Hudson's Hamdan Wins Clash of Champs

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

March 4, 2017

AUBURN HILLS – Hudson sophomore Jordan Hamdan didn’t just want to win a Division 4 title Saturday at The Palace of Auburn Hills – he also wanted to impress his older brother, Roddy.

Hamdan accomplished both, defeating Jackson Lumen Christi’s Spencer Good 3-2 in a matchup of returning MHSAA champions in the 119-pound Final.

“It means more, because he kind of helped me get this good,” said Hamdan, who had his brother – a Division 4 champion in 2013 – in his corner as an assistant coach during the match. “We’ve been always wrestling with each other since we were really young, and I’ve been looking up to him. So it was kind of a big deal to me – I wanted to impress him.”

Hamdan scored an early takedown in the match, then was forced to switch up his strategy as Good clamped down defensively on his feet.

“I knew I was ahead, and I knew he couldn’t hold me down,” Hamdan said. “So I had to keep it even and keep it close since I couldn’t score on my feet, and then I knew he wouldn’t be able to score if I was still being offensive in the third period.”

Hamdan and Good, a senior, were each looking for their second title, as they both won at 112 a year ago – Hamdan in Division 4 and Good in Division 3. With two titles in two years as a high schooler, Hamdan is now thinking big.

“It was kind of like a dream more than a goal,” Hamdan said. “And I guess my dream is becoming a reality, slowly. It’s a process. I’ve been working out all summer, in the season and offseason for this, and getting prepared as much as I possibly can for this tournament.”


Champion: Reese Fry, Manchester, Jr. (51-1)
Major decision, 10-0, over Jamison Ward, Carson City-Crystal, Fr. (52-3)

Fry learned some lessons in his first two trips to the Palace.

“(I learned) how to push myself,” Fry said. “How to develop and just grow as a wrestler – fundamentally and mentally.”

Fry turned those lessons into a Finals title, as he defeated Carson City-Crystal’s freshman sensation Jamison Ward.

The Manchester junior controlled the match throughout, scoring a takedown in each period, and taking Ward to his back in the second.

“I kept in control,” Fry said. “I just wrestled the match I wanted to wrestle.”


Champion: Noah Comar, Clinton, Soph. (51-0)
Decision, 3-1 (OT), over Tucker Sholl, Hudson, Soph. (33-3)

It was a Hudson wrestler that stopped Comar’s title bid a year ago. He wasn’t going to let a Tiger get in his way again.

Comar scored a takedown in overtime to defeat returning champion Tucker Sholl and finish off a perfect sophomore season. Comar lost in the 2016 112-pound Final against Sholl’s teammate, Jordan Hamdan.

“My strategy was just to push the pace and catch him off guard,” Comar said. “I guess it worked, because I got the ankle and got a takedown. I had to push the pace. My greatest defense was my offense. … It was sweet revenge.”


Champion: Skyler Crespo, Mendon, Fr. (52-1)
Decision, 3-1, over Robert LeFevre, Erie Mason, Sr. (48-5)

Crespo couldn’t stop moving after winning the 125-pound title. Despite just finishing a hard-fought match against returning champion Robert LeFevre, Crespo still found the energy to jog in place.

“I’m so excited,” he said. “There’s been a lot of time and work put into this.”

The Mendon freshman capped off a remarkable first high school season by taking LeFevre down in the first period, and holding him off the rest of the way. Now, the inevitable four-time champion discussions will begin, and Crespo is ready for them.

“Get back to work as soon as I can,” Crespo said. “Monday morning, I’ll be doing something. Running or whatever it is.”


Champion: Robert Rogers, Burton Bentley, Jr. (43-1)
Decision, 9-4, over Nick Felt, Shelby, Soph. (49-2)

Rogers claimed his second straight title, jumping out to a 7-2 lead before holding off big-move attempts from Shelby’s Felt.

“In those situations, most people are going to throw,” Rogers said. “I’ve been in those situations before, and I’ve been on the big stage, so I know what it takes to win. With 20 seconds left, I’m not going to let you do your moves; I’m going to do mine.”

While Rogers called upon his big-match experience in the waning moments, he didn’t let his status as a returning champion allow him to get overconfident.

“You have to come in here thinking that you could win or lose,” he said. “You can’t just come in here thinking, ‘Oh, I’m a returning state champion and I’m going to win.’ I came in thinking, ‘You know what, I’m just another guy on the chart, and anyone can beat me.’ So I had to go out there and show everyone that I can beat them.”


Champion: Ethan Woods, Manchester, Sr. (49-2)
Decision, 5-0, over Jayce Kuehnlein, St. Louis, Jr. (45-6)

After falling one win short of a title in each of the last two years, Ethan Woods climbed to the top of the podium as a senior.

“It feels great,” an emotional Woods said. “Everything that I’ve worked for my whole life finally paid off. I put so much time in training for this my whole life. I could have wrestled better and I should have, but I did what I needed to win, and I finally accomplished what I set out to do, and it feels great.”

Woods got an early takedown, and controlled the match throughout, even if the scoring may not have been there.

“Each year, my confidence and composure has built and developed, and I’m able to handle all the pressure and the nerves,” Woods said. “Obviously I still put a lot of pressure on myself, because I just won but I don’t feel like I wrestled as good as I could have. But I think (three previous trips to the MHSAA Finals) helped me prepare mentally.”


Champion: Sean O’Hearon, Springport, Sr. (42-0)
Technical fall, 26-11 (4:46), over Braxton Seida, Carson City-Crystal, Soph. (49-5)

O’Hearon put on a takedown clinic on his way to a dominant victory.

The Springport senior took Carson City-Crystal’s Seida down 12 times – and added a reversal – on his way to his second straight title.

