Preview: Annual Favorites Lead Title March, But Challengers Set to Pursue

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

February 22, 2024

There’s no debating that a handful of annual powerhouses have ruled the MHSAA Team Wrestling Finals over the last decade.

But this weekend's edition at Wings Event Center in Kalamazoo is filled with intriguing possibilities for those favorites to be challenged.

Yes, Lowell has won 10 straight championships in Division 2, Dundee has won six straight in Division 3, Hudson is seeking a three-peat in Division 4, and a repeat for Detroit Catholic Central in Division 1 would give the Shamrocks 17 team championships overall.

But consider:

In Division 1, DCC could face a 2023 Finals rematch with undefeated Hartland. In Division 2, Lowell is joined by three undefeated contenders plus a second-seeded Freeland team seeking its first title. Dundee also may find itself in a 2023 Finals rematch, with Whitehall. And Hudson certainly has an eye on St. Louis, which is seeded second in Division 4 for the second-straight season and seeking its first title as well.

And that’s just glancing at a handful of the 28 teams total seeking to dethrone last year’s four title winners.

Competition begins Friday at noon with the first of four sets of Quarterfinals. Semifinals are Saturday morning and early afternoon, with championship matches on four adjacent mats at 3:45 p.m. Brackets for all four divisions, links to buy tickets and watch online can be found here. Click here to check out the program, and see below for glances at all 32 hopefuls, listed by division and seed. (Weight classes beginning with “G” are from the girls division of the Individual Wrestling Finals.)

Division 1

 24-2, No. 1
League finish: First in Catholic High School League Central
Coach: Mitch Hancock, 17th season (380-58)
Championship history: Sixteen MHSAA championships (most recent 2023), four runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 106 Ryan Totten (42-9) fr., 113 Gregory Jamison (36-6) fr., 113 Wyatt Lees (43-5) soph., 120 Mack Moscovic (32-8) fr., 120 Nathan Walkowiak (27-11) jr., 126 Simon Dominguez (30-11) sr., 126 Grayson Fuchs (36-5) fr., 132 Michael Cannon (23-16) sr., 150 Mason Stewart (44-3) sr., 157 Darius Marines (43-0) sr., 175 Andrew White (30-13) jr., 190 Lee Krueger (37-5) jr., 215 Connor Bercume (37-3) jr., 285 Ben Eziuka (30-11) soph.
Outlook: DCC turned its seventh-straight championship match appearance last year into its first Division 1 championship since 2020, and the Shamrocks are the only team at this Finals sending a full 14 qualifiers to Ford Field next weekend. Eight of those qualifiers are repeat contenders from a year ago. Marines will be wrestling for his fourth individual championship, while Bercume and Lees also were Finals champions in 2023, Stewart was a runner-up and Walkowiak and Krueger were placers.

Record/rank: 31-0, No. 2
League finish: First in Kensington Lakes Activities Association West
Coach: Kyle Summerfield, third season (87-4)
Championship history: Division 1 champion 2016, six runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 113 Brayden Tougas (39-5) fr., 120 Ashton Jewell (36-8) fr., 126 Bohdan Abbey (51-0) soph., 126 Ty Biggert (40-9) jr., 132 Dallas Korponic (46-5) soph., 138 Easton Culver (23-1) jr., 150 Vinnie Abbey (45-3) sr., 150 Colin Jewell (40-6) sr., 157 Joseph Cappellano (36-8) soph., 165 James Butzier (41-8) sr., 175 Will Darish (31-13) sr., 215 Jacob Pretzel (41-4) sr.
Outlook: The seasoned Eagles start seven seniors and three juniors and emerged from a league that also included No. 3 seed Brighton as they attempt to take the final step after finishing runner-up to DCC a year ago. Hartland also defeated No. 7 Clarkston during this tournament run. Bohdan Abbey was last season’s champion at 113 and is a combined 95-3 over his first two, while Vinnie Abbey was last year’s runner-up at 157 and Korponic and Culver also placed in 2023.

