Massa Finishes with Final Flourish

March 7, 2015

By Jeff Chaney
Special for Second Half

AUBURN HILLS – Logan Massa threw three fingers in the air, and then did a backflip to near perfection on the floor of The Palace of Auburn Hills.

The three fingers were a symbol of the third championship he just won at the MHSAA Individual Wrestling Finals on Saturday. 

The flip was to show the crowd just how athletic this University of Michigan-bound wrestler is, and why he is considered by many as the best wrestler in the state at any weight in any division.

Massa pinned Manuel Roldan of Melvindale in four minutes, 41 seconds in their 171-pound championship match in Division 2. That now makes seven MHSAA Finals titles in the Massa family, as older brother Taylor Massa was a four-time champion and now wrestles at Michigan. 

Logan said Taylor played a big part in his success.

“It is awesome to have a big brother like Taylor,” Massa said. “He is the best to have. He was a four-time undefeated state champ, and he knows what it’s like to be here. Whenever I was down on myself in the practice room, he would always help me get through it.”

What also helped Logan Massa get through the past three title runs was a tough loss in the Finals to Ada Forest Hills Eastern’s Tim Lambert when Massa was a freshman. 

“I came here my freshman year and fell a little short, so I had to pick it up in the practice room,” Massa said. “That helped me get three more. (Lambert) was the best wrestler you could wrestle in the state that year, and I was only a freshman, so that could only help me get better.”


Champion: Cameron Mahlich, Ionia, Soph. (39-2)
Decision, 4-3, over Trevor Giallombardo, Gaylord, Jr. (27-3)

Mahlich jumped into his coach’s arms, then sprinted to the stands after winning the 103-pound title with a tight 4-3 win.

Mahlich wanted to pay respect to his father, Greg Mahlich, who has played a big part in his career to this point. 

“He knew whatever happened, he would be happy with me because I was in a state championship match,” Mahlich said. “All throughout MYWAY (Michigan's Youth Wrestling Association), it's been a goal to see me win it here, so he was extremely happy.”

And Mahlich's growth not only happened with his wrestling, but also his stature. 

“Last year I was a small 103-pounder, and I ended up taking eighth,” Mahlich said. “Last year I Alpha (weighed in) at 96 pounds, so I was pretty small.”


Champion: Dominic LaJoie, Gaylord, Soph. (37-2)
Decision, 14-10, over Austin Franco, Stevensville-Lakeshore, Fr. (49-1)

LaJoie knew his opponent in their 112-pound final – highly-touted freshman Franco, who came into the Finals with a perfect 49-0 record. 

But LaJoie had something Franco wanted, an MHSAA title won last year at 103 pounds. And that experience helped him beat the talented freshman 14-10 in the title match at 112.

“I knew I had more experience, and he's a freshman now knowing what to expect,” Lajoie said. “I just took it to him. 

“Winning this second one was definitely harder, because there is more pressure on you. But you have to overcome that.”


Champion: Lucas Hall, Lowell, Jr. (39-1)
Major decision, 14-0, over Noah Schoenherr Bay City Western, Soph. (51-6)

Lowell junior Lucas Hall was another wrestler with a bull's eye on his back, after winning a title at 112 pounds last year.

But Hall didn't let that get in the way.

“Last year's (championship) panned out with a pin,” Hall said. “I went into this match giving him a lot of credit. I just wrestled my match. I don't try and think about (being a returning champion), I just try and keep a clear mind and wrestle. I wrestle each match as its own, and move on to the next one.”


Champion: Ian Parker, St. Johns, Jr. (39-2)
Decision, 7-1, over Jacob Busing, Byron Center, Sr. (41-5)

Parker knows how to work hard. He also knows what winning is about.

As a wrestler for St. Johns, Parker has seen many teammates win MHSAA Finals titles, and has been on teams that have won as well.

Now he has an individual championship of his own, beating Byron Center's Jacob Busing 7-1 in the 125-pound title match.

“This feels amazing, there is nothing like it,” Parker said. “It feels great because you work so hard, and when it all comes through, it feels great.

“Working with guys on my team, learning what they know and working hard with them, that helped me today. Many have experienced this, and know what to do, and that helped me.”


Champion: Zeth Dean, Lowell, Jr. (38-3)
Decision, 8-3, over Luke Raczkowski, Parma Western, Soph. (52-2)

Zeth Dean watched his cousins Gabe and Max Dean win MHSAA championships for Lowell, and now adds his own to the Dean family legacy.

“This is exciting,” Zeth Dean said. “Being at a place like Lowell, you are born and raised watching kids win state titles, and that's all you want to do. That's your only goal. That's why you go to practice when you are in second and third grade, is to win a state championship.”

