Whitman, Trombley Join 4-Time Legends

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

March 3, 2018

DETROIT – Brandon Whitman and Jarrett Trombley will both be headed to the state of North Carolina this fall.

Before leaving, however, they put on one more show Saturday night for wrestling fans at the MHSAA Individual Championships.

Lake Fenton’s Trombley and Dundee’s Whitman became the 23rd and 24th wrestlers in state history to win four Individual Finals titles, claiming their final Division 3 crowns in the end zone at Ford Field.

“It’s a great feeling,” said Whitman, who will wrestle at the University of North Carolina next year. “Ever since you were little you were watching some of these (four-time state champions). I watched Lincoln Olson (Davison) and I watched Ben Freeman (Walled Lake Central) last year, I was on a bunch of teams with Ben, so it was nice to be up there with those people and know that your work was paying off.”

Whitman (47-0) defeated Richmond senior Colton McKiernan (40-3) at 215 pounds 6-0 in a rematch of last season’s 189-pound final. He also won at 189 as a sophomore and 171 as a freshman, and accumulated 202 victories in his Dundee career, adding two Team Finals championships as well.

On the weekend, Whitman was dominant, winning by forfeit in his first match before pinning his quarterfinal and semifinal opponents in 20 and 7 seconds, respectively.

“It just shows that the work I put in is more than the people that I compete with,” Whitman said. “I put in hours upon hours of work, and it shows. When you put in the work, good things will come.”

Trombley (59-0), who is headed to North Carolina State, was dominant as well at 130 pounds, winning by technical fall in each of his first three matches before defeating Dundee sophomore Christian Killion (34-9) 8-2 in the title match.

“It’s just amazing to get this accomplishment and be here with my friends and family and just celebrate,” he said. “Not many people have been here before.”

Trombley won titles at 112, 119 and 130 pounds his previous three seasons, and admitted there were some nerves before he headed out on the mat.

“I tried not to (put pressure on himself) but toward the start time of my match, I got a little bit more nervous and more nervous,” he said. “But it was definitely all worth it now.”


Champion: Hunter Assenmacher, Ida, Soph. (53-0)
Decision, 7-2 over Robbie Altland, Hart, Jr. (51-1)

Assenmacher said he’d been waiting for his MHSAA championship moment since he first stepped on a mat at 4 years old.

A year ago, he came up one match short. This