Performance: Hudson's Jordan Hamdan

March 8, 2019

Jordan Hamdan
Hudson wrestling – Senior

Hamdan became the 26th wrestler to win four MHSAA Individual Finals championships when he pinned New Lothrop’s Logan Zell in 55 seconds Saturday in the Division 4 title match at 135 pounds, earning the Michigan Army National Guard “Performance of the Week.” Hamdan walked off the mat at Ford Field with a record of 48-0 this season and 208-8 for his career, and with titles as well at 112, 119 and 130 pounds.  

Hamdan entered this season as one of three three-time champs in Hudson history. He had two pins and two technical falls during his final high school tournament, earning his fourth championship not long after Detroit Catholic Central’s Kevon Davenport became the 25th four-time champ earlier Saturday. Like Davenport, Hamdan also helped his team reach the highest echelon this winter as Hudson repeated as the Division 4 team champion two weeks ago.

A pair of widely-respected mentors helped Hamdan reach this point; Hudson coach Scott Marry is the second-winningest coach in MHSAA wrestling history with 792 wins over 30 seasons, and Hamdan’s club coach Nick Simmons became the ninth four-time MHSAA champion while wrestling for Williamston from 1998-2001. Hamdan – who also played football through his junior season – will continue his wrestling career at Michigan State University. He carries a 3.5 GPA and is continuing to consider what he will major in at MSU.

Coach Scott Marry said: “That kid has done a lot for the sport and a lot for Hudson wrestling. He is almost the perfect child; he doesn't talk back to Mom and Dad, doesn't talk back to his teachers and doesn't talk back to the coaches. You say do it, and he does it. He is a really good person beyond wrestling. … He now leaves Hudson and stands alone because now all the youth wrestlers will look at him and want to be him, and he is a really good example. He is a 3.5 student in the classroom, he has won national championships, has won four state titles and now will be going on to wrestle at a Division I school at Michigan State. That is the poster child that you want for your program.”

Performance Point: “I think it just shows the workouts I’ve been through and the work that I’ve put in has paid off,” Hamdan said of his four-championship legacy. “I think that’s the big thing. The more work I put in, the more of these achievements that I’ll be able to achieve. I can’t wrap my mind around it yet. It’s an honor. All these kids and everybody grows up looking up to these guys. Now to be one of those, it’s wild.”

Nick knows: “I train with him every summer. We work a lot on catching up things that we already know. He’s been on that level, even above college. The toughness, that comes with (training with him) a lot. It’s just tweaking all of these things, finding new ways to do certain moves that I already know that really will help me in a match when I’m not even thinking about it. … He came up and hugged me after the (championship) match and congratulated me. I think the coolest thing, when I was coming off the mat, he told me ‘Welcome to the club.’ I thought that was pretty sweet.”

For Hudson: “Growing up, I started in that program when I was 3. It’s just amazing because I’ve seen all these greats come through and just fall short. All sorts of three-timers, and everybody’s fallen short of the goal. Just to be the guy … when I won it, the guys I looked up to, some of them texted me, ‘Way to break the curse,’ because we considered it a curse because there were all these three-timers. It’s good that I can do it not just for me, but for the program.”

Winning attitude: “In the (wrestling) room and even out of the room, we talk to each other and always stay positive about things that are going on around us. And (we’re) always keeping a good mindset about things, even when they aren’t going your way. I think (Coach Marry) helped me with that a lot, and it helps me in a match because when something’s not going my way I can focus on the next position, try to win the next position, keep a cool, calm and collected head, and that helps a lot. With the mindset, that brought me to the next level. It just helped me so much. Even when I’m in a bad position, I feel like I’m in a good position now because I’m confident in there, I’m positive in there. Because even if I don’t win that position, I’ve still got another one and I know that, and it helps me a lot.”

Team title means more: “With all the kids you train with, and everybody has the same goal. You’re fighting it for each other and not just yourself. I think that’s important to me. … I want to be an NCAA (individual) champ, obviously. But the main thing I want to do (at MSU), I want to help with the team aspect. I want to get our team to be as close as we can. Because from what I’ve experienced at Hudson, the closer you are as a team, the better you perform. That’s Hudson – that’s how it is here. Everybody is trying to support each other and trying to get better as a unit, rather than as an individual. At Hudson, you’re just growing up with that mentality; you’re doing it for someone else, not just yourself. That’s a big part of this community.”

- Geoff Kimmerly & Jeff Chaney, Second Half

Every week during the 2018-19 school year, Second Half and the Michigan Army National Guard recognizes a “Performance of the Week" from among the MHSAA's 750 member high schools.

The Michigan Army National Guard provides trained and ready forces in support of the National Military Strategy, and responds as needed to state, local, and regional emergencies to ensure peace, order, and public safety. The Guard adds value to our communities through continuous interaction. National Guard soldiers are part of the local community. Guardsmen typically train one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer. This training maintains readiness when needed, be it either to defend our nation's freedom or protect lives and property of Michigan citizens during a local natural disaster. 

Past 2018-19 honorees

February 28: Kevon Davenport, Detroit Catholic Central wrestling - Read
February 21:
Reagan Olli, Gaylord skiing - Read 
February 14:
Jake Stevenson, Traverse City Bay Reps hockey - Read
February 7: Molly Davis, Midland Dow basketball - Read
January 31:
Chris DeRocher, Alpena basketball - Read
January 24:
Imari Blond, Flint Kearsley bowling - Read
January 17: William Dunn, Quincy basketball - Read
November 29:
Dequan Finn, Detroit Martin Luther King football - Read
November 22: Paige Briggs, Lake Orion volleyball - Read
November 15:
Hunter Nowak, Morrice football - Read
November 8:
Jon Dougherty, Detroit Country Day soccer - Read
November 1:
Jordan Stump, Camden-Frontier volleyball - Read
October 25:
Danielle Staskowski, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep golf - Read
October 18:
Adam Bruce, Gladstone cross country - Read
October 11: Ericka VanderLende, Rockford cross country - Read
October 4:
Kobe Clark, Schoolcraft football - Read
September 27: Jonathan Kliewer, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern soccer - Read
September 20: Kiera Lasky, Bronson volleyball - Read
September 13: Judy Rector, Hanover-Horton cross country - Read

PHOTOS: (Top) Hudson's Jordan Hamdan has his armed raised in victory Saturday afternoon at Ford Field. (Middle) Hamdan works toward a pin in the Division 4 135-pound championship match. (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.)