Joy Outweighs Pain for Erie-Mason's Griffin

March 3, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

AUBURN HILLS – At least for a couple of minutes Saturday evening, Logan Griffin’s left shoulder stopped hurting. Or, hopefully, hurt a little less.

He had separated it midway through this season, and didn’t return to the mat until the District tournament three weeks ago.

But amid sizable pain at the end, Griffin beat a two-time MHSAA champion Saturday at The Palace of Auburn Hills to win his first title

The Erie-Mason sophomore edged Carson City-Crystal senior Kenneth Dittenber 5-4 in overtime in the last match at 112 pounds. Dittenber had won the previous two Division 4 championships at 103, while Griffin was runner-up at 112 last season.

“It was my toughest match all season. … I didn’t think I’d make it this far,” Griffin said. "It was killing me. I didn’t think I was going to be able to make it through (OT).”

Griffin, who ended the season 27-0, had worn a shoulder brace throughout the weekend but decided it was best to shed it for the championship match.

He had never wrestled Dittenber, but certainly knew of him. “I just knew I had to be aggressive and keep attacking,” Griffin said.

Dittenber finished 53-5 this season. Click for full results and read below for recaps of every championship match and comments from all the winners.


Champion: Ryan Prescott, Whittemore-Prescott, Soph. (48-1)
Decision, 9-5, over Zach Rieger, Hudson, Sr. (53-2)

Prescott got a taste of an MHSAA championship match as a freshman. He fell one point shy of opening his high school career with a title, losing 4-3 in the Final.

He’s considered that every day since, and adopted a more aggressive style to help him achieve his goal this time.

“Every single day, I think about being a state champion. I think about the pleasure. I think about the exposure. I think about the greatness,” Prescott said.

“I’m a state champ. All the pressure’s off. Let’s go get two more.”


Champion: Roddy Hamdan, Hudson, Soph. (48-5)
Fall, 3:06, over Arthur Payne, Montrose, Soph. (46-6)

Hamdan got to play a significant part last weekend in Hudson becoming just the second school to win five straight MHSAA team championships.

This weekend, he earned the opportunity to finish with one more win. But it took a 10-8 triple-overtime victory over Dansville’s Clay Ragon two rounds earlier to keep that aspiration alive.

“After ... I knew I had to work harder. I was just saying I’ve got to get better and better as I go,” Hamdan said. “I’m very excited. I work hard every day, train hard. I just dream about this every day. It’s been in my mind since day one.”


Champion: Zack Yates, Hesperia, Jr. (53-1)
Fall, 0:59, over Isaac Dusseau, Hudson, Jr. (49-7)

A year ago, Yates also faced a Hudson wrestler in a championship match. Cole Weaver beat Yates 6-0 to win the title at 112 pounds.

But Yates learned plenty to bring back to Auburn Hills this weekend.

“I just needed to keep on my attacks,” he said. “I can’t take a break. I can’t stop wrestling the whole match.”

And it no doubt helped that he had some championship support in his corner – older brother Dan Yates, who won three titles from 2007-09.

“I love having him here. I’m glad he was here, cheering me on,” Zack Yates said.


Champion: Zach Mack, Mio, Sr. (45-1)
Fall, 3:42, Matthew Elliott, Fife Lake Forest Area, Jr. (47-6)

Mack had faced Elliott twice this season – pinning him during the final minute in their first match and then beating him 7-0 in the District final.

But that didn’t mean Mack was overly confident Saturday – just pleased when it was done and that he had a title on his last day as a high school wrestler.

There’s good and bad about seeing a familiar opponent in the final match of the season.

“There’s a lot of pressure on you. You’ve beaten him before, but you don’t know if you’re going to win,” Mack said. “(I was) a little nervous. But you can’t let that get to you.”


Champion: Cole Weaver, Hudson, Jr. (52-0)
Decision, 7-0, Richard Bentley, St. Ignace, Sr. (42-4)

It’s this simple. “I just don’t want to get beat,” Weaver said after winning his second-straight MHSAA title Saturday, in his third-straight Finals appearance.

It also finished his second-straight perfect season, making him 103-0 over the last two.

But what makes them perfect is the fact that he’s been part of three MHSAA team titles as well.

“Team is a lot better. Individual, it’s just  something that goes along with it,” Weaver said. “We’re usually just team, team, team … is what we really care about.”


Champion: J.D. Waters, Hudson, Jr. (41-5)
Decision, 2-1, over Chase Siersema, Hesperia, Jr. (57-5)

Waters and Siersema didn’t face each other during last weekend’s Team Final. 

But Waters knew what his Saturday opponent would bring, and he was ready for the attack from the moment he stepped on the mat.