Record/rank: 26-2, No. 4
League finish: Second in Kensington Lakes Activities Association West
Coach: Shawn Scott, fourth season (82-27)
Championship history: Division 1 champion 2015, runner-up 2019 and 2018.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 106 Ethan Smith (43-7) soph., 106 Jameson Wood (25-11) fr., 113 Drake Pollins (30-10) soph., 144 Kaden Tindall (37-15) soph., 150 Xander Courneya (36-12) soph., 165 Zak Knapp (45-4) sr., 215 Sean O’Keefe (38-8) jr., G-115 Rayna Richardson (15-2) fr., G-190 Sabrina Nauss (5-0) sr.
Outlook: Brighton is back at Finals weekend for the first time since 2020, and has won District titles all four seasons under Scott – who previously assisted at Kent State. Knapp, Smith and junior Easton Hardesty (132, 28-2) were Finals placers last season, and Nauss is a two-time individual champion. Smith is one of five sophomore starters, and four of those five will wrestle at Ford Field next weekend.

Record/rank: 29-3, No. 5
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Red
Coach: Brian Richardson, 15th season (338-127)
Championship history: Two MHSAA championships (most recent 2009), three runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 106 Layne Martin (41-6) fr., 132 Liam Fitzpatrick (37-11) soph., 144 James Diel (39-9) sr., 175 Louis Bosscher (34-9) sr., 175 Logan Hammingh (33-12) soph., 285 Ryan Ahern (44-0) sr., G-145 Hailee Budrick (8-0) sr.  
Outlook: The Rams reached the Semifinals as the third seed last season, and they’re returning to championship weekend for the fifth time over the last six years. The lineup is anchored by five seniors and five juniors, and Ahern was the individual runner-up at 190 last season while junior Braylenn Aulbach (138, 38-10) and Budrick also were placers.

Record/rank: 24-4, No. 3
League finish: First in Southeastern Conference
Coach: Kevin Vogel, 13th season (310-69)
Championship history: Eleven MHSAA championships (most recent 2001), seven runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 106 Cody Duvendack (41-6) fr., 113 Tristan King (36-13) soph., 138 Lucas Gerber (34-17) jr., 144 Noah Benore (42-9) jr., 165 Zach Miracle (43-7) soph., 215 Conner Green (32-4) sr., 285 Chase Norbury (45-3) jr.
Outlook: Bedford moved up two seeds from last season in reaching the Finals for the third straight, and defeated No. 10 Westland John Glenn on the way to Kalamazoo. While the team has three seniors and five juniors among starters, it also starts five sophomores with five more serving as key reserves. King, Benore and Green all are returning individual qualifiers.

Record/rank: 19-5, No. 6
League finish: First in Saginaw Valley League
Coach: Drew Dixon, first season (19-5)
Championship history: Ten MHSAA championships (most recent 2022), six runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 106 Steve Vaughn (29-8) fr., 126 Calvin Martz (31-7) soph., 132 Dominic Perez (10-1) jr., 138 Julius Pacheco (17-7) fr., 144 Justin Gates (35-2) sr., 144 Tanner McDunnah (29-6) jr., 150 Kyle Jelinek (23-7) jr., 157 Bryan Shanks (29-19) sr., 165 Brayden Bundy (18-11) soph., 190 Charlie Armstead (28-13) sr., 215 Brandon Glisson (30-16) soph., 285 Alexander Holmes (34-11) sr.
Outlook: Davison is continuing its run of Finals appearances under first-year coach Dixon, who previously served as an assistant at St. Clair County Community College and inherited a program only a year removed from winning back-to-back Division 1 titles. Gates is the reigning champion at 138 and will wrestle for his third Finals individual title next weekend, while Jelinek is a two-time returning placer. Davison defeated No. 8 Oxford during its District run.

