Individual Finals: From 16 to No. 1

March 3, 2012

AUBURN HILLS – A total of 56 individual wrestling champions were crowned Saturday at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

One was St. Johns senior Taylor Massa – and he earned his own story after finishing his career without a loss.

But there were plenty of others to tell. Following is one for each of the 13 other weight classes, starting with 189 pounds – the opening weight at this season’s Individual Finals – plus a mention of all 56 champions. Click for full results.


Among the many Jordan Thomas thanked after winning his third MHSAA title was the one opponent who beat him at the Palace during the last four seasons.

Thomas and St. Johns’ Massa led the opening march Saturday, around the mats where Massa dealt Thomas that loss, in the 145-pound Division 2 Final when both were freshmen.

From that day on, Thomas lost only once more. And he capped his championship career by knocking off the reigning Division 2 champ at his weight. In one of the first matches of the day – and arguably the best – Thomas edged Lowell senior Gabe Dean 5-1.

“This being my last match ever, there’s no redemption after this, so I knew I had to get this win,” said Thomas, who will wrestle next season at the University of Michigan. 

He finished 45-0 this season and 217-3 for his career despite taking off a month this season after tearing a knee ligament. That continued to slow him Saturday, but he had been building for a strong finish since the day he fell to Massa 5-2 – a match he said paid off through the rest of his Greenville career.

“At high school it’s not about the win and loss, it’s about getting better,” Thomas said. “And I feel like that improved me as a person and a wrestler so much. I don’t regret it a bit.”

Dean, who also quarterbacked Lowell's Division 2 runner-up football team, finished 30-4.

  • Division 1: Kevin Beazley did one better on his 2011 1-0 championship loss at 171 by downing Temperance Bedford junior Brandon Sunday 6-0. The Detroit Catholic Central senior finished 45-1.
  • Division 3: In a battle of one-loss juniors, Morley Stanwood’s Steven Malloy handed a second to Oscoda’s Donavon Fouchey, 7-6, to finish 46-1.
  • Division 4: New Lothrop senior Austin Severn pinned Dansville senior Lantz Miller in 1:49 to win a second straight championship and finish 51-2.


Prescott Line’s wrestling career came to an end Saturday. This fall, he’ll join the Southern Methodist University football team.

But the Oxford senior finished in the best possible way – with his second straight MHSAA individual championship. Line defeated Wayne Memorial’s Dimitrus Renfroe 5-1 in the Division 1 Final after also winning at that weight in 2011.

“Wrestling made me a better person. … (It develops) mental toughness, and it works on your one-on-one competition a lot,” Line said. “It’s a great sport.”

Line finished 49-0 this season and 184-23 over his four-year high school career.

  • Division 2: Holly senior Shawn Scott finished a 52-0 season with a 3-1 win over St. Johns junior Payne Hayden.
  • Division 3: Buchanan junior Gage Hutchison finished a 57-0 season by pinning Comstock Park senior Tyler Gruszka in 1:03.
  • Division 4: St. Ignace junior Joe Ostman edged Springport senior Joe Ericson 4-3 to win the title and move to 44-0 this season. Ericson had just one loss entering the Final.


Fowlerville junior Adam Coon showed the result of moving up to 285 pounds this season after winning two MHSAA titles at 215. His Division 2 championship match ended with his tongue and lips spotted with blood.

But the result that mattered most remained the same – Coon won his third championship, 7-4 over Mason senior Adam Robinson, and will go into next season hoping to become the 17th wrestler in MHSAA history to win four Finals titles.

Coon faced Robinson four times this season on the way to finishing 50-0.

“Of course, at the state finals it’s going to be a little aggressive. So maybe there were head butts in there for both sides,” Coon said. “But you know what? That’s what wrestling is. It’s aggressive. … You’ve got to be able to take those.”

  • Division 1: Rochester Hills Stoney Creek senior Nick Gajdzik became his school’s first champion and capped a 46-0 season with a 2-1 win over Temperance Bedford senior Logan Rimmer – who had only one loss heading into the Final.
  • Division 3: Lakewood senior Garrett Hyatt finished his high school career by pinning Dundee junior Josh Marogen in the title match in 1:48. Hyatt was 46-3 this winter.
  • Division 4: Hesperia senior Brett Martin capped a 53-0 season by outlasting Whittemore-Prescott freshman Ryan Prescott in a 4-3 decision. 