Dean came close as a freshman, taking second at 112. Last year he wrestled with an injured knee and took fifth.


Champion: Jaedin Sklapsky, Eaton Rapids, Sr. (56-2)
Decision, 7-4, over Chase Veydt, Parma Western, Jr. (46-8)

Sklapsky knows how it is to be close to a title but to just miss out.

Last year he was a runner-up at the Individual Finals, and last week his Eaton Rapids teammates took second to Lowell in the Division 2 Team Final.

He finally has a championship.

“Down in Battle Creek we all went for bonus points, but at individual coach tells us to just get your hand raised,” Sklapsky said. “Do whatever you can to get your hand raised.”

Sklapsky had to be a little worried, as Veydt came into their match off of one of the biggest upsets in the tournament, beating Clio's Mason Smith, a two-time reigning champ, in the Quarterfinals on Friday.

“I had confidence I could beat everybody,” Sklapsky said.


Champion: Austin Thompson, Marysville, Sr. (50-1)
Decision, 7-5, over Austin Melton, Dewitt, Jr. (41-5)

It was a battle of returning champions at 140 pounds. Thompson was superior technically on this day, beating Melton 7-5 in a hard-fought contest.

“I knew it was going to be a battle,” Thompson said. “He is a tough wrestler. I wrestled him at the Grappler Fall Classic and beat him 10-8. So I knew it was going to be a battle, two good kids going at it. I knew what I had to do to get the job done.”


Champion: Chris Schoenherr, Bay City Western, Sr. (58-2)
Decision, 3-1, over Brandon Garcia, Riverview, Jr. (55-4).

After watching his younger brother lose in the Finals earlier Saturday evening, Chris Schoenherr went out and won the family a championship.

“We knew my brother was going in wrestling a really tough kid, and I know Noah always does his best,” Chris Schoenherr said. “But I knew I couldn't dwell too much on his match. As soon as I was done watching his match, I made sure I was ready mentally for mine.”


Champion: Connor Myers, St. Joseph, Sr. (30-0)
Decision, 7-4, over Khannor Kaercher, Warren Lincoln, Sr. (52-2)

At the start of the year, Myers wasn't in wrestling shape.

That's because he got a late start to his season after suffering a broken right hand during football in the fall.

But Myers got in wrestling shape during the dog days of the wrestling season in January and capped of his senior campaign with an undefeated record and MHSAA title.

“It was hard coming back into the season. I was out of shape,” Myers said. “I started out at 160, but those guys were just too big, then I finally made 152 and got in shape to do this.”


Champion: Logan Ritchie, New Boston Huron, Sr. (58-1)
Technical fall, 5:54, over Jaxon Smith, Byron Center, Sr. (43-6)

Ritchie made his second MHSAA title run look easy.

In his four matches at The Palace this weekend, he won two by major decision and two by technical fall.

“Last year I came into this tournament with a goal to win it, and this year I came in with a goal to dominate,” Ritchie said. “I definitely felt more pressure this year, but I knew I could do it.”


Champion: Ty Wildmo, St. Johns, Sr. (40-3)
Decision, 1-0, over Tristan Gregory, Gaylord, Sr. (38-4)

Wildmo had the clock and a bad right ankle working against him in his 189-championship match.

But he dug down deep enough to beat Gregory with an escape with one second left.

“That's exactly what I was thinking heading into this match; wrestle six minutes,” Wildmo said. “I heard my ankle pop with about 30 seconds left, but I kept wrestling and working. Three two-minute goes.”


Champion: Josh Colegrove, Lowell, Sr. (40-0)
Fall, 1:35, over Clayton Higelmire, Eaton Rapids, Jr. (45-7)

Colegrove was just as impressive winning his second title as he was winning his first last year.

And the Lowell senior also was just as humble and grateful.

“This feels great, to come back my senior year and win,” Colegrove said. “Being at Lowell has been really good to me. If I wasn't at Lowell I wouldn't have all the great workout partners I do that helped me get here. This has been a really great place for me, and I love it.”


Champion: Dallas Recker, Three Rivers, Sr. (50-2)
Fall, 2:45, over Isaiah Espinoza, Adrian, Jr. (18-7)

Last year Dallas Recker fell just minutes short of qualifying for the Finals, losing in the 'Blood Round' at Regionals.

He made the most of his first trip to The Palace this year, pinning his way to a title.

“This feels pretty good,” Recker said. “I never expected to pin my way through the tournament. But I am quite happy that I did.” 

Click for full results.

PHOTO: St. Johns’ Logan Massa works toward a pin in his Division 2 championship match at 171 pounds. (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.)