Record/rank: 21-2, No. 9
League finish: First in Macomb Area Conference Red
Coach: Ed Skowneski, 12th season (315-66)
Championship history: Has never advanced to an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 106 Ethan Smith (43-7) soph., 113 Carl Nihranz (42-2) soph., 132 Jake Gawlowski (36-7) sr., 138 Ozia Wilson (44-2) jr., 150 Dominic de Mesa (37-8) sr., 190 Logan Criteser (37-4) jr., 215 Brady Hamby (35-6) jr., 285 Brad Haver (40-5) sr.
Outlook: After a season away, Dakota is back at Finals weekend for the 10th time under Skowneski and with a starting lineup that will graduate only four this spring. Those four seniors all have at least 35 wins, Connor Palazzolo (144, 35-7) joining the three noted above. He’s also one of four returning Finals placers, joined by Nihranz, Gawlowski and Criteser, and Wilson was the runner-up at 103 as a freshman.

Record/rank: 14-4, unranked
League finish: First in Macomb Area Conference White
Coach: Paul Salyers, ninth season (129-52)
Championship history: Has never advanced to an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 113 Cameron Leone (31-7) jr., 132 Kiet Tran (32-11) sr., 138 Adil Salam (27-13) sr., 144 John Kaminski (36-11) soph., 150 Jude Kaptur (33-17) sr., 165 Paul Khamo (39-6) sr., G-125 Megan Melnyk (20-8) jr., G-125 Makayla Perdue-Daniels (18-9) jr.
Outlook: Mott has won league and District titles all but two seasons under Salyers, a past individual runner-up at Sandusky, and now he’ll take the Marauders to the Team Finals for the first time. He’ll bring a lineup starting eight seniors of 14 total on the team. Perdue-Daniels placed sixth at girls 125 last season.  

Division 2

Record/rank: 19-3, No. 1
League finish: First in O-K White
Coach: R.J. Boudro, 10th season (190-30)
Championship history: Thirteen MHSAA championships (most recent 2023), six runner-up finishes. 
Individual Finals qualifiers: 
106 Cole Cichocki (20-12) fr., 106 Jarrett Smith (32-1) soph., 113 Braddock King (21-14) jr., 120 Carter Cichocki (23-9) fr., 132 Jackson Blum (28-1) jr., 132 Logan Dawson (27-10) soph., 138 Trevor Boone (25-11) soph., 144 Owen Segorski (27-6) jr., 150 Tacho Gonzales (21-14) sr., 157 Jared Boone (27-8) sr., 190 Casey Engle (26-9) jr.
Outlook: Lowell’s record championship streak stands at 10. The Red Arrows defeated No. 7 Hamilton during this latest tournament run and have an experienced group despite only four seniors in the anticipated starting lineup. Blum was last season’s individual champion at 120, while Segorski was runner-up at 138, Carter Cichocki was runner-up at 113, and Dawson and Smith also placed.

Record/rank: 23-2, No. 2
League finish: Second in Tri-Valley Conference Red
Coach: Scott VanLuven, fourth season (89-20)
Championship history: Has never advanced to an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 106 Easton Rosebush (26-14) soph., 126 Malachi Hill (38-5) jr., 144 Ty Fournier (32-8) sr., 150 Fabian Facundo (40-0) jr., 157 Noah Graham (42-2) sr., 165 Gibson Shepard (37-5) sr., 175 Elijah Murphy (29-8) sr., G-140 Violet Cabrera (10-4) jr.
Outlook: Freeland has won four Districts under VanLuven and is making its second trip to the Finals under his leadership, thanks in part to a 31-27 win over No. 3 Bay City John Glenn in the District Final. The Falcons also defeated frequent contender Gaylord to clinch the Regional. Seven seniors lead this group, and Facundo was a Division 3 individual runner-up for Alma as a freshman.