Carson City-Crystal junior Kenneth Dittenber is getting used to finishing his season with a win. He’s ended the last two with an MHSAA Division 4 title at 103 pounds.

But Saturday’s clincher had a different spin. In 2011, Dittenber won his Final 5-4. This time, he pinned Shelby junior Austin Felt 56 seconds into the second period. It was a much better reward for a season filled with higher expectations.

“I just practiced a lot harder. I knew I was going to have a target on my back as a state champ last year,” Dittenber said. “I just wanted to wrestle everybody like I should."

  • Division 1: Davison freshman Lincoln Olson capped a 46-0 season with a 16-5 major decision over Grand Haven freshman Camden Bertucci.
  • Division 2: Goodrich senior Isaac Jewell closed his career with an 8-1 championship win over Hamilton junior Collin Welcher. Jewell finished 45-5 this winter.
  • Division 3: Ida freshman Dakota Ball improved to 46-4 with a 2-0 win over Caro junior Shane Herrman.


Temperance Bedford junior Mitch Rogaliner had one opponent on his most wanted list this weekend. And he got his wish, drawing Holt’s Shayne Wireman in a Division 1 Semifinal.

Wireman had beaten Rogaliner 2-1 in last season’s 103-pound Final. But Rogaliner got him back Friday with a third-period pin before earning a 9-5 decision over Canton sophomore Ben Griffin in Saturday’s Final.

Rogaliner said he knew if he could beat Wireman, the championship should be his as well – and he used lessons learned last season to finish the run.

“You can’t let the nerves get to you. You can’t just go out there scared,” Rogaliner said. “You just have to lay it all out on the mat, and hope that your all can win it for you.”

Rogaliner finished 46-2 this winter.

  • Division 2: St. Johns sophomore Zac Hall won his second MHSAA title, this time with an 8-1 win over Lapeer West junior Dean Somers. Hall finished 43-1 this season.
  • Division 3: Remus Chippewa Hills junior Zack Cooper also won his second MHSAA title, improving to 60-2 this season with a 7-2 win over Allendale junior Luke Jensen.
  • Division 4: Decatur senior Luke Bell improved to 54-10 this season and won the 200th match of his career in pinning Erie Mason freshman Logan Griffin in 2:38.


Grand Rapids Forest Hills Eastern senior Tim Lambert had picked up a reputation as the best wrestler in Michigan never to win an MHSAA title.

He doesn’t have to hear that one anymore.

Lambert – who crushed the 200-career win milestone earlier this season – finished with one more, getting a takedown just before the buzzer to beat St. Johns freshman Logan Massa 5-3 in overtime. The Division 2 championship is the first for a Forest Hills Eastern wrestler, and capped a 58-0 finish for Lambert this season.

“There was definitely a lot of pressure. But I just came out to win, whether it was by two points or 10,” he said. “Logan’s a very tough wrestler. He’s going to have a great career. I knew it was going to be a grind until the end, no matter what. And that’s what it was.”

  • Division 1: Davison sophomore Justin Oliver won his second MHSAA title and finished 44-2 this season with a 3-1 win over Hartland sophomore Austin Eicher.
  • Division 3: Richmond senior Stephen Ireland edged Lake Fenton senior Todd Melick 10-7 to finish 24-3 this winter.
  • Division 4: After losing in a championship match last season, Hudson sophomore Cole Weaver earned his first MHSAA title with a 6-0 win over Hesperia sophomore Zack Yates. Weaver was 51-0 this season.


Comstock Park senior Nick Ross admitted Saturday he came into this season overconfident after winning last season’s Division 3 championship at 119 pounds.

But that overconfidence dissolved with two losses and a fourth-place finish in Comstock Park’s first tournament – and was replaced by more intense practice and extra workouts.

Ross never lost again. He capped a 49-2 season Saturday with an 8-4 win over Ida senior Dan Sorter.

