Gabriel Richard's Martinez Wins Finals Rematch to Double Title Count

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

March 4, 2023

DETROIT – For the second-straight year, Sebastian Martinez and Dillon Raab wrestled for a MHSAA Division 4 Individual Finals title.

And for the second-straight year, it was Martinez who had his hand raised.

The Riverview Gabriel Richard sophomore became a two-time Finals champion Saturday with a 10-2 major decision at 157 pounds.

“I knew how I wrestled last year, but I put a lot more work in this year,” said Martinez, who finished the season with a 39-3 record. “I knew I had the confidence that I was going to win, and I got the job done.”

Martinez was one of six wrestlers in Division 4 who finished the night a multiple-time Finals champion. 

He did it with a clinical match against Raab, a three-time runner-up from Bark River-Harris. Martinez scored a takedown and a nearfall in the first period to take control, and added a reversal nine seconds into the second period to go up 6-0. Raab – who finished his senior season 48-4 – scored his only points on a reversal in the third period, but he already trailed 8-0 at that point.

“I’ve been practicing riding on top a lot this year, and it really paid off in this match,” Martinez said. “He couldn’t really score from bottom until the end.”

On a night where a record four wrestlers – Dundee’s Braeden Davis, Detroit Catholic Central’s Dylan Gilcher, and Davison’s Josh Barr and Caden Horwath – won their fourth titles, it was easy for Martinez to see that possibility for himself, now that two are down in his first two years.

“That’s been my goal and dream for a long time,” Martinez said. “The first time I got it, I was obviously very happy because my dream had started. This year, I wanted to confirm it – make sure I put in all the work and make sure I get it.”


Champion: Nicholas Sorrow, Hudson, Fr. (50-1)
Decision, 9-2, over Logan Gilbert, Martin/Climax-Scotts, Soph. (48-6)

Any time a freshman wins a Finals title it’s a statement. But knocking off a defending champion to do it gives it some extra oomph.

That’s what Sorrow did, picking up his third win of the season against Gilbert, who won at 103 pounds in 2022.

“I felt good,” Sorrow said. “I’ve been waiting to get here and get my shot, and now it’s here.”

Sorrow took control of the match at the end of the third period, taking a 5-0 lead with a takedown and nearfall. From there, he rolled to his first Finals title. 


Champion: Sammy Stewart, Manchester, Fr. (19-1)
Decision, 14-11, over Alex Rodriguez, St. Louis, Fr. (45-7)

In one of the more high-scoring Finals matches of the night, Stewart came out victorious, overcoming an early deficit to win the battle of star freshmen.

Rodriguez had led 5-1 and 10-6, but Stewart scored eight of the last nine points in the match. 

It was a much different ending than their first meeting during the season, when Rodriguez pinned Stewart while trailing 7-1.

“I knew that cradle was coming, so I had to be careful of that,” Stewart said. “I learned it in my semifinal match that it’s not over until it’s over. So when he got the first takedown I thought, ‘It’s not over yet, I’ve got three periods to go.’ Anything can happen. I just didn’t need to think, I just needed to wrestle and score points.”


Champion: Wesley Edie, Grass Lake, Sr. (38-6)
Decision, 10-9, over Daven Lockwood, New Lothrop, Sr. (30-7)

Edie fell behind early, and trailed 8-6 heading into the third period. But he managed a reversal and a takedown in the final two minutes to win his first Finals title.

“I just had to keep thinking I was going to win, no matter what,” Edie said. “Down 6-2, I had to keep working – out-cardio him.”

Both were Finals placers a year ago, as Lockwood was eighth and Edie was fourth.

“It’s great,” Edie said. “I’ve been going for it all season, but it’s a great feeling.”


Champion: Shawn McGuire, Iron Mountain, Sr. (40-1)
Major Decision, 12-3, over Perry Lake, Bronson, Sr. (47-7)

A year ago, McGuire had to overcome a teammate to win his first Finals title. He much preferred wrestling someone in a different singlet.

“It was quite a bit of difference,” McGuire said. “I think last year, it was bittersweet to go into the Finals with my best friend and also my teammate. It was different this year. It’s just sweet this year.”

McGuire won at 119 in 2022 and was runner-up in 2020. He also placed third in 2021, giving him four top-three finishes in his career.

“It’s better than ever,” McGuire said. “It feels good to come out on top.”


Champion: Landyn Crance, Union City, Jr. (44-3)
Fall, 2:43, over Haylen Buell, Martin/Climax-Scotts, Fr. (53-5)

Crance became the first two-time champion in Union City history, and was struggling to hold back his emotions following the pinfall victory.

“It’s unbelievable,” Crance said. “First-ever two-time state champion in my school’s history, and that was my goal all year. It feels so good. Way better than last year.”

Crance, who won at 125 in 2022, lost to Buell in the Regional, and trailed 2-1 before getting the pin in the second period Saturday.

“I had something to work for every week,” Crance said. “Being at the top isn’t always the best. Battling for something, it gets you motivated a lot more. Your nerves settle down a lot, you don’t have as much pressure. It’s so relieving to get that win.”


Champion: Josiah Schaub, Traverse City St. Francis, Sr. (38-4)
Decision, 4-2, over Blake Sloan, Manchester, Fr. (52-4)

Schaub didn’t overthink his match strategy, even though he had plenty of time to do so, as this was the second-to-last match of the night. 

“Sometimes my mind’s just empty,” he said. “Today, it just happened to stay empty, which is good.”

Schaub had the only offensive points in the match, with a takedown in the second period and a reversal in the third. Sloan scored on an escape and stalling call.

“It feels amazing after seven years of doing wrestling to finally win something this big,” Schaub said. “It feels incredible.”