Record/rank: 29-0, No. 5
League finish: First in Wolverine Conference
Coach: Jeff Smith, eighth season (116-75)
Championship history: Has never advanced to an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 
113 Kale Parr (41-13) fr., 126 Ethan Moreland (48-4) fr., 132 Ayden Keller (49-4) jr., 150 Evan Harper (36-13) fr., 150 Landon Moreland (46-6) jr., 157 Braylon Faile (38-12) fr., 165 Louis Smith (48-1) soph., 175 Jeremiah Detwiler (44-7) sr., 190 Jaxon Smith (49-3) soph.
Outlook: Three Rivers will be making its second Finals appearance, and first since 2001, and the Wildcats are a combined 54-2 over the last two seasons. They made it here in part thanks to a Regional Semifinal win over No. 9 Stevensville Lakeshore. Detwiler was a Finals placer last season, and he’s the lone senior starter in a lineup that includes 10 underclassmen.

Record/rank: 23-0, No. 4
League finish: First in Capital Area Activities Conference Red
Coach: Brian Martel, 21st season (600-118)
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2006), one runner-up finish.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 
120 Darius Ambs (32-6) soph., 126 Matt Ausel (13-3) jr., 144 Tex Smith (31-3) sr., 150 Jadyn Grimes (31-7) sr., 157 Gavin Vankirk (31-5) jr., 165 AJ Martel (16-1) sr., 175 Derek Badgley (35-2) sr., 215 Grant Gilchrist (27-9) sr.
Outlook: Brian Martel was Mason’s coach for its 2004 runner-up finish and Division 2 titles the following two seasons, and he has the Bulldogs on another nice run with the last five seasons including five league, four District and three Regional titles. Grimes and Badgley were Finals placers last season and are among six senior starters. AJ Martel finished his football career in the fall as the school’s all-time leading rusher, and he recently was named an MHSAA/Farm Bureau Insurance Scholar-Athlete Award winner.  

Record/rank: 28-0, No. 6
League finish: First in Huron League
Coach: Ryan Nadeau, second season (46-2)
Championship history: Has never advanced to an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 
113 Tyler Vanderpool (38-15) jr., 126 Ty Rose (46-8) sr., 132 Issac Masserant (41-8) sr., Ryder Mulherin (48-12) jr., 144 Carter Simota (53-3) sr., 150 Vladimir Uhlik (31-11) sr., 157 Martre Pearson (46-8) sr., 215 Anthony Cousino (48-5) sr., G-120 Morgan Simota (7-2) soph.
Outlook: Jefferson has moved up two seeds from last season’s Finals appearance as the Bears return for the fourth-straight year. Few have as experienced a lineup, as last year’s junior-heavy group has turned into 10 senior starters with three more juniors and a sophomore filling things out. Six of this season’s individual qualifiers also reached Ford Field in 2023.  

Record/rank: 35-5, No. 8
League finish: Second in O-K White
Coach: Brett Peterman, third season (100-17)
Championship history: Division 2 champion 2008, runner-up 2011.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 120 Kamden Witte (39-7) jr., 144 Alex Buskirk (41-3) soph., 150 Liam Dailey (37-5) sr., 165 Naythan Dobson (35-4) sr., 165 Casey Eberspeaker (39-8) sr., 190 Nick Earles (31-10) sr., 215 Case Johnson (47-2) jr.
Outlook: Peterman has led Greenville to at least 31 wins all three of his seasons guiding the program, and now to its first Finals weekend since 2013. Ten starters have at least 30 wins, including all seven Individual Finals qualifiers. Dobson, Buskirk, Dailey and Johnson all were individual placers last season.

Record/rank: 41-5, unranked
League finish: Tied for first in Flint Metro League
Coach: Vance Corcoran, 14th season (395-125)
Championship history: Division 3 runner-up 2011.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 
106 Marvin Jorge (49-6) sr., 120 Clay Cook (55-1) sr., 126 Robby Moore (52-7) sr., 138 Drew Corcoran (54-6) sr., 150 Noah Hall (55-3) sr., 190 Josh Ezell (45-13) jr.
Outlook: This is Lake Fenton’s fifth trip to Finals weekend under Corcoran, and first since 2017. The other four came in Division 3, but the Blue Devils have begun to make their move in Division 2 as well and bring a lineup to Kalamazoo with nine senior starters including five of the individual qualifiers noted above. Hall and Cook were Finals placers last season.

