Hamdan Brings More History to Hudson

March 2, 2019

By Jeff Chaney
Special for Second Half

DETROIT – A humble Jordan Hamdan pinned his place in wrestling history Saturday evening at Ford Field. 

The Hudson senior became the 25th four-time MHSAA Finals champion when he pinned New Lothrop's Logan Zell in 54 seconds in their Division 4 135-pound title match.

He also became his storied program's first four-timer.

"This is pretty cool; it's a big honor," Hamdan said. "To see all these greats do this before me, I have looked up to them since I was really, really small."

Hamdan, who will wrestle at Michigan State next season, made easy work of the competition this weekend, pinning two of his opponents and beating the other two by technical fall.

"This is a bit overwhelming, a lot to take in," said Hamdan, who also has three team Finals titles on his impressive resume. "I did feel a little bit of pressure, but I would treat this just like I would in the practice room."


Champion: Brayton Mears, Union City, Fr. (36-4)
Decision, 4-2 (OT), over Bronson Marry, Hudson, Fr. (33-9)

Mears had come close to winning state titles in his youth wrestling days, but was never able to get to the top of the podium. 

It took a trip to the high school sport's biggest stage to finally break through. 

"I've taken second, third, fourth and fifth, and now I finally got to win one," Mears said. "I came out here to wrestle my best match, and I think I did and I got the win."


Champion: Ben Modert, Bronson, Jr. (52-2)
Decision, 7-0, over Nolan Datema, Carson City Crystal, Sr. (45-2)

It is hard to lose when you don't give up a point.

That is what Modert accomplished this weekend on his way to winning his second straight title. 

He did not surrender a point to his four opponents, capping it off by beating Datema in the final, 7-0.

"I made sure I stayed in control and wrestled as smart as I could," Modert said. "My goal this whole weekend was to not give up any points, and I accomplished that. I just tried to dominate as much as I could."


Champion: Robbie Altland, Hart, Sr. (49-1)
Decision, 4-2 (2OT), over Caden Natale, Hudson, Soph. (26-5)

It is never one person who is responsible for molding a state champion. 

It is a process, and Altland made sure he thanked all who helped him win Saturday.

"Hard work, dedication, my teammates and my coaches got me here," Altland said. "And I have great supporters who all helped me get here. It has been a long run, but worth it."


Champion: Noah Comar, Clinton, Sr. (51-1)
Decision, 8-2, over Noah Cantu, Hart, Sr. (48-2)

Comar has a hard time looking back, but reflection helped get him back on top of the podium.

Two years ago the Clinton senior won a title, but he fell in a final last year. 

"I think (last year's loss) pretty much drove me," Comar said. "I came here this year to have fun and score points. I had a good tournament this year."

Comar finished his weekend with two pins, a technical fall and Saturday's decision.


Champion: Jamison Ward, Carson City Crystal, Jr. (48-1)
Decision, 2-0, over Jacob Shelby, Manchester, Jr. (47-6)

A couple of heart-breaking trips to the Finals helped pave the way for Ward to win his first title. 

Two years ago he was a finalist, but was handily beaten 10-0. Last year he fell in the semifinals, so this year he was not going to take anything for granted. 

"I have been dreaming of this since I was a little kid," Ward said. "Losing two years ago in the finals 10-0, it never gets out of your head. Just being there and being so close. And then last year I thought I would make my way back to the finals again, and I got upset in the semis, so this year I would not let that happen."


Champion: Skyler Crespo, Mendon, Jr. (50-1)
Major Decision, 13-0, over Ryan Wehner, Bad Axe, Sr. (40-6)

Crespo looks very comfortable wrestling on his sport's biggest stage in the state.

The Mendon junior cruised to his third straight Finals championship. And now Crespo is on the brink of history, as he will try to become a four-time champion next year.

"I felt great this weekend," Crespo said. "I felt like no one could even touch me. I only gave up two points all weekend off of cuts – no one even came close to me."

And it is that confidence that has Crespo thinking about history next year. 

"I'm looking forward to getting back and getting better," Crespo said. "I want to get better now, because that four is so close and I have been waiting for that so long."