“It was a great wake up call. I wanted to real quick,” Ross said of rebounding from the early losses.

“The second (MHSAA title) is definitely tougher. You’ve got a big old ‘X’ on your head. Everyone is after you.”

  • Division 1: After losing by a point in last season’s Final, Howell senior Alex Calandrino beat Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central senior Mitch Hrnyak 8-4 and finished the season 42-1.
  • Division 2: St. Johns junior Jacob Schmitt, a runner-up last season, beat Holly junior Mason Cleaver 11-1 to finish 46-2.
  • Division 4: Watervliet sophomore Brock Thumm outlasted Marlette senior Matt Mata, handing Mata his first loss with a 10-9 decision that improved Thumm to 47-5.


Detroit Catholic Central junior Ken Bade knew what was necessary to win big at this season’s Finals.

Last season he earned the title at 125 in part by surviving two one-point decisions. But this time, he advanced with two technical falls and a pin before downing Oxford sophomore Mike Willits 6-1 in the Final.

“I said it earlier in the tournament: It’s all confidence and not cockiness. And you just need to work as hard as you possibly can,” said Bade, who finished 50-1. “This week was the hardest I’ve ever worked in my life.

“There was only one goal in mind and that was a state championship, and I got it done.”

  • Division 2: Holly junior Anthony Gonzales scored at least 10 points for the third straight match, this time outlasting Allegan sophomore Kyle Simaz in a 10-9 decision. Gonzales finished 48-3.
  • Division 3: Otsego senior Alberto Lopez won his second straight nail-biter, following an overtime Semifinal victory with a 3-2 title-clincher over Fremont senior Theron Blake. Lopez finished 51-2.
  • Division 4: New Lothrop junior Jacob Perrin moved to 52-3 with a 5-3 win over Niles Brandywine junior Chanc Ravish.


Traverse City St. Francis senior Isaiah Schaub and White Pigeon senior John Tullos both entered Saturday’s Division 4 Final with one loss apiece.

But Schaub also already had one MHSAA championship. He added a second with an 11-4 decision capped by a final three points just before the third-round buzzer.

“I kept on attacking,” Schaub said. “It’s not like I haven’t. I just kept on attacking like Coach told me to.”

Schaub finished 51-1. He also won at 130 pounds in 2011.

  • Division 1: Canton sophomore Alec Pantaleo defeated Detroit Catholic Central sophomore Malik Amine 9-6 to finish the season 53-3.
  • Division 2: St. Johns junior Brant Schafer, the runner-up at 125 last season, handed Muskegon Reeths-Puffer senior Cody Stenberg his first loss, 10-8 in overtime. Schafer finished 37-1.
  • Division 3: Richmond freshman Devin Skatzka opened his high school Finals career by edging Leslie sophomore Zehlin Storr 5-4 to finish 44-8.


St. Johns junior Ben Whitford already had won two Illinois individual championships, and helped St. Johns to an MHSAA team title last weekend.

He finished his first season back in Michigan by beating the same opponent he faced in the team Final – Lowell senior and reigning individual champion Gabe Morse.

Whitford handed Morse just his second loss of this season, 11-4. A week ago, Whitford beat Morse 11-9.

“In the first match, I kept getting out of position. That’s how he was able to score,” Whitford said. “This time, (I stayed) in a good position, had to stay on his head, get him tired, keep working him.”

Whitford finished 37-0. Morse finished 40-2.

  • Division 1: Portage Central senior Angelo Latora capped his career with a 3-1 win over Jenison senior Trent Samuels. Latora finished the season 53-1.
  • Division 3: Richmond senior Garett Edwards handed Fremont junior Johnny Wiggers his first loss, 6-5 in overtime. Edwards finished 48-6.
  • Division 4: New Lothrop junior Clayton Simons added his second-straight MHSAA title and moved to 33-5 for the season with a 7-2 win over Reading senior Nick Rubley.


Midland Bullock Creek senior Scott Flowers admitted it would’ve been nice to face a different opponent in Saturday’s Final than Hemlock senior Justin Tomasek.