“I came into the state meet basically making it my goal to tech every single person here,” O’Hearon said. “I guess I was able to do that, so that’s a win.”

Making the title more special was the fact O’Hearon was able to share it with his cousin, Austin, who won the 145-pound title in Division 2 for Eaton Rapids.

“It’s even more awesome because my cousin won, too,” Sean O’Hearon said. “In my senior year, we both win, that’s something not many people can have.”


Champion: Konnor Holton, St. Louis, Sr. (46-3)
Decision, 6-4 (OT), over Noah Niemen, Blissfield, Sr. (29-3)

For the first time since 1967, St. Louis has a Finals champion. Konnor Holton got a takedown in overtime to knock off Noah Niemen and become the Sharks’ second MHSAA title winner.

“I knew he was going to get deep, and I knew that if I got into a scramble position, it was my match,” Holton said. “I knew as soon as I got him uncomfortable, it was my match.”

Holton held a 4-3 lead late in the match, but was hit for fleeing the mat to tie things up and send it to overtime. He bounced back in the extra period, however, capitalizing on his second trip to the Finals after falling a win short a year ago.

“I can’t even describe it right now,” Holton said. “My heart is all over the place.”


Champion: Gerrit Yates, Hesperia, Jr. (37-1)
Pin, 2:22, over Zack Menck, Lawton, Jr. (54-4)

Yates decided to add basketball to his winter athletics load this year. While he thinks it may be hurting him a bit on the mat, you’d be hard-pressed to tell.

Yates came through in his third straight Finals appearance, winning by second-period pin.

“It’s great to win it, but I didn’t wrestle near my ability,” Yates said. “Probably right after this, I’m going to go work in the wrestling room some more, get in the weight room.”

Menck held a 6-5 lead in the match after one period, but Yates took him straight to his back from their feet early in the second to earn the pin.

“The whole match, he was wrestling kind of defensive, staying back and then jumping at me,” Yates said. “I kind of timed it, as soon as I saw him faking, I sat back and tossed him because I saw it coming. I knew I had to go for something big.”


Champion: Tanner Gonzales, Manistique, Sr. (46-0)
Decision, 5-4 (2 OT), over Johnathon Stid, Dansville, Sr. (38-7)

As Gonzales recognized the fans who had made the long trip to the Palace from the Upper Peninsula, one of them shouted to him, “Manistique in the house!”

“I’m the third U.P. champ, and they haven’t had one in a while,” Gonzales said. “So it’s exciting for the whole U.P. and Manistique. It’s a small town, and they’ve never had a state champ in anything.”

Now they do, as Gonzales scored a reversal late in the second period of the second overtime and held on for the win.

“Just hang on,” Gonzales said of his strategy for the final seven seconds. “I hadn’t had a stall call yet, so if I took a stall call, I wasn’t too worried about it.”


Champion: Dylan Smith, Bad Axe, Sr. (47-4)
Decision, 3-2, over David Erwin, Bronson, Sr. (53-3)

A third-period takedown lifted Smith to Bad Axe’s first championship since 1991.

“It’s amazing,” Smith said. “I came in and got sixth last year. This is a lot better feeling.”

Smith and Bronson’s Erwin were tied at 1 in the third period before Smith’s takedown gave him a 3-1 lead. Erwin was able to get away and pull within one, but Smith fought him off.

“I was ready for the shot,” Smith said. “Coach was expecting it. I was ready to sprawl off his quick shot.”


Champion: Tylor Grames, Hudson, Sr. (41-12)
Decision, 5-3 (OT), over Erik Birchmeier, New Lothrop, Sr. (31-3)

A week ago Grames knocked off Birchmeier to kick off Hudson’s march to a team title.

On Saturday, he needed extra time, but again came out on top against the returning champion from New Lothrop.

“I changed it up from wanting the team to do good, to inspiring everyone that was up there watching to want to do good,” Grames said. “Last week when we wrestled he would post a lot, and I capitalized by making my shots. This week, he barely posted, which made it five times harder.”

Grames had to fight off a near takedown from Birchmeier late in regulation to force overtime.

“Fear,” Grames said. “Fear. I really wanted to make my hometown proud, and I was scared that I wouldn’t, so that’s what drove me on.”


Champion: Devon Kozel, Bangor, Sr. (48-1)
Decision, 9-3, over Nick Cooper, Springport, Sr. (40-4)

Kozel was a runner-up a year ago, but he left little doubt Saturday night against returning champion Cooper of Springport.

“I had to redeem myself,” Kozel said.

Kozel had three takedowns and a reversal to control the match and earn a third straight win against Cooper.

“Just have to stay tough on our feet,” Kozel said. “I know where you have to win the match at.”


Champion: Logan Kennedy, Decatur, Sr. (58-2)
Decision, 6-4, over Zach Bailey, Hudson, Sr. (41-10)

Losing wasn’t an option for Kennedy.

After finishing as a runner-up a year ago, and falling behind late in his title match Saturday against Hudson’s Bailey, Kennedy turned up the pace to force overtime and eventually win his first MHSAA championship.

“I just knew I had to something,” Kennedy said. “He’d already been hit with a warning for stalling, so I thought if I went at him, I could get another stalling call and send it to overtime. I love wrestling in the third period because I feel so much better than the other wrestlers.”

He continued that aggression into overtime, where he finished off a dream season.

“It’s been my dream my whole entire life,” he said. “Ever since I started wrestling, I knew I wanted to be a state champion.”

Click for full brackets.

PHOTO: Hudson’s Jordan Hamdan (left) and Jackson Lumen Christi’s Spencer Good face off in the Division 4 Final at 119 pounds Saturday. (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.)