Hudson's Weaver Ends With Perfection

March 1, 2014

By Greg Chrapek
Special to Second Half

AUBURN HILLS – After seeing his team’s string of five straight MHSAA team championships come to an end the week before in the Division 4 Final at Kellogg Arena, Hudson senior Cole Weaver was not about to let his high school career end with a loss at the Individual Finals at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

A two-time champion with a perfect record this winter, Weaver was determined to not have a letdown in his title match at 140 pounds against Chase Siersema, a returning finalist from Hesperia.

Weaver capped his career in style as he defeated Siersema 9-4 to win his third straight individual title and finish this season with a 57-0 record.

“I wanted to end my career with a bang,” Weaver said. “I did not want to get beat. I turned it up.”

Weaver, who will continue his wrestling career at Indiana University next season, was solid on his feet as he steadily built a lead against Siersema, who finished the season with a 44-4 mark. 

“Takedowns were the key,” Weaver said. “I didn’t think he could beat me on my feet.”

While three individual titles in a row meant a lot to Weaver, the sting of seeing Hudson’s string of team titles snapped was still a painful subject for him.

“That is still a touchy subject,” Weaver said. “It hurts knowing that the string was snapped. It meant a lot to Hudson and to us.”


Champion: Davian Gowens, Hesperia, Soph. (24-3)
Decision, 14-6, over Corey Agens, Hesperia, Sr. (43-9)

Teammates and training partners squared off when Gowens wrestled Agens at 103 pounds. Gowens, who beat his teammate by a single point in both the District and Regional tournaments, steadily built a lead against his teammate in the Final.

“I’m a lot stronger this year,” Gowens said. “I weighed 95 pounds last year.”

Going up against his training partner was not something to which he looked forward.

“We wrestle each other every day,” Gowens said. “It’s very difficult wrestling against your partner. You really don’t want to beat him, but you are in the state finals.” 


Champion: Joe Traynham, Onaway, Jr. (43-4)
Major decision, 16-4, over Roddy Hamdan, Hudson, Jr. (45-12)

Coming from Onaway, Traynham showed the crowd at The Palace that there are some serious wrestlers in Northern Michigan as he defeated a returning MHSAA champion with a major decision.

Traynham grabbed the lead early and steadily built it to double figures.

“Anybody can be beat,” Traynham said. “I feel like I put more time into training then anybody here.”

Traynham was making his first trip to the Finals as he was defeated in the second round of consolations at Regionals last year to miss the cut.

“I just worked so hard during the summer,” Traynham said. “I went all over the country wrestling and spent so much time in the weight room.”

All the work paid off in a big way.

“I can’t explain how it feels,” Traynham said. “It’s too good a feeling. This is something that I’ve been working for since the eighth grade.”    


Champion: Logan Griffin, Erie-Mason, Jr. (34-4)
Decision, 6-2, over Dresden Simon, Dansville, Soph. (49-4)

Last year, Griffin battled through a shoulder injury at the Finals to win his first title. This season, a healthy Griffin was in command throughout his match with Simon.

“Last year I didn’t have much practice because of my injury,” Griffin said. “This year I was on my A game. I thought I peaked at the right time.”

Griffin also sported a new look at the Finals as his newly-dyed bright blue hair stood out.

“I lost a bet with my teammate,” Simon said. “If I pinned my first kid at Regional he would dye his hair, and if he beat his first kid at Regional I would dye my hair. We ended up both pinning, so we both dyed our hair.    


Champion: Zack Yates, Hesperia, Sr. (47-0)
Technical fall, 15-0, over Logan Eaves, Hesperia, Soph. (38-15)

Not only did Yates defeat a teammate when he stopped Eaves, but he also defeated a family member to earn the title as the two are also first cousins.

“You can’t go out there thinking you are wrestling a family member,” Yates said. “You have to go out there and give it your all. You can’t go out there and take it easy.”

For Yates, it was his third straight appearance in the Finals and second straight individual title. Yates also wrapped up the season with a perfect record.

“I was proud that my cousin made it to the Finals,” Yates said. “He had a couple of ranked kids ahead of him, but he pulled it off. I just had to go out there and go as hard as I can.”


Champion: Carter Ballinger, Jonesville, Sr. (47-1)
Decision, 5-3 (OT), over Kyle Barkovich, Lawton, Jr. (50-3)

On the trip up to Auburn Hills from Jonesville on Thursday, Ballinger was not sure he would even be able to wrestle this weekend. Early in the week, Ballinger suffered an allergic reaction to some medicine used to treat a spot staph infection, which left him with a bright red rash on his neck and shoulders.

“I only got an hour and a half of sleep worrying about if I would be able to wrestle or not,” Ballinger said. “I was not sure I would be able to wrestle.” 

Ballinger got the green light and took full advantage as he brought home the first title for Jonesville in 40 years.

“My coach was planning to retire after my freshman year, but I sent him a text saying that I was going to win a state title some day, and he decided to stick around,” Ballinger said. “This is just crazy. It’s amazing.”


Champion: Brock Thumm, Watervliet, Sr. (40-0)
Decision, 10-5, over Trenton Roesly, Hesperia, Jr. (50-4)

If not for a shoulder injury suffered last year, Thumm could well have been wrestling for a third consecutive title Saturday.

An MHSAA champion as a sophomore, Thumm suffered a torn labrum in his shoulder early last season. He needed to have three bones shaved and three titanium pins placed in his shoulder and missed the remainder of his junior season.

“I put in a lot of work over the summer and it feels great to come back,” Thumm said. “I worked on my conditioning and to get my shoulder strong.”

The hard work paid off for Thumm, who started strong and never looked back.

“This is very special for me,” Thumm said. “I worked pretty hard for this. I just wanted to end my senior season at state.”


