Skatzka Caps Career Among 4-Time Champs

March 8, 2015

By Connor Chaney
Special for Second Half

AUBURN HILLS – On a night when the MHSAA paid tribute to its previous 19 four-time Wrestling Finals champions with a video played on the giant Palace scoreboard, Devin Skatzka remembers a couple shown giving him inspiration to accomplish the incredible feat himself.

Skatzka became No. 21 on that storied list, as he won by technical fall over Ida’s Alex Phillips in their 160-pound match in Division 3.

Earlier Saturday evening, Davison’s Lincoln Olson was No. 20, as he won his fourth title in Division 1, at 135 pounds.

“Freshman year is when I definitely thought I could do this (become a four- time champion),” Skatzka said. “It was a dream of mine to do this after watching (Davison’s) Brent Metcalf and (Fowlerville’s) Adam Coon and all the other guys do this.”

Skatzka had special company up close to watch him do it, as Richmond assistant coach, and more importantly his dad, Dennis Skatzka was on the side of the mat guiding him with former head coach and Richmond legend George Hamblin.

 “Getting to enjoy this with my dad is pretty awesome,” Skatzka said.  


Champion: Dakota Greer, Howard City Tri-County, Jr. (40-1)
Decision, 9-6, over Emilio Campos, Corunna, Jr. (11-2)

In building a champion, it always takes help from many. From parents to coaches to teachers, the effort is several layers in the making.

But to many wrestlers, that most important component may be their teammates and workout partners.

That was the case for Greer.

“I wouldn’t be here without him (referring to Tri-County 112-pounder Nick McGhan),” Greer said, “We have been wrestling since we were 3 years old”.


Champion: Jarrett Trombley, Corunna, Fr. (47-1)
Decision, 4-3, over Tristian Serbus, Corunna, Jr. (40-8)

It is never easy when teammates wrestle each other in a match during a tournament.

But when it’s the MHSAA Final, that’s even harder on all involved.

Trombley, a freshman, beat junior teammate Serbus, by a one-point decision.

“It was a great experience wrestling a teammate in the Finals,” Trombley said. “Being a four time state champion has always been the goal of mine, and this is just the beginning of that.”


Champion: Devin Schroder, Grand Rapids Catholic Central, Jr. (47-1)
Decision, 3-0, over Aaron Kilburn, Richmond, Jr. (43-7)

Grand Rapids Catholic Central junior Devin Schroder took one step closer to history Saturday night, when he won his third straight MHSAA title.

It was the second straight year Schroder had to beat a returning champ to win; last year he beat Leslie’s Kanen Storr.

Kilburn won at 112 in 2014.

“It’s the great thing about this sport, you can be a state champion, a nation champion, but there is always going to be people coming at you with a target on your back,” Schroder said. “So all you have to do is just go knock them down. “


Champion: Reiley Brown, of Whitehall, Jr. (48-2)
Decision, 3-0, over Jerry Fenner, Birch Run, Sr. (52-4)

Brown willed himself to a championship. And sometimes that’s all it takes.

He had all the self-confidence in the world as he was battling a tough foe in Fenner, a champion two seasons ago. But positive thinking pushed Brown to the win.

“I am going to be a state champion,” Brown said. “That is what was going through my head as I secured that last-second takedown to win the match.”


Champion: Matt Santos, of Saginaw Swan Valley, Jr. (58-1)
Decision 3-1 over Kole Krauss, Grand Rapids Catholic Central, Jr. (42-4)

Santos makes no apologies for the way he wrestles.

He admittedly is a defensive wrestler, and it worked again in a tough 3-1 win for his first MHSAA title. Santos was a runner-up two seasons ago.

“Wrestle my match, the whole time every tournament, it doesn’t matter who it is or what tournament it is,” Santos said. “States, Regionals it doesn’t matter. I go out and wrestle my match. That was my gameplan going into the Finals match, and I was sticking to this plan.”


Champion: Kanen Storr, Leslie, Jr. (54-1)
Decision, 9-4, over Zach Blevins, Dundee, Jr. (54-2)

Sometimes there is nothing better than a tough loss to motivate.

