Preview: Clinton, Hudson, New Lothrop Lead Way Again in D4

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

March 29, 2021

From 2014-18, Hudson and New Lothrop faced each other in five consecutive Division 4 Team Finals. Then Clinton broke into the mix in 2019, and broke through for its first championship in 2020.

Those three teams are the top three seeds again Tuesday at Wings Event Center – but five others hope to become the next to join the elite of the elite among the smallest wrestling schools.

Division 4 Quarterfinals – matchups below – begin at 10 a.m. at Wings’ Arena, with Semifinals at 3 p.m. and the championship match at 6.

Division 4 - 10 am - The Arena
#1 Clinton vs. #8 Ravenna - Mat 4
#4 Whittemore-Prescott vs. #5 Leslie - Mat 2
#3 New Lothrop vs. #6 Bark River-Harris - Mat 3
#2 Hudson vs. #7 Schoolcraft - Mat 1

Spectator limits remain in effect, but all matches will be broadcast live and viewable with subscription on Below is a look at all eight teams competing in Division 4, listed by seed.

Record/rank: 19-1, No. 1
League finish: Second in Lenawee County Athletic Association
Co-Coaches: Jeff Rolland, eighth season (214-49); Casey Randolph, second season (83-11)
Championship history: Division 4 champion 2020, runner-up 2019.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Connor Younts (21-2) fr., 112 Connor Busz (20-4) soph., 112 Coy Perry (24-1) fr., 119 Zak Shadley (22-4) soph., 125 Nik Shadley (24-1), fr. 130 Ethan Younts (20-4) soph., 135 Landis Gillman (22-4) sr., 140 George Ames (24-0) jr., 145 Kent McCombs (23-2) jr., 152 AJ Baxter (22-2) sr., 160 Spencer Konz (21-3) sr., 171 Brayden Randolph (24-1) sr., 189 Logan Badge (25-1) jr., 285  Ryan Phillips (17-4) sr. 
Outlook: Clinton’s projected starting lineup for Tuesday includes nine wrestlers who were in the lineup that defeated Hudson in last season’s championship match – and still Tuesday’s lineup includes only four seniors. Badge is a two-time Individual Finals champion, including at 189 a year ago, while McCombs (145) and Brayden Randolph (171) both were runners-up individually last season. Also among returning Finals placers are Busz (third at 103), junior Chase Packard (eighth at 112), Ames (third at 135) and Konz (third at 160). The lone team loss this season came to Division 3 top-seeded Dundee, and Clinton defeated Hudson 41-19 at the start of this month.

Record/rank: 20-1, No. 2
League finish: Third in Lenawee County Athletic Association
Coach: Scott Marry, 33rd season (842-193)
Championship history: Eight MHSAA championships (most recent 2019), four runner-up finishes. 
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Cole Marry (20-1) fr., 119 Payton Rogers (21-2) jr., 125 Austin Marry (19-7) fr., 125 Tristan Bolenbaugh (18-2) jr., 130 Bronson Marry (21-0) jr., 130 Jackson Miller (18-2) jr., 140 Aden Barrett (19-3) soph., 140 Tyler Bolenbaugh (22-3) sr., 145 Caden Natale (22-1) sr., 160 Dylan Smith (23-1) sr., 171 Logan Sallows (17-7) soph., 215 Cameron Underwood (25-2) jr.
Outlook: Hudson is expected to continue on its current run of 12 straight championship match appearances after finishing runner-up a year ago – which came after three straight Division 4 titles won from 2017-19. As noted above, the lone loss this winter came to Clinton, last season’s championship match opponent. Bronson Marry (112) and Natale (130) were champions last season after both also finished Individual Finals runners-up in 2019. Smith finished third at 152 last season. The Tigers defeated No. 10 Hanover-Horton and No. 4 Bronson at their Regional.