Champion: Austin Wolford, New Lothrop, Sr. (36-3)
Injury default over Kyle Black, White Pigeon, Sr. (45-3)

This is not how Wolford wanted to end his high school wrestling career, even though it meant winning his second straight championship.

Wolford was visibly shaken as his opponent, White Pigeon's Black, had to be taken off the mat on a stretcher after suffering what appeared to be a knee injury.

"I have no words. I just feel bad for what happened," Wolford said. "That is not the outcome that I wanted. I won, but that is not what I wanted. That was not a state championship match."


Champion: Andy Simaz, Traverse City St. Francis, Jr. (42-2)
Decision, 6-4 (OT), over Jorge Sereno, Hudson, Sr. (35-12)

A spent Simaz laid sprawled on the turf at Ford Field after what he had just accomplished. 

The Traverse City St. Francis junior had battled his way to an overtime win over Sereno, and he had a hard time finding the words to describe his thrill.

But he knew in his head the thrill was coming. 

"I feel really good," Simaz said. "In overtime I tried that high crotch (takedown) and got sprawled out and I reached for a double leg and I told myself there that I was going to be a state champ. In my head I told myself that I would be a state champion there."


Champion: Braxton Seida, Carson City-Crystal, Sr. (43-2)
Decision, 4-2, over Brayden Randolph, Clinton, Soph. (43-2)

Seida knew he had two very excited fans when he walked off the mat with a title in hand. 

He could almost hear the cheers from the Ford Field stands. 

"I have been working for this my whole life, and this is the best thing that has ever happened to me," Seida said. "My dad (Phil Seida) was going crazy up there, and he is definitely appreciative. And my grandpa (Eric Seida), he kept telling me that this was the best part of his life. I did this for him because he wanted me to for the last four years."


Champion: Carson Scroggie, Sand Creek, Sr. (41-2)
Decision, 4-3, over Brock Nelson, Leroy Pine River, Jr. (47-3)

Scroggie did what he does best, and that is wrestle on his feet. It was a takedown that was the difference in his one-point win over Nelson.

Scroggie became Sand Creek's second Finals champion.

"This feels amazing," Scroggie said. "My coaches kept me in the neutral position because they know I am good on my feet. So I did what I do best and got the takedown, and I knew there was short time after that so all I had to do was just lay on him."


Champion: Ethan Weatherspoon, Napoleon, Sr. (53-0)
Decision, 3-2, over Kyle Cassiday, Beaverton, Sr. (51-2)

In one of the most anticipated matches of the Division 4 Finals, a pair of returning champions took to the mat at 189 pounds

Reigning D4 189-pound champion Cassiday was taking on last year's Division 3 champion in the weight class, Weatherspoon. Napoleon moved into Division 4 this year, setting up this epic battle. 

And just like when these two met earlier in the year, a 1-0 win by Weatherspoon, it came down to one point.

"That was good, it was tough, but I got the W," Weatherspoon said. "My grind, my work ethic, being aggressive in the match, that helped me win today."


Champion: Logan Badge, Clinton, Fr. (35-2)
Decision, 6-3, over Tim Rizor, Leroy Pine River, Jr. (45-3)

Not often do you see a freshman excel at a heavier weight class. Size, strength and experience, those usually come out on top when the larger wrestlers hit the mat. 

That makes what Badge has done all year, and again Saturday, so special. 

"I feel good," Badge said. "I got a good warmup with my warmup partner, and I wrestled well."

And what is nice for Badge, he gets to celebrate this week after his team fell short to Hudson in the Team Final a week ago.

"I thought we could have performed better a team states," Badge said. "But a lot of us redeemed ourselves here with 11 placing."


Champion: River Fox, Schoolcraft, Sr. (53-2)
Decision, 7-1, over Jake Renfer, Manton, Sr. (49-4)

Fox made Schoolcraft history Saturday night.

He became the school's first Finals champion. 

"I feel pretty good about this," Fox said. "I just felt comfortable with my moves. I just kept trying to score points and move the match."

Click for full results.

PHOTO: Hudson’s Jordan Hamdan was selected as one of the flag-bearers for the Finals’ opening march Saturday at Ford Field, before going on to win his fourth MHSAA individual title. (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.)