Record/rank: 17-7, unranked
League finish: Second in Catholic High School League Central
Coach: Scott Kolesky, fifth season (90-39)
Championship history: Has never advanced to an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 113 Richard Davis (44-2) soph., 126 Ricardo Saenz (45-2) jr., 144 Deacon MacNeill (41-3) soph., Alex Rabban (30-18) jr., Caleb Steele (44-7) soph.
Outlook: Brother Rice has strung together three straight Finals appearances and has plenty to look forward to with only two senior starters but six sophomores and two freshmen in the lineup. Davis, Saenz and MacNeill all placed at last season’s Individual Finals, Saenz for the second straight.

Greenville, right, faces off against Mount Pleasant.

Division 3

Record/rank: 15-5, No. 1
League finish: First in Lenawee County Athletic Association
Co-coaches: Garrett Stevens & Nate Hall, second seasons (34-7)
Championship history: Fifteen MHSAA championships (most recent 2023), eight runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers:
 106 Mason Katschor (40-6) fr., 113 Mason Haines (25-12) soph., 113 Haydn Nutt (32-7) soph., 120 Braden Broderick (11-1) soph., 126 Wyatt Burns (20-9) fr., 126 Kade Kluce (24-9) sr., 132 Cameron Chinavare (32-2) sr., 138 Jeremy Amrhein (26-9) soph., 144 Blake Cosby (37-1) soph., 150 Donny Beaufait (34-8) soph., 150 Trey Parker (28-12) sr., 157 Kole Katschor (38-6) jr.
Outlook: As Dundee attempts to extend its Division 3 championship streak to seven, there are eight underclassmen in the lineup – which is more bad news for everyone else as the Vikings remain the team to chase. Kluce will wrestle next weekend for a fourth individual championship and is the reigning champ at 120, and Chinavare will attempt to win his third title after claiming 126 a year ago. Nutt (106) and Kole Katschor (150) also were 2023 champions, while Cosby was the runner-up at 144 and Broderick, Beaufait, Parker and sophomore Rocco Redmon (175, 25-15) were placers.

Record/rank: 27-3, No. 2
League finish: First in West Michigan Conference Lakes
Coach: Justin Zeerip, sixth season (160-15)
Championship history: Division 3 runner-up 2023 and 2021, Class C runner-up 1984.
Individual Finals qualifiers:
 106 Cody Manzo (39-7) soph., 113 Kolten Weiler (33-13) soph., 120 Max Krukowski (31-12) soph., 126 Nolan Taranko (43-5) sr., 138 Ryne Christensen (40-6) sr., 144 Liam Leeke (37-11) fr., 150 Darnell Mack (47-0) sr., 157 Ryan Goodrich (42-5) jr., 175 Gavin Craner (47-0) jr., 215 Blake Morningstar (35-12) sr.; 285 Jason Smith (24-10) sr.
Outlook: Whitehall outwrestled its third seed last season to reach the championship match, and a combined 10 seniors and juniors returned to anchor all but one weight from 126 up. Mack and Goodrich were Finals placers last season when the team had five individual qualifiers – compared to 11 this trip, including all four underclassmen starters.

Record/rank: 26-5, No. 4
League finish: Third in Lenawee County Athletic Association
Coach: Casey Randolph, 11th season (292-61)
Championship history: Two MHSAA championships (most recent 2021), one runner-up finish.
Individual Finals qualifiers:
 106 Nate Arntz (31-8) sr., 126 Braylon Long (39-4) jr., 132 Connor Younts (50-2) sr., 138 Maurice Ames (42-6) sr., 150 Cliff Jones (40-8) soph., Bryce Randolph (49-2) soph., Wyatt Hicks (40-13) sr., 285 Hamza Rafferty (40-10) jr.
 This will be Clinton’s eighth-straight trip to Finals weekend, and the team enters one seed higher than a year ago. The lineup has five seniors but also seven underclassmen including five straight wrestling from 150-190. Randolph, Long, Younts and Ames were individual placers last season, and Younts was the 103-pound champion in Division 4 as a freshman.