Record/rank: 19-1, No. 3
League finish: No league title awarded this season.
Coach: Jeff Campbell, 20th season (501-94)
Championship history: 15 MHSAA championships (most recent 2016), six runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Daven Lockwood (22-3) soph., 125 Caleb Sharp (23-2) soph., 130 Parker Noonan (16-8) soph., 140 Andrew Krupp (19-2) sr., 145 Jackson Knieper (19-5) sr., 152 Bryce Cheney (20-0) sr., 160 Harry Helmick (19-7) sr., 171 Brady Gross (15-1) soph., 189 Kody Krupp (22-3) sr., 215 Camden Orr (21-1) sr., 215 Grayson Orr (9-4) soph., 285 Isiah Pasik (21-0) jr.
Outlook: New Lothrop just missed getting back to the championship match last season, falling by six points to Clinton in a Semifinal. The Hornets will look to take that next step again and get back to the Final for the first time since 2018 with eight starters back from the 2020 run. Camden Orr is the returning champion at 215 pounds, while Andrew Krupp (125) and Cheney (152) were individual runners-up at their weights last winter. Pasik (third at 285) and Lockwood (fifth at 103) also are returning Finals placers.  

Record/rank: 25-0, unranked
League finish: First in North Star League
Coach: Russ Wilson, seventh season (119-65)
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2002).
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Adrien Fragoso (16-13) jr., 125 Devan Nader (19-1) sr., 130 Caiden Balliet (20-6) jr., 152 Kyle Fenner (27-2) sr., 160 Dakota Gagnon (26-1) sr., 171 James Morrison (12-11) jr., 189 Russell Wilson (26-0) sr., 215 Jesse Morrison (13-7) jr., 215 William Stothers (8-16) jr.
Outlook: Whittemore-Prescott will be returning to the Quarterfinals for the first time since 2006, thanks in part to a 36-31 Regional win over No. 5 LeRoy Pine River. Gagnon finished fourth last season at 160 pounds and is one of six seniors bolstering the expected starting lineup.

Record/rank: 21-8, unranked
League finish: First in Greater Lansing Athletic Conference
Coach: Tucker Surbrook, fifth season (87-55)
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 130 Lucas Mooney (25-6) sr., 140 Cannon Risner (24-6) sr., 145 Gabe Weber (32-3) sr., 152 Grant Weber (31-4) sr., 215 Ben Smieska (29-4) sr.
Outlook: Leslie won its third District title in Surbrook’s five seasons leading the program and will be returning to the Finals for the first time since 1995. The Blackhawks defeated No. 8 Manchester during their Regional on the way to Kalamazoo. Weber was third in Division 4 last season at 145, Smieska was third at 215, while Nick Carey was fourth at 189 and is 25-2 and slated to wrestle that weight Tuesday.

Record/rank: 25-2, unranked
League finish: Does not compete in a conference.
Coach: Joe Racicot, fourth season (69-37)
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Avry Corrigan (25-5) jr., 119 Daniel Dani (16-11) sr., 125 Josh Riley (16-9) soph., 135 Dillon Raab (30-0) soph., 160 Drew Allgeyer (29-2) soph., 160 Tyler Racicot (26-5) sr., 171 Wyatt Raab (30-0) jr.
Outlook: The Broncos have enjoyed major achievements the last two seasons, first winning the first District title in the program’s 10-year history last winter and now reaching the Quarterfinals for the first time. Allegeyer finished seventh at 145 pounds last season and could be part of more big things to come – Bark River-Harris has only four seniors in its expected lineup for Tuesday.

Record/rank: 22-6, No. 7
League finish: First in Southwestern Athletic Conference
Coach: Rob Ling, 16th season (360-168)
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Carsten Svoboda (21-9) fr., 119 Lane DeLoof (20-8) jr., 135 Gary Cramer (23-2) sr., 189 Tagg Gott (19-3) soph., 215 Jimmy Downs (13-2) sr.
Outlook: Schoolcraft edged Lawton 36-31 in their Regional to get to the Quarterfinals for the second time in three seasons and after being eliminated by Lawton a year ago. Senior Hunter Martens (119, 13-3) finished fifth at 125 pounds last season.

Record/rank: 12-12, unranked
League finish: Third in West Michigan Conference
Coach: Cody Carpenter, second season (19-28)
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Nick Schofield (18-9) sr., 125 Kevin Spoelman (18-6) sr., 135 Austin Brown (13-3) sr., 145 Joshua Kooiman (17-13) sr.
Outlook: Ravenna will be making its first appearance in the Quarterfinals, but Spoelman brings Individual Finals experience after finishing sixth at 119 a year ago. A starting lineup made up of half seniors helped push the Bulldogs to their historic accomplishment.  

PHOTO: Two-time individual champion Logan Badge will try to help Clinton deliver a second-straight Division 2 team championship Tuesday. (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.)