It worked for Storr, who lost out on winning his second MHSAA title last year when he was defeated by Grand Rapids Catholic Central’s Schroder at 119 pounds.

Storr got that second title Saturday with an impressive 9-4 win.

“Every day when I am in the wrestling room, I remember last year’s State Finals,” Storr said. “I just remember the memory of losing, and it was so painful. But it’s what pushed me to work harder every single day.”


Champion: Nate Limmex, Grand Rapids Catholic Central, Sr. (44-0)
Decision, 9-3, over Dakota Ball, Ida, Sr. (46-5)

Limmex hasn’t lost at The Palace since his freshman year.

He was at Lowell High School at the time, and took fourth in Division 2.

A move to Grand Rapids Catholic Central and three undefeated seasons and three Finals championships later, Limmex reflected

“No, I don’t think I have a favorite (championship); they have all been all pretty good,” Limmex said. “This was a good way to end the career, on top – it’s always good to go out with a win.”


Champion: Foster Karmon, Grand Rapids Catholic Central, Jr. (30-0)
Major decision, 13-2, over Logan Merrick, Scottville Mason County Central, Jr. (47-9)

The Grand Rapids Catholic Central brigade continued at The Palace, as Karmon took to the mat to try and win his second straight Finals title.

Last year he won the 125-pound bout while wrestling at Allegan High School. But a family move to Grand Rapids and a jump in weight classes changed little, as he won this time by major decision.

“My strategy is more of my mindset with me. I just had to look at it as one more match,” Karmon said.


Champion: Hunter Gasper, Standish-Sterling, Soph. (52-1)
Decision, 6-0, over Brandon Dyke, Allendale, Sr. (43-4)

Gasper had a strategy to dominate.

He held to that plan in claiming his first MHSAA championship and finishing this season with only one loss.

“Just take control of the match and dominate the whole match,” Gasper said. “That’s what I did, and it feels great to win as a sophomore.”


Champion: Brandon Whitman, Dundee, Fr. (57-2)
Decision 8-2, over Kevin Curby, Hillsdale, Sr. (47-7)

It’s not often when a freshman comes into high school wrestling and wins on a consistent basis at one of the heavier weight classes.

But that’s exactly what Whitman did this winter, as he won 57 matches and then a title Saturday night.

“I was super excited, and I was a little bit nervous,” Whitman said. “I didn’t know how big (MHSAA Finals) was and what was going to be happening, but when I started wrestling I felt more confident.”

It was fifth time Whitman wrested Curby this year; Whitman won all five times.


Champion: Jared Roehl, Millington, Soph. (49-0)
Decision 5-2, over Chase Beard, Allegan, Soph. (54-3)

Sticking with impressive underclassmen, a pair of super sophomores wrestled for the 189-pound title.

Millington’s Jared Roehl stayed undefeated with a close decision to close his second trip to the Finals.

“After taking sixth as a freshman last year and hurting my shoulder and eventually having to get shoulder surgery, this feels a lot better, that for sure,” Roehl said. “Finally being able to take the top of the podium healthy is all I can ask for.”


Champion: Trent Hillger, Lake Fenton, Soph. (58-0)
Decision, 6-0, over Grant Tennihill, Grand Rapids Catholic Central, Sr. (40-4)

Division 3 looks highly competitive for years to come, as another sophomore shined at 215 pounds.

Hillger won 6-0 to cap a perfect 58-0 season.

“I have been working toward this my whole life,” Hillger said. “This feels great.”


Champion: Maddox Maki, Williamston, Jr. (53-6)
Decision, 2-0, over Tim Smith, Benzie Central, Sr. (35-4)

Sometimes winning an MHSAA title when you are a freshman can seem like an unrealistic goal.

That’s how Williamston junior Maddox Maki felt. But as a junior, that dream became reality.

“As a freshman I kind of joked around saying I could win a state title, and as the years went on it became more and more realistic and finally it came,” Maki said.  “Now I did it and it feels great.”

Click for full results.

PHOTO: Richmond’s Devin Skatzka is saluted by the crowd after becoming the 21st in MHSAA history to win a fourth Finals championship. (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.)