They both came from the Tri-Valley Conference Central, and the championship match was their fourth against each other this season. Flowers won this time 4-0 to even their record against each other to 2-2.

“If I don’t know (what an opponent) is going to do, I can wrestle my own style instead of changing my style to fit his style,” Flowers said. “(But) it also helped too.”

Flowers, who posted a third place in 2011, finished 51-7. Tomasek finished 45-4.

  • Division 1: Flint Carman-Ainsworth senior Jake Weissend closed out a 58-0 season with a 1-0 decision over Portage Central sophomore Dominic Latora.
  • Division 2: Allegan senior Taylor Simaz capped his career and a 57-1 season with his second MHSAA title. He beat Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern senior Gabe Stepanovich 15-5 after also claiming the 125-pound championship in 2010.
  • Division 4: Addison junior Jared Bruner edged Springport freshman Jacob Cooper 4-2 to finish 36-5.


Saturday’s Division 1 152-pound Final was one of the most anticipated of the entire Individual Wrestling Finals. And not because Brighton junior Aaron Calderon was on the card.

Detroit Catholic Central senior Alec Mooradian was seeking to become only the 16th wrestler in MHSAA history to win four individual championships. Instead, Calderon won his first – and became part of history for what he didn’t allow to happen.

Mooradian scored first before Calderon hung on and spun out of a late potential takedown to win 3-2.

“I wasn’t too worried because he had everything to lose and I had everything to gain. That kinda helped take all the pressure off,” Calderon said. “I just thought, he was just another kid my age. I can be just as strong. I can be just as fast. I can be just as good.”

Calderon finished this season 56-2. Mooradian ended 44-3.

  • Division 2: Lowell senior Andrew Morse won his second MHSAA championship and closed out a 34-0 season with a 4-2 win over St. Johns senior Travis Curley.
  • Division 3: Lakeview senior Jordan Betham improved to 56-2 this season with a 14-6 win over Dundee junior Todd Olson.
  • Division 4: Hudson senior Joel Varney finished his high school career with his second straight MHSAA title thanks to a pin in 2:20 of Sand Creek junior Nick Garza. Varney finished 47-2.


The only disappointment on Hudson senior Devan Marry’s MHSAA championship resume came last season, when he lost in the 160-pound Final after previously winning titles at 152 and 135.

On Saturday, he made sure to pick that one up too.

Marry also has been a big part of four MHSAA team championships. So make that seven total for the future Eastern Michigan wrestler, who claimed his last with a 10-4 decision over Sand Creek senior Sam Mehan – who beat Marry 7-5 in last season’s 160 Final.

“It’s that much more special to go out on a last hurrah,” Marry said. “I’m just happy to have such good classmates and all the classes below me coming together. Not only did it show last weekend, but it showed here how hard we work and how it finally pays off at the end.”

Marry finished 47-2. Mehan finished 52-2.

  • Division 1: Davison sophomore Jordan Cooks defeated Grand Blanc senior Christian O’Guinn to finish the winter 34-2.
  • Division 2: St. Johns senior Jordan Wohlfert closed his career with a second straight MHSAA title, this time thanks to a 16-5 win over Allegan senior Andrew Kelley. Wohlfert finished 47-1.
  • Division 3: Napoleon senior Lelund Weatherspoon capped his senior season with his second straight MHSAA title, defeating Grant senior Ryan Connell to improve to 49-1. Weatherspoon won 152 in Division 4 last season.


Click for a separate piece on St. Johns’ Taylor Massa and his perfect high school career.

  • Division 1: Detroit Catholic Central sophomore Drew Garcia outlasted Utica Eisenhower junior Charlie Myers in a 5-2 decision that pushed Garcia’s final record to 43-3.
  • Division 3: Comstock Park senior Dillon Francisco improved to 52-1 in handing a major decision to Houghton Lake junior Dalton Bailey, 11-0.
  • Division 4: St. Ignace junior Galloway Thurston won an 8-2 decision over Shelby senior Mason Courtright to finish this season 52-2.

PHOTO of Greenville's Jordan Thomas. See more photos from the Finals and all season at High 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.)