 25-2, No. 5
League finish: Tied for first in Southwestern Athletic Conference
Coach: Dale Davidhizar III, ninth season (215-71)
Championship history: 1993 Class C-D champion, 2002 Division 3 runner-up.
Individual Finals qualifiers:
 132 Bear Geibe (42-7) soph., 132 Preston Like (35-9) jr., 138 Koltin Gross (36-6) jr., 157 Brody Jones (43-4) jr., 175 Dathan Smith (38-13) sr., 190 Gregg Reed (38-8) sr., 285 Bennett VandenBerg (48-0) sr., G-140 Shayla Nickoson (19-7) jr.
Outlook: Constantine also moved up a seed in returning to the Finals for the fourth-straight season, and a lineup that was young the last two seasons now boasts six senior and four junior starters. The Falcons also have nearly doubled last season’s five Individual Finals qualifiers with eight this time. VandenBerg was the runner-up at 215 last year, and Jones placed seventh at 144.

Record/rank: 26-6, No. 7
League finish: First in West Michigan Conference Rivers
Coach: Rocky Smith, first season (26-6)
Championship history: Has never advanced to an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers:
 113 Kole Thomas (40-7) fr., 144 JoseLuis Andaverde (42-12) sr., 157 Josue Salgado Velazquez (42-7) sr., 175 Alex Hicks (45-4) jr., 215 Ivan Lara (36-7) sr.  
Outlook: Hart has a first-year head coach for the second-straight season and continues to rise. Smith is a 1996 grad and served as an assistant for a decade, and his first Pirates team has moved up three seeds from a year ago as it makes the trip for the fifth-straight season. Velazquez and Hicks also qualified for the Individual Finals last season.

Record/rank: 21-6, No. 6
League finish: Tied for first in Blue Water Area Conference
Coach: Rob Majcher, 11th season (158-163)
Championship history: Has never advanced to an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers:
 106 Gable Majcher (38-5) fr., 113 Chase Sopha (35-12) fr., 120 Landon Sopha (45-5) jr., 126 Kersten McClelland (40-12) soph., 157 Jeremy Griffith (42-3) sr., 175 Cole McLaughlin (42-6) jr. G-100 Gianna Hoskins (18-2) fr., G-130 Madison Mason (15-8) sr., G-235 Grace Warnke (4-7) fr.
Outlook: Yale is making its second trip to Finals weekend and first since 1990 after defeating No. 9 Otisville LakeVille Memorial in the District and No. 8 Richmond and No. 3 Algonac in the Regional. It’s been arguably the most impressive run in any division to get to Kalamazoo, and Yale did it with only three seniors in the lineup but seven more junior starters also helping to anchor. Griffith and Landon Sopha both were individual placers last season.

Record/rank: 18-1, No. 10
League finish: First in Mid-Peninsula Conference
Coach: Jeff Brazeau, fifth season (79-16)
Championship history: Upper Peninsula Finals champion 1987, two UP Finals runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers:
 126 Drew Hanson (42-1) sr., 150 Austin Solis (37-2) sr., 175 Trevor Thorbahn (37-6) soph.
Outlook: Gladstone has run its Regional title streak to three and continues to stack experience with a lineup this weekend including only four senior starters and also four freshmen. Hanson and Solis were Individual Finals placers last season, Hanson finishing third at his weight for the second straight.

Record/rank: 24-6, unranked
League finish: Second in Capital Area Activities Conference White
Coach: Anthony Harmer, sixth season
Championship history: Has never advanced to an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers:
 120 Vincent Stamm (31-8) fr., 126 Kade Boucher (28-10) jr., 138 Bryson Boucher (32-12) fr., 144 Jonathan Krebs (36-2) sr., 215 Joel Simon (32-2) jr.
Outlook: Lakewood has won five league and three District titles under 2001 grad Harmer, and now will return to Finals weekend for the first time since 2017. The Vikings also start only three seniors but four juniors, including Simon who finished third at 215 last season.