Waters scored his points right before the end of the second period. And as the seconds ticked away in the third, he knew he had to do everything to withstand Siersema’s final shots – which he did to claim his first individual championship.

“I knew what he had coming,” Waters said. “So I just had to stop that, and work myself.”


Champion: Jacob Perrin, New Lothrop, Sr. (63-2)
Decision, 7-6, over Chad Decker, Grass Lake, Jr. (51-3)

Perrin joined brothers Zach and Russell this season with 200 career wins, and finished  his high school career Saturday ahead of both with 222.

But if he’d fallen in his final match? He doesn’t even want to consider that – although it came close to fruition before Perrin scored his go-ahead  points during the final seconds.

“That’s why you practice hard. To go out there and do it at the state finals,” he said. “It came down to 14 seconds left, and I was just thinking I gotta get it if I want to win it. We’ve drilled that 100 times in practice, and it worked for me.”

Perrin’s 63 wins this season tied for 20th most in the MHSAA record book. He won the 130-pound championship as a junior.


Champion: Josh Wendling, New Lothrop, Jr. (49-5)
Decision, 4-2, over Austin Hughes, Saginaw Nouvel, Jr. (46-2)

Hughes was going for the first individual championship in Nouvel history and had pinned Wendling in their only other meeting this winter.

But this time, Wendling was able to get away for the win despite the dogged pursuit of his opponent – and notch the highlight of his wrestling career.

“I placed as a freshman and sophomore, but it wasn’t like this,” Wendling said. “I’ve been wrestling a long time, but I feel like this year I just stuck it out.”


Champion: Jared Bruner, Addison, Sr. (51-3)
Decision, 9-4, over Spencer Reterstoff, Hart, Jr. (53-5)

Winning an MHSAA championship was “the best thing ever,” and Bruner did that last season at 145 pounds.

Winning two? Even better.

“I just look at this one as just another blessing. I went out and wrestled my match, and did as much as I could to win,” Bruner said. “It’s just what you have to do to be on top of the podium.”

Bruner said he's still considering either wrestling or playing football at the collegiate level.


Champion: Jacob Cooper, Springport, Soph. (46-2)
Decision, 7-5 OT, over Taylor Krupp, New Lothrop, Jr. (53-4)

Cooper finished  runner-up last season at 145, falling in a 4-2 decision.

And after making it all the way back to the championship match, he was in danger of falling in another close one to end Saturday.

But he’d thought a lot about last season’s Finals defeat, and hit another gear when he needed it most.

“I really wanted this, so I pushed it hard,” Cooper said. “I needed to redeem myself, I thought.”


Champion: Galloway Thurston, St. Ignace, Sr. (52-2)
Decision, 5-0, over Pat Brown, Sandusky, Jr. (40-4)

Wrestling in MHSAA Finals became a habit for Thurston. He was a runner-up in 2011 and won a championship a year ago.

And all season long, he looked forward to adding one more title to finish his high school career. 

For the second season in a row, he joined teammate Joe Ostman to give the Saints two MHSAA champions and the entire Upper Peninsula a dose of wrestling pride.

“I just tried to follow Joe’s footsteps. We just push each other to get better,” Galloway said.

“People were saying the U.P. is never going to have placers, never going to have champions. So it’s an honor to represent the U.P. well.”


Champion: Steven Malloy, Morley-Stanwood, Sr. (45-2)
Decision, 7-5, over James Snider, East Jackson, Sr. (36-2)

The last minute of Malloy’s high school career was certainly one of the best.

It's then that he scored the points that earned him a second-straight MHSAA title.

“I was just waiting for him to make a mistake,” Malloy said, still catching his breath. “And capitalize.”

Malloy was the 189 champion in Division 3 last season, winning by a similarly-close 7-6. But this win meant a little bit more. This one added the finishing touch to his senior year.


Champion: Joe Ostman, St. Ignace, Sr. (54-0)
Technical Fall, 17-1, over Kevin Koenig, Laingsburg, Fr. (59-4)

Ostman held up three fingers, as it often done when someone wins three MHSAA championships.

He added this to the one he claimed at 215 last season and his first at 189 in 2011.

“I won it a little earlier than I thought, and I came back and won a couple more,” Ostman said. “Being from the U.P., I think it just sets a goal for other wrestlers to reach in the future.”

Ostman will not wrestle collegiately, but instead will play football at Central Michigan next season.

“Obviously, I don’t want it to end,” he said. “But if it’s going to end, it’s a great way to end it.”

PHOTO: Erie-Mason's Logan Griffin (right) wrestles Carson City-Crystal's Kenneth Dittenber during Saturday's Division 4 Final at The Palace of Auburn Hills. (Click to see more at

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.)