this season) – just getting better and better, critiquing little things.”

Division 1 Wrestling Finals 2


Champion: Ashton Anderson, Clarkston, Sr. (26-4)
Decision, 9-2, over Andrew Hampton, Rochester Hills Stoney Creek, Sr. (34-4)

The last conversation Anderson had with his late grandfather Pete Vandermeer was about making weight. That was only a couple of years ago, and Anderson knew he was watching Saturday – “I wanted to do it for him,” Anderson said. “He’s smiling down at me.”

It surely was a proud family moment, as Anderson not only avenged a 5-1 Regional loss to Hampton to defeat the top seed this time, but in the process became the sixth member of his family to wrestle in an MHSAA Final and third to win a title for Clarkston – joining uncles Jerry Anderson (1993), Matt Vandermeer (2011) and Nick Vandermeer (2013).

Ashton also was thinking Saturday of last season’s Finals, when he fell in his first match at 125 by a 13-11 decision, then fought all the way back to finish third.

“I was supposed to be in the Finals last year, and I lost early and didn’t get to make it, and it’s my last chance,” Anderson said. “I wasn’t letting it slide by.”


Champion: Brendan Ferretti, Macomb Dakota, Sr. (33-0)
Decision, 6-3, over Tyler Herrema, Grandville, Sr. (30-1)

The joy was all over Ferretti’s face as he finished his high school career by joining the short list of three-time Finals champions.

After placing third at 103 as a freshman, Ferretti won titles at 112, 119 and now 130, with a combined 121-1 record over those championship seasons.

“It was honestly about having fun, because it’s my last year … and honestly just trying to get through the year with all of this COVID stuff,” Ferretti said. “We only got half a season to train for this, so it does feel pretty good, knowing that I’m winning because I worked hard in the room and stuff like that. It all pays off. Now it’s time to take it to the next level.”

Ferretti will be wrestling next season at the U.S. Naval Academy.


Champion: Dylan Gilcher, Detroit Catholic Central, Soph. (26-1)
Decision, 3-0, over Evan Herriman, Davison, Soph. (22-3)

These two met to close Davison’s Team Finals win on Tuesday, with Gilcher winning 5-2, and the rematch was even more low-scoring.

But Gilcher scored enough and also his second championship, adding to the title won a year ago at 112.

“I wrestling him twice earlier, so I knew I could get a takedown. I wasn’t as busy as I like, but I was in control. I felt safe,” Gilcher said. “I rode this time – last time I didn’t ride – so I got less points. But like I said, it was safe.”

Gilcher’s first three matches Saturday were far more high-scoring – he put up 18, 21 and 22 points in three tech falls.


Champion: Mason Shrader, Brighton, Sr. (31-0)
Decision, 7-1, over Philip Burney, Detroit Catholic Central, Sr. (22-4)

Shrader had been all around a championship his first three seasons, finishing sixth at 103 as a freshman, eighth at 119 as a sophomore and second last season at 125.

In his final high school match, Shrader arrived and earned a spot at the top of the podium.

After falling in that 2020 championship match, Shrader made a deal with himself that he wouldn’t lose this time. He hardly slept Friday night thinking about the opportunity.

“I’ve been working so hard since last year, since I lost in the Finals,” Shrader said. “The past three years, my mindset was nowhere near where it is right now. I wanted it so bad, and I just put my mind to it and got it done.”

Division 1 Wrestling Finals 3


Champion: Darius Marines, Detroit Catholic Central, Fr. (17-2)
Decision, 5-3, over Camden Trupp, Detroit Catholic Central, Sr. (23-3)

Very rarely, the Individual Finals pits teammates against each other. Marines and Trupp met in the championship matches at every level of this tournament, with Trupp winning 3-1 at the District and Marines taking the Regional 5-2.

“First one I was a little nervous, you know, (facing the) senior captain,” Marines said. “Second time, I knew what I was expecting.”

This time? “Nerves, everything. I was just thinking about standing on that podium and getting that trophy. That’s all I had in mind.”