Division 4

Record/rank: 24-4, No. 1
League finish: Second in Lenawee County Athletic Association
Coach: Scott Marry, 36th season (914-205)
Championship history: 10 MHSAA championships (most recent 2023), four runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers:
 106 Jaxton Kimling (19-21) fr., 113 Chase Clark (28-13) fr., 120 Colt Perry (16-7) soph., 120 Nicholas Sorrow (45-1) soph., 126 Julien Kimling (36-10) jr., 126 Owen Loop (28-19) fr., 138 Cole Marry (41-8) sr., 144 Coy Perry (42-6) sr., 150 Austin Marry (35-7) sr., 157 Jacob Pickford (30-14) jr., 175 Logan Ryan (34-9) sr., 190 Barron Mansfield (22-18) jr., G-105 Grace Miller (19-13) fr.
Outlook: The Tigers keep rolling as they pursue a third-straight title and sixth over the last eight seasons, with the forecast very similar to last year’s heading into Finals weekend. Scott Marry remains the winningest active coach and second-winningest overall, 67 dual victories behind retired record holder Bruce Bittenbender. Coy Perry and Sorrow were Individual Finals champions a year ago, and Austin Marry, Cole Marry, Julien Kimling, Colt Perry, Ryan and Pickford were placers.

Record/rank: 24-2, No. 2
League finish: First in Tri-Valley Conference Blue
Coach: Kevin Kuhn, 17th season (345-108)
Championship history: Class C-D runner-up 1995.
Individual Finals qualifiers:
 106 Owen Fogel (47-2) soph., 113 Paul Eldredge (19-8) soph., 113 Alex Rodriguez (41-2) soph., 120 Genaro Soto (30-9) jr., 126 Colin Kuhn (46-3) jr., 126 Ben March (19-13) sr., 132 Laythan Haworth (42-9) soph., 144 Martine Wiggins (43-6) jr., 157 Drew Challender (42-6) soph., 190 Udter Tweh (27-13) sr., 215 Ramon Anguiano (34-12) sr., G-100 Olesya Mullins (34-2) soph.
Outlook: St. Louis is the second seed for the second-straight season and will look to build on runs to the Semifinals the last two years. The Sharks defeated No. 10 Lakeview to advance to Kalamazoo. Rodriguez was the Individual Finals runner-up at 113 last season and Colin Kuhn and Fogel both placed at 106, while Mullins finished sixth in the girls 100 class.

Record/rank: 25-4, No. 3
League finish: Tied for first in Northwest Conference
Co-coaches: Cody Vandonkelaar, second season (50-8); Josh Lovendusky, 11th season (159-138)
Championship history: 
Has never advanced to an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers:
 113 Dayne Gillison (35-8) soph., 120 Benjamin Deridder (35-9) jr., 132 Nathan Higgins (18-8) jr., 138 Jacob Gillison (42-7) sr., 138 Joe Morse (30-14) sr., 144 Owen Cruden (40-10) sr., 150 Dalton Geetings (34-15) sr., 157 Tyrone Brouillet (37-16) sr., 157 Conner Wenkel (34-15) jr., 175 Danny Wallington (19-10) sr., 190 Michael Pfeiffer (31-9) sr., 215 Lane Sanchez (36-12) soph., 285 Ryan Kincaid (35-14) sr., G-130 Cambrie Lawrence (20-7) sr.
Outlook: After making the Finals for the first time last season, as the seventh seed and nearly upsetting the second-seeded Sharks, Benzie has moved up to the third seed this weekend with eight returning Individual Finals qualifiers as well. Gillison was seventh at 138 last season, Pfeiffer was eighth at 175 and Lawrence was seventh at girls 125.