Champion: Coy Perry, Hudson, Jr. (40-8)
Decision, 7-5, over Hunter Coxon, Montrose, Sr. (53-5)

In his first season at Hudson, Perry found his way back to the top of the podium. He won a title at 112 pounds in 2021 while at Clinton. He had also placed seventh in 2022.

“It’s pretty special,” Perry said. “I’m just so grateful and thankful.”

Perry never trailed in the match, but a third-period takedown from Coxon did make it a one-point match. Perry was able to hold the Montrose senior off in the final 20 seconds for the win.

“The atmosphere was a lot better,” Perry said. “And I was wrestling my teammate (last time). It’s kind of tough to be wrestling your teammate and try not to have any emotions. This atmosphere was amazing. Just 10 times better than the last one was.”


Champion: Manus Bennett, Marlette, Sr. (49-1)
Decision, 5-3, over Evan Haferkorn, Iron Mountain, Sr. (37-2)

Bennett claimed his third Finals title on the night. He won at 103 pounds in 2020 and 140 in 2022. He suffered only one loss at the Finals in his career, as he placed third as a sophomore in 2021.

“I don’t think anybody truly imagines it – I know a lot of them hope,” Bennett said. “A lot of people dream of going for four, and I screwed that up, so I went for the next biggest thing. After freshman year I figured, ‘Maybe I can make this a reality.’ I came close, but in the end, I’m proud and happy with it.”

On Saturday, Bennett found himself tied at 3 with Haferkorn – a three-time placer – late in the third period. A reversal with 28 seconds remaining and subsequent ride-out gave him the win.

Whitmore Lake’s Robert Cann (in red) works toward a win over Iron Mountain’s Fulton Stroud.


Champion: Robert Cann, Whitmore Lake, Sr. (47-3)
Major Decision, 15-6, over Fulton Stroud, Iron Mountain, Jr. (36-7)

Cann handed out and accepted more than a dozen hugs after leaving the mat with his first Finals title. Multiple were from his own coaches, but plenty were from other coaches and wrestlers from around the state.

“A lot of different coaches from different clubs that I’ve been able to talk to,” Cann said. 

He took control of his match with a huge second period, scoring 10 points to take a 12-3 lead into the final one.

“It feels great,” he said. “I’m so proud. I really was nervous going into this match. All I could do was pray to my God, my lord and savior Jesus Christ, and he really gave me strength for that match.”


Champion: Cole Hopkins, Evart, Sr. (48-0)
Major Decision, 10-1, over JR Hildebrand, Martin/Climax-Scotts, Sr. (38-3)

Hopkins finished off an unbeaten season with his second-straight Finals title. It was his third-straight top-two finish, as he was a runner-up in 2021.

“When you have the target on your back and everybody is coming after you, you have to work twice as hard,” Hopkins said. “Everyone has a picture of you on their nightstand or something, trying to beat you. So I just wanted to leave no doubt that I’m the champ.”

Hopkins was dominant throughout the match, taking a 5-0 lead after the first period with a takedown and nearfall, and he stretched it to 8-0 heading into the third period. 


Champion: Evan Wakefield, Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary, Sr. (54-1)
Decision, 4-2 (OT), over Drew Allgeyer, Bark River-Harris, Sr. (35-5)

Wakefield needed overtime in his last two matches of the tournament to claim his first Finals title. 

On Friday, he scored a takedown with 3 seconds remaining to force overtime. Saturday’s tying point came much earlier in the third period, but there was still plenty of drama.

Not long into overtime, Allgeyer, the defending champ at 189 pounds, attempted a shot that Wakefield blocked before working behind for the win.

“I’m just thinking, ‘Keep a level head, don’t get emotional,’” Wakefield said. “I had to make a move, had to find a way to score. Thankfully I did. God gave me the opportunity, and I took it. I was kind of used to it from (an overtime match) yesterday. He seemed tired, so I knew he would take a shot on me and I knew I would be fast enough to sprawl.”


Champion: Grady Iobe, Union City, Sr. (39-1)
Decision, 7-0, over Daxton Looney, Montrose, Sr. (48-11)

After placing eighth in 2021 and third in 2022, Iobe was happy to take another couple steps up the podium this year.

“It feels amazing,” Iobe said. “There’s no other feeling like it.”

He was dominant in the match, getting a takedown 16 seconds in and adding another in each of the next two periods.

“Our coaches say that almost every match is won in a takedown battle,” Iobe said. “If you win on your feet, you’ll win in the match. You just have to wrestle out there smart, get as many points as you can, and don’t give away free points.”


Champion: Eathan Westfall, Reading, Sr. (45-0)
Injury Default, over Grayson Orr, New Lothrop, Sr. (38-2)

Westfall would rather have wrestled for his first Finals title, but he wasn’t going to let that take away from his accomplishment.

“I wanted to wrestle really bad,” Westfall said. “I hate that that was how it ended, and I feel bad for him that he didn’t get a chance to wrestle. It’s not fair to him, and I really wish I had my match to prove it.”

Orr was injured Friday, and Westfall found out when he came onto the Ford Field turf Saturday that he would be crowned champion without having to wrestle.

Although it wasn’t the way he envisioned, he had an idea of when the accomplishment would hit him.

“The second I see my parents,” he said.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Riverview Gabriel Richard’s Sebastian Martinez shows his chart after winning his second Finals championship Saturday. (Middle) Whitmore Lake’s Robert Cann (in red) works toward a win over Iron Mountain’s Fulton Stroud. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)

Constantine Football All-Stater, Wrestling Champ Aiming for Grand Finale

By Scott Hassinger
Special for

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.)