Grandville Celebrates Champion in D1

March 5, 2016

By Nick Hankins
Special for Second Half

AUBURN HILLS – Kam Bush gave the Grandville High School wrestling program and his community something to cheer about Saturday at a time when cheers were fewer than usual at the end of a wrestling season.

Because of an unfortunate oversight, the Grandville wrestling team, and most of the individuals on the team, were unable to wrestle in the MHSAA Tournament because the team had too many competition dates during the regular season.

Bush, along with three teammates, were able to compete in the postseason because they missed some of the earlier events with injuries or illnesses. Bush made the most of the opportunity, winning a Division 1 title at The Palace of Auburn Hills with a 7-6 win over Ryan Morgan of Rochester at 152 pounds.

“This feels amazing knowing that all of the hard work paid off.” Bush said. “(I knew) that this state championship isn’t just for me, but for the whole program. Winning this state championship means a lot to me, but all of the guys that couldn’t wrestle feel like state champs, just like I do right now.

“(Grandville coach Bubba Gritter) told us four we were still eligible to wrestle, and he nailed it in our brains that he was sorry for everything that happened, it is now over and we are representing Grandville and we need to come out strong and show everyone we are the Bulldogs,” added Bush, who ended his season with a 44-2 record.  

Gritter said it was a lesson learned for his program.

“We brought all 14 guys down so they could experience this tonight.” Gritter said. “This was a tough year, and it is bittersweet for me. It was a good finish to the season, the best way it could finish for our program.”


Champion: Benyamin Kamali, Detroit Catholic Central, Soph. (20-1)
Decision, 10-8 SV-1, over Ravon Foley, Ann Arbor Pioneer, Jr. (57-1)

Kamali was part of a special night for the Shamrocks, as he was one of five Detroit Catholic Central champions.

The Shamrocks were 5 for 5 on the night in title-deciding matches.   

“I feel amazing, amazing,” Kamali said. “I just kept pushing the pace. I lost to him at Regionals, and I knew I could beat him. It’s just awesome knowing all the hard work you put in pays off. I knew he was tired, so I pushed the pace in overtime to get the takedown.”


Champion: Michael Mars, Westland John Glenn, Soph. (52-2)
Fall, 1:09, over Max Johnson, Davison, Sr. (30-1)  

Mars may have been a little nervous before his championship match with Johnson, but it sure didn’t show.

Mars wasted little time in winning his second title, pinning Johnson in one minute, nine seconds.

“It feels really good,” Mars said. “I was a little worried at the beginning of the match, but I stayed calm and finished the match. It feels amazing finishing with a pin and hearing the crowd roar.”


Champion: Kevon Davenport, Detroit Catholic Central, Fr. (47-3)
Decision, 8-1, over AJ Facundo, Davison, Soph. (31-10)

Davenport proved he is one of the top freshmen in a strong freshmen class statewide this year.

He handled returning champion Facundo, 8-1, in their 119-pound match.

“I feel really ecstatic right now,” Davenport said. “All the hard work I am putting in has paid off. I want to thank my family, God, my coaches and all my siblings for supporting me all of these years. I knew that if I just kept working hard, it would pay off.”  


Champion: Cameron Amine, Detroit Catholic Central, Fr. (39-9)
Decision, 6-0, Donte Rivera-Garcia, Southgate Anderson, Jr. (54-3)

Another Detroit Catholic Central contender, another championship. And another impressive win, as Amine beat past finalist Rivera-Garcia, 6-0.

“I feel great right now,” Amine said. “We were five for five as a team. It was a lot of motivation watching everyone win in front of me.

“I come from a great wrestling family that helps me and inspires me to be my best everyday.”


Champion: Noah Schoenherr, Bay City Western, Jr. (49-2)
Decision, 7-6, over Tyler Sanders, Macomb Dakota, Soph. (55-7)

A move up in divisions didn’t affect Noah Schoenherr. He came back off his loss in the Division 2 Finals a year ago with an exciting 7-6 win over Sanders.

“This is the best feeling in the world,” Schoenherr said. “It was the last match of the year. I had to give it everything, all I had to get it done.

“My goal was to beat my brother Chris (in MHSAA titles won; Chris won last season at 145). He helps me whenever he can, mainly on my feet. I learned a lot from last year being a runner-up. I was nervous, and being there helped me with my mindset this year.”


Champion: Ben Freeman, Walled Lake Central, Jr. (42-0)
Fall, 1:18, over John Siemasz, Westland John Glenn, Jr. (52-4)

He’s arguably the best wrestler in the state in all divisions, and Ben Freeman proved that this weekend, winning four matches on his way to his third MHSAA championship.

His last came with a pin in one minute, 18 seconds.