Record/rank: 28-8, No. 4
League finish: Second in Big 8 Conference
Coach: Chad Butters, 11th season (290-74)
Championship history: Division 4 runner-up 2023, 2003 and 2002.
Individual Finals qualifiers:
 126 Owen Kimmons (38-11) jr., 150 Gabriel Erwin (38-6) soph., 157 Layne Knisely (47-6) soph., 165 Mason Lindsey (47-5) jr., 175 Carson Norton (47-6) sr.; 190 Jacob Britten (44-6) sr., G-135 Mackenna Webster (27-2) soph.
Outlook: Bronson finished above its seed last season, reaching the championship match for the first time in two decades and after entering as the third seed for the second-straight year. Just like last winter, Bronson advanced in part this time by defeating No. 5 Union City in the District Final. Norton, Britten, Knisely and Webster all are returning Individual Finals placers from last season.

Record/rank: 28-7, No. 6
League finish: First in Cascades Conference
Coach: Steve Vlcek, 34th season (729-37)
Championship history: Division 4 runner-up 2008.
Individual Finals qualifiers:
 113 Onyx Ostrom (40-9) jr., 126 Sammy Stewart (51-1) soph., 138 Nathan Meyer (40-10) jr., 144 Blake Sloan (47-5) soph., 165 Drake Neff (28-24) jr., 175 Gunner Carson (48-4) jr., 215 Nathan Fletcher (39-12) jr., 285 Dylan Gauss (34-13) jr.
Outlook: After returning to the Finals last season with a lineup filled with underclassmen, Manchester is much more experienced this trip, with several juniors setting the program up for a potentially strong 2025 run as well. Stewart won the individual championship at 113 last season, while Ostrom was eighth at 106 and Carson was eighth at 157. Vlcek is up to 10th on the all-time coaching wins list.

Record/rank: 15-2, unranked
League finish: Second in Mid-Peninsula Conference
Coach: Cory McLaren, seventh season (88-49)
Championship history: Five Upper Peninsula Finals championships, three UP Finals runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers:
 120 Alexander Wilson (34-6) sr., 126 Di’Angelo Saldana (24-16) soph., 126 Tyler Winch (39-2) sr., 138 Daniel Manier (29-4) jr., 165 Fulton Stroud (32-2) sr., 165 Bradon Walstrom (24-10) sr., G-105 Shayna Hruska (20-10) sr.
Outlook: Eight senior starters lead the Mountaineers back to Wings and a few spots higher after the team was seeded eighth a year ago. Stroud and Wilson were repeat Finals placers last season – Stroud the runner-up at 165 and Winch fourth at 126 – and Hruska was seventh at girls 105.

Record/rank: 26-5, No. 8
League finish: Tied for first in Southwestern Athletic Conference
Coach: Logan Curry, second season (55-9)
Championship history: Martin was Class D champion in 1998, with three runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers:
 106 Logan Gilbert (45-3) jr., 120 Cole Reitz (33-10) jr., 126 Jayce Ritchie (26-3) jr., 132 Haylen Buell (38-4) soph., 144 Jack Bagwell (47-10) jr., 215 Sam Bleeker (34-13) jr.
Outlook: CSM – a cooperative formed in 2015 – is making a return trip to the Finals after defeating No. 7 Decatur and No. 9 White Pigeon to win the Regional title. Gilbert was the runner-up last season at 106 after winning the 103 individual title as a freshman, and Buell also was a runner-up last winter at 132 while Ritchie placed fourth at 120.

Record/rank: 20-10, unranked
League finish: Fourth in TVC Blue
Coach: Joshua Wakefield, second season (38-26)
Championship history: Class D runner-up 1975.
Individual Finals qualifier:
 190 Ethan Wakefield (41-4) jr.
Outlook: MLS is coming off its first Regional championship since that 1975 runner-up season, giving the TVC Blue two teams in this bracket, and did so while giving up a weight. The future could be even brighter, with Ethan Wakefield just a junior and only three seniors – but six freshmen – in the starting lineup.

PHOTOS (Top) St. Louis works toward a pin during a match against Chesaning this season. (Middle) Greenville, right, faces off against Mount Pleasant. (Click for more from 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.)