Greer, Tri-County Aim for Big 2016 Finish

January 1, 2016

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for Second Half

HOWARD CITY – Tri-County High School sophomore Dakota Greer remembers being soundly beaten by teammate Nick McGhan throughout their childhood.

The two began wrestling together before they could barely write their own names. McGhan always would have the upper hand on the mat over his younger friend.

“He was way better than me when we were little,” Greer said, “but him beating up on me made me better.”

As the years passed, they continued to grapple on a daily basis. Greer quickly improved. The matches became more even.

“It got to the point where we were wrestling nose-to-nose,” Greer said. “We made each other better.”

Greer and McGhan became high school teammates for the first time last season, and both made their marks on the biggest stage at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

Greer became the first freshman in school history to win an MHSAA Individual Final when he defeated Corunna’s Emilio Campos 9-6 in the Division 3 championship match at 103 pounds.

Meanwhile, McGhan, a junior last season, lost in the semifinals at 112 pounds before recovering to take third place.

“It felt really good to be the first freshmen in school history to do that,” said Greer, who started wrestling when he was 4 and was inspired by his talented older twin cousins, former Carson City-Crystal standouts Darren and Dillen Decker.

“I always had big goals, and at the beginning I knew I had a little bit of a chance. But it wasn’t till later on when I realized I could do it.”

Greer finished the season with a 42-1 record, although he never really lost a match.

Midway through the season, Greer had appendix surgery and was forced to miss a few matches. During one dual meet, his coaches put him in the lineup thinking the other team would void at that weight.

Instead, the opposing coach opted to place a wrestler in the match. Greer lost on an injury default since he was unable to wrestle.

“Coach still called me undefeated,” Greer said.     

Tri-County wrestling coach Corey Renner, in his 10th season, said he wasn’t surprised by Greer’s rare feat. He had been standing by patiently for the time when Greer could showcase his abilities at the high school level.

“I’ve known him since fifth or sixth grade, and we’ve just been waiting for him to get to high school,” Renner said. “He beat a kid from Shelby early in the year, who at the time was the favorite to win it. He beat him pretty handily, and at that point I knew he could probably win it.

“You never know, though. Kids can get hurt or sick, and strange things can happen, but I felt like if everything went the way it should then he could win it. He’s dedicated, and he just does everything you ask and more.”

Greer and McGhan have returned for one more season together and are currently leading the 9th-ranked team in Division 3.

The Vikings entered this week’s Grandville Invitational with a perfect 9-0 mark, which included a win at Tri-County’s team invitational.

They also placed third at the Chippewa Hills individual tourney.

Greer has picked up where he left off. He currently owns an unblemished 11-0 record while moving up to 119 pounds.

“I still have a lot of goals I want to reach,” Greer said.

Tri-County hasn’t reached the MHSAA Team Quarterfinals since 2003, but this year’s team has the potential to break the dry spell with the return of several starters.

“This is the best team we’ve had in a long time,” Renner said. “We still have some holes to fill, but when we get everyone healthy and ready to go then we will be really tough.

“Whitehall is in our Regional, and they’re really good every year, but I think we can compete with them if we can get everybody where they need to be. We can give them a run for their money, that’s for sure.” 

Greer also likes this year’s group, and has high hopes for the rest of the season.

“We lost a couple good kids, but we still have a lot of good juniors and seniors and a couple freshmen and sophomores who are doing really good,” Greer said. “We have good kids all the way through so we should be strong for a while.”

PHOTOS: (Top) Howard City Tri-County's Dakota Greer prepares to take a shot during last season's Division 3 championship match at 103 pounds. (Middle) Tri-County coach Corey Renner is in his 10th season leading the program. (Click for more photos from

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.)