During Tuesday’s Team Finals, Marines bumped up to 152 while Trupp wrestled at 145. Combined they finished 5-1 that day winning with three pins, a tech fall and a decision.


Champion: Trenton Wachter, Rockford, Sr. (24-1)
Fall, 5:17, over James Johnston, Davison, Sr. (25-3)

The final minute was ticking down and Wachter was a few points behind, a runner-up finish shaping up as the likely result.

In an instant, everything changed.

“I just felt his head, way too high, took it over, pinned him,” Wachter said. “I get in that position a lot in practice, so I’m used to it.”

They’d wrestled a similar match Tuesday, which Wachter won 7-5 in sudden victory after trailing 5-1.

The title finished a nice climb for Wachter, a fifth-place finisher at 130 as a sophomore and third-place finisher at 140 last season.


Champion: Josh Barr, Davison, Soph. (26-0)
Major Decision, 9-1, over Gary Nilson, Utica Ford, Sr. (21-2)

Moments after Facundo won his fourth championship, Barr reached the halfway point in pursuit of the same – and with a second-straight undefeated season.

“I love this man right here; he’s my training partner every single day,” Barr said as Facundo offered a quick congratulations. “That’s the person who trains me for every single situation to help me out on any mat I ever step foot onto.”

Barr will be among those who will be looked toward next, especially as Davison returns next season as the reigning team champion.

“Just keeping the momentum going,” he said. “On Tuesday we just won a team state title, and it was a great thing to do with my brothers. Keep winning team state titles, keep winning individual titles. Break some records here. … Keep pushing the pace.”


Champion: Manuel Rojas, Detroit Catholic Central, Jr. (29-2)
Decision, 11-5, over Remy Cotton, Traverse City Central, Soph. (28-1)

Cotton was the top seed and Rojas the second, and they reached the championship match with a combined five pins and a tech fall.

Rojas also was the reigning champion at this weight, and now he’ll head into his final season with a chance to join that three-timer list.

“Nothing’s different. Just getting to come out here and do the same job,” Rojas said comparing this season’s run to last. “Same job every year.

“Maybe getting to train a little bit harder every year. Get a little better. That’s it. Just getting better.”


Champion: Jimmy Colley, Davison, Jr. (19-1)
Fall, 1:00, over Ethan Green, Howell, Sr. (28-3)

Colley was one of six Davison top seeds entering Saturday, after finishing fourth as a freshman and third last season both at this weight.

“Nothing better than as a team having that bond, winning together, everybody excited, coming here excited, ready to wrestle. Everybody came here to win,” Colley said. “We all grew up together. Everybody knows each other, practice partners. It’s just great to know you’re practicing with the best guys in the state.”

He added a first place to his list with a quick pin, becoming Davison’s third champ of the day.

“I went out there pretty quick, took him down, got to my underhook, where I know I’m good there, got my takedown,” Colley said. “My goal was to go out there and dominate the match.”


Champion: Jayson Roy, Jackson, Sr. (31-0)
Decision, 4-0, over Joshua Terrill, Holt, Jr. (25-4)

Roy will not be soon forgotten by Jackson wrestling. And he’s hopeful what he accomplished Saturday helps the program for years to come.

Roy became the Vikings’ first Finals champion since 1975.

“I’ve always known I could do it. I’m glad I finally did,” Roy said. “I thought it was going to be last year. I lost to Nick (West of Lincoln Park) in the second round, came back (and defeated him), took third. I knew I was winning it this year. I wasn’t going to let anybody stop me.”

He’s also hopeful his championship run will spark the sport at his school.

“It will encourage people to come out and try it,” he said, “get some better wrestlers in there next year.”

Click for the full bracket.

PHOTOS: (Top) Davison’s Alex Facundo raises the traditional four fingers signifying his fourth Finals title Saturday at Wings Event Center. (Middle) Clarkston’s Ashton Anderson works to get control of his opponent’s legs at 125 pounds. (Below) Brighton’s Mason Shrader applies some leverage during his championship match win at 140. (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.)