Champion: JD Waters, Hudson, Sr. (49-10)
Fall, 0:51 over Zachary Francis, Lutheran Westland, Sr. (20-4)

The signature move for Hudson wrestlers is the far-side cradle, and Waters wasted little time in executing the move to perfection as he won his second consecutive title.

“The far-side cradle, it’s what Hudson is known for,” Waters said. “All Hudson wrestlers know how to use it, and it came in handy today.”

Waters’ victory at 145 pounds came on the heels of his teammate Weaver’s title at 140, and the wins were a perfect end to the high school careers of the Hudson wrestling standouts who started out as teammates at a young age.

“I love Hudson; there is nowhere else I would want to wrestle,” Waters said. “Cole is my partner, and we have been wrestling together since kindergarten. When we were in junior high school, we would go to the high school meets and see all the bigger guys and say that we wanted to be like that some day.” 


Champion: Kyle Johnson, Hudson, Soph. (46-10)
Decision, 5-4 over Ali Rashad, Highland Park Renaissance Academy, Sr. (29-2)

Working in the Hudson wrestling room with champions like Weaver and Waters has proven to be very beneficial for Johnson, a sophomore. After finishing third at the MHSAA Finals at 152 pounds last year, Johnson is starting to work on his own Hudson wrestling legacy as he avenged a loss suffered against Rashad in the Individual Regional.

“He (Rashad) beat me 2-1 at Regionals,” Johnson said. “I knew what I had to do this time. I had to make sure that he didn’t throw me.”

Johnson took an early lead against Rashad and wrestled a solid technical match to earn the win.

“I train for the big moments,” Johnson said. “Wrestling against Cole and JD, you gain so much and learn so much. You know, at a little school like Hudson, when you wrestle against Cole you are going up against someone that is going to Indiana and that makes you so much better. I’m so glad I’m able to train with guys like that.”    


Champion: Josh Wendling, New Lothrop, Sr. (56-4)
Decision, 13-7, over Mark Workman, Hesperia, Soph. (27-3)

Wendling added a second straight title and finished his career at New Lothrop with a 202-24 overall record.

After helping New Lothrop win the team title a week ago, Wendling had to guard against a letdown this week.

“I had to keep my mind right,” Wendling said. “Everyone was talking about the team state all week, and it was tough keeping my mind at the task at hand. I thought I was able to do that and keep myself at the top of my game.”

Wendling also had to guard against the high expectations of a returning champion.

“Just because I won it last year, everyone thought I had it locked up this year,” Wendling said. “They thought I would win automatically. Winning this one was awesome. It feels great.” 


Champion: Taylor Krupp, New Lothrop, Sr. (56-0)
Decision, 6-5, over Shane Rodenburg, Kent City, Jr. (52-2)

Saturday’s title was vindication for the entire Krupp family.

Last year Taylor lost in overtime in the 160-pound championship match. Taylor’s older brother Justin reached the Finals twice during his career but also came up short both times.

This time Taylor won the title and did it in a big way as he scored a takedown in the final 10 seconds to secure the win. Making the moment even more special was having Justin, a New Lothrop assistant, right there on the mat.

“Justin is my coach, and he was the first one who hugged me after the match,” Taylor said. “It was sweet having Justin there when I finally won it. It was a great brother-bonding moment. It was great to share it with him. He was there to see me lose last year, and now he was here to see me win this year. ” 

Making the day even sweeter for the Krupp family was young brother Connor, a freshman, placing fifth at 103 pounds.


Champion: Jacob Cooper, Springport, Jr. (45-2)
Decision, 7-2, over Nathan Philburn, Byron, Sr. (35-5)

After winning the 160-pound title last year, Cooper went up two weight classes this winter. The move up in weight did little to slow him down as he added a second straight title. 

“At first it was hard getting used to the new weight class,” Cooper said. “I eventually got used to it and adapted to it.”

Cooper used his quickness and ability to score on his feet to his advantage during the match. 

“I knew he was all upper-body,” Cooper said. “I knew I would have some shots. I just had to keep going in.”

With a second MHSAA title under his belt, Cooper already is setting his sights on a three-peat. 

“I just have to keep getting better and stronger,” Cooper said. “I have to keep working hard.” 


Champion: Kevin Koenig, Laingsburg, Soph. (48-3)
Decision, 14-3, over Patrick Harbin Jr., Detroit Loyola, Jr. (20-1)

After losing in the Final by technical fall last year, Koenig was on a mission this season and he didn’t let up until he captured the first MHSAA title in school history.

“I knew I had him after the first takedown,” Koenig said. “He couldn’t stop it.”

Koenig began wrestling in the third grade.

“I wanted to be the first state champion in school history,” Koenig said. “Ever since the eighth grade I have been working for this.”


Champion: Ryan Prescott, Whittemore-Prescott, Jr. (34-0)
Fall, 2:41, over Nate Boardman, Hillsdale, Sr. (40-2)

It was a second straight title for Prescott, who turned in a dominant season. Prescott took command of his match early and then finished the job with a pin in the second period.

“It feels like I’m on top of the world,” Prescott said. 

A three-time MHSAA finalist, Prescott lost by one point in the title match as a freshman and then won the by decision last year. This time around Prescott won the title in a big way, and he credits his improvement to hard work and experience.

“Maturity,” Prescott said. “My maturity really helped me. I feel I am such a better wrestler and much stronger. I have improved a lot since last year. I worked so hard during the summer. Training and going to camps.”   

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PHOTO: Hudson's Cole Weaver (left) works to control Hesperia's Chase Siersema during their Division 4 Final at 140 pounds. (Click to see more fromHigh School Sports Scene.) 

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.)