Red Arrows Find Target Again with Record Win

March 14, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Lowell wrestling has had more to celebrate than most teams over the last six winters.

But something a little extra has accompanied the buzz after the Red Arrows won their record sixth-straight MHSAA Finals team championship Feb. 23 at Wings Events Center.

The Division 2 back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back champion edged Goodrich 29-23 to surpass Davison 2002-06 and Hudson 2009-13 for the longest championship streak since the team match format was added to the Finals lineup in 1988.

People ask for the secret. Lowell coach R.J. Boudro isn’t sure where to start.

“It’s not one thing; it’s so many things,” Boudro said. “It’s hard work across all levels – coaching staff, obviously the wrestlers, and parents and community and administration, and our youth wrestling program is extremely strong.

“When it’s all said and done, the Lowell wrestling program is something we’re all willing to give ourselves too. We’re all better because of the Lowell wrestling program, so it’s a win-win. Whether it’s a fundraiser, reading to young kids, there are so many things people don’t see. It’s pretty cool to be a part of, and there are a lot of people willing to sacrifice to make it successful.”

Lowell is the MHSAA/Applebee’s “Team of the Month” for February. The Red Arrows finished 22-3, their only team losses this season to eventual Division 1 champion Detroit Catholic Central, Division 1 runner-up Brighton and semifinalist Davison. Lowell followed up the team title with two champions and five more placers the first weekend of March at the Individual Finals at Ford Field.

The team title streak began in 2014 under then-coach Dave Dean, when the Red Arrows ended St. Johns’ four-season hold on Division 2 with a one-point win in the Final. Boudro was an assistant to Dean and took over the program the next season.

The toughest part of continuing such a run is probably the expectation that it’s going to continue. The pressure stacks up – Boudro noticed his team wrestling a little tight at the end of this regular season. But he and his staff worked to get the Red Arrows focusing again on the postseason tournaments being the same as those the team wrestles during the regular season – which is helped because Lowell stacks its schedule with playoff-caliber competition to prepare for February and March.

The season ended with junior Austin Boone winning the individual title at 152 pounds – he’ll attempt next year to become the 27th in MHSAA history to win four championships – and senior Avry Mutchler claiming the title at 140. Senior Jeff Leach (fourth at 135), junior James Fotis (fifth at 145), sophomore Doak Dean (seventh at 145), sophomore Jacob Lee (fifth at 160), junior Tyler Delooff (fifth at 285) and freshman Ramsy Mutschler (fourth at 103) also placed among the top eight at their weights. Avry Mutschler went over 150 career wins during the season, and Leach won his 100th. Leach also clinched this season’s championship in his match against Goodrich, after doing the same against Warren Woods-Tower in the 2016 Final.

Additionally, the Red Arrows earned first-team academic all-state honors for the 13th year in a row, this time with a team GPA of 3.844.

Lowell had scheduled to celebrate Wednesday with its postseason banquet, before jumping back into planning for next season and the pursuits that will come with it.

“We don’t do the same things every year. We’re always trying to get better,” Boudro said. “We try to push the envelope so we’re not staying stagnate.”

Past Teams of the Month, 2018-19

January: Farmington United gymnastics – Read 
December: Warren Woods-Tower wrestling – Read
November: Rochester Adams girls swimming & diving – Read
October: Leland boys soccer – Read
September: Pickford football – Read
August: Northville girls golf – Read

PHOTOS: (Top) Lowell wrestlers congratulate Jeff Leach after he won the last and clinching match of the Division 2 Final last month against Goodrich. (Middle) The Red Arrows’ Austin Boone wrestles Melvindale’s Devin Spears for the Division 2 title at 152 pounds. (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.)