“That was pretty cool to finish a tournament like that,” Freeman said. “Yesterday I felt sluggish, but I felt really good in my warm up today – I was ready to go. I just need to stay focused. I set my goals high, so when I get nervous I just think of what I want to accomplish as an ultimate goal – it makes it seem really small.”


Champion: Reece Hughes, Hartland, Jr. (51-4)
Decision, 7-3, over Alex Hrisopoulos, Oxford, Sr. (51-6)

It’s been a great two weeks for Hartland junior Reece Hughes.

A week after helping his team win its first MHSAA championship, he won his own individual title with a 7-3 decision over rival Hrisopoulos.

“I feel amazing right now; this feels great,” Hughes said. “I knew he was not going to stop, so I knew I had to have him wrestle my pace and my way. So I slowed him down to set up shots better.” 

About the team championship, he added: “We have two state championship titles in one week. I am proud of my team and how hard we worked all year. This is for all my practice partners: Sage Castillo, Noah Lopez and all of the captains, everyone who was working hard, who got me here to win this title. I am not taking any solo credit for this; it was our team.”


Champion: Nathan Atienza, Livonia Franklin, Jr. (57-0)
Fall 0:42 over Kajuan Caldwell, Bloomfield Hills, Sr. (26-1)

Atienza wasted little time in realizing his dream of an MHSAA championship.

He pinned Caldwell in 42 seconds, and just as quickly, jumped to his feet and acknowledged the roaring crowd.

“I feel amazing right now,” Atienza said. “I feel like I am on top of the world right now. I was feeling really confident in myself going out there, and I knew there was nothing he could do to stop me – it was mine this year.”


Champion: Blake Montrie, Temperance Bedford, Sr. (51-1)
Decision, 2-0 SV1, over Nate Vandermeer, Clarkston, Sr. (47-6)

History repeated itself for Temperance Bedford senior Blake Montrie.

Last year he won an MHSAA title in overtime, and this year he did the same.

“It was almost the exact same as last year,” Montrie said. “I finished them both in overtime. (Coach Kevin Vogel) pushes us so hard in the room. I honestly think we are in better condition than anyone in the state. I can go forever, and he has prepared me for that.”


Champion: Tyler Morland, Detroit Catholic Central, Jr. (45-1)
Decision, 6-2, over Devon Pingel, Lapeer, Sr. (50-4) 

Morland wanted to avenge his only loss of the year, and went against his rival to do it.

Staying in the 171-pound weight class, Moreland beat Pingel to win his first championship.

“I purposely went 171 this year (for the postseason) because this was my only loss of the year,“ Morland said. “I came back and beat the kid I lost to; that was all I wanted. I could have gone 189, but that was all I wanted. I prepared for this match, and my coaches got me ready to win. I learned from the loss that I needed to be in better condition, and my coaches prepared me for that. It means everything to join the list of state champs at Catholic Central.”


Champion: Brenden McRill, Davison, Jr. (38-2)
Decision, 7-6 TB1, over  Nicholas May, Kalamazoo Loy Norrix, Sr. (50-1)

On a tough night for Davison finalists, McRill brought home a title for the Cardinals with a hard-fought 7-6 overtime win.

McRill was one of three Davison finalists, but the only one to earn a championship.

“I knew this was going to be a fight,” McRill said. “I studied his state finals match from last year. I wanted this match. It was a good feeling. I got a stall called on me to go into overtime, and it was my fault. I have to get on the attack more to get it done. It feels great to be a state champ for Davison. I feel we have the best wrestling program in the nation. Our coaches are the best around, and it is an honor to wrestle for them.”


Champion: Lucas Ready, Brighton, Sr. (41-1)
Fall, 1:57, over Sam Kinne, Lapeer, Soph. (48-9)

Ready was just as impressive winning his second title as he was winning his first.

“This feels pretty good; it feels just like last year,” Ready said. ”It was a lot of fun. I did not expect to pin him that quick. My gameplan was to finish the match as quick as I could, and I executed it tonight. I trained all summer to get back to the top of the podium this year.”


Champion: Nicholas Jenkins, Detroit Catholic Central, Jr. (39-10)
Decision, 5-1, over Ali Wahab, Dearborn Heights Crestwood, Sr. (60-1)  

In one of the biggest upsets of the night, Jenkins beat undefeated and returning runner-up Wahab.  

“It was crazy as time expired,” Jenkins said. “I feel amazing right now. I am on top of the world. A lot of preparation and a lot of hard work over the past year have led me to this point. Our coaches have prepared me to get to this point in my career, and we had a game plan going into this match, and I was able execute.”

Click for full results

The MHSAA Wrestling Finals are presented by the Michigan Army National Guard.

PHOTO: Grandville's Kam Bush wrestles an opponent from Midland in his first-round match Thursday; on Saturday, he won the Division 1 title at 152 pounds. (Click to see more at

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.)