Hudson Wins D4 Rematch, 6th Team Title

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

February 25, 2017

MOUNT PLEASANT – Scott Marry’s emotional celebrations had become a staple at the MHSAA Team Wrestling Finals.

The Hudson coach had nervously watched his team win a handful of Division 4 titles, each time exploding with energy after a clinching late victory. On Saturday, however, Marry was able to reflect a bit as his team locked up the championship a little more than halfway through its title match against rival New Lothrop.

“It is so fun to win them at the last second, but it’s also fun to watch these kids as they came off the mat one at a time to get to experience them experiencing a state title as a team,” said Marry, who was still plenty excited. “So I slowed it down, and I got to take in some really cool moments with some kids one on one. It was kind of neat.”

Hudson defeated New Lothrop 51-13 at McGuirk Arena on the campus of Central Michigan University, claiming the school’s sixth Division 4 wrestling title, and first since 2013. The Tigers had finished runners-up to New Lothrop in each of the previous three seasons after winning five straight titles from 2009-13.

“It’s great. It’s amazing. It’s breathtaking,” Hudson senior 215-pounder Zack Bailey said. “It’s hard to explain unless you do it. We wanted it to be (New Lothrop). We wanted a little bit of revenge.”

Bailey and Tylor Grames are the only two seniors on the Hudson roster. While they’re certainly key pieces, they know they’re leaving behind a team that’s capable of making a 10th straight appearance in an MHSAA Finals title match.

“It makes me feel like the next couple years are going to be very strong,” Grames said. “Very strong.”

It was Grames and Bailey who started out the dual with a bang for the Tigers, staking their team to a 9-0 lead.

Grames, who is ranked No. 2 at 189 pounds in Division 4 by Michigan Grappler, opened the match with a 5-1 win against the top-ranked wrestler at his weight, Erik Birchmeier. Takedowns in the second and third periods were enough to give him the mini upset and give his team momentum early on.

“I think the tone set us up for victory, I honestly do,” Grames said. “I was No. 2, he was No. 1; I had to stay focused. I came out on top and the team kept it up. It was positive.”

Bailey wasted little time in building on the momentum, getting a pin in 19 seconds at 215 pounds.

“I felt really good about (starting the dual at 189 pounds),” Marry said. “With my Grames kid being ranked second in the state wrestling their No. 1 kid, we knew it was going to be close enough for us to win. We had a really good matchup at 215 and heavy, and we were really solid from 112 to 135. I thought that could be almost too much for their lineup to come back from. I think that kind of did them in. I think we got the momentum, and I think you start losing doubt.”

It indeed was too much for New Lothrop to come back from, as Hudson won six of the next seven matches after their seniors set the tone, building a 36-4 lead and clinching the title with five matches remaining.

“I felt like I’m on top of the world,” Grames said. “For the last half hour, I’ve been sitting here happy.”

Isiah Krizek won a 7-0 decision at 285 for Hudson, and after Logan Wolford put New Lothrop on the board with a 9-1 major decision at 103 pounds, Hudson got three straight pins from Tucker Sholl (112), Tyler Curtis (119) and Jordan Hamdan (125). Scotty Torres won 4-0 at 130 pounds for the Tigers, and Carson Price clinched the team victory with an 8-6 decision over second-ranked Austin Wolford at 135.

Malik Ray won 7-2 at 152 for Hudson, while John Betz (160) and Spencer Blanco (171) closed out the dual with back-to-back pins.

Justin Carnahan won by pin at 140 pounds for New Lothrop, while Zack Riley won a 5-2 decision at 152.

“Part of coaching at New Lothrop is that’s our goal – to get here each year and give ourselves a chance to win it,” New Lothrop coach Jeff Campbell said. “I absolutely think we’ll have a shot in the future, we’ll be stronger and we’ll learn something from what happened today.”

Like Hudson, New Lothrop is remarkably young. Twelve wrestlers who took the mat Saturday for the Hornets could be back next season, meaning the Division 4 titans who have claimed the last nine titles (six for Hudson, three for New Lothrop) will likely be the teams to beat again in 2018.

Hudson entered the weekend as the top seed and top-ranked by Michigan Grappler. New Lothrop, unranked at the end of the regular season, was seeded sixth this weekend but downed third seed Carson City-Crystal and second seed Leroy Pine River to reach the Final.

“When you’re wrestling against Jeff Campbell’s group, it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose,” Marry said. “They’re going to bring it, we’re going to bring it; we’re not counting wins and losses against these guys. It’s really not that type of rivalry. It’s a classy rivalry; it’s a rivalry of respect. We just said to each other out there, we hope to see each other again next year out there.”

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

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Hudson's Isiah Krizek takes control against Cameron Dusenberry during their match at 285 pounds. (Middle) New Lothrop's Logan Wolford works toward his 9-1 major decision win at 103. (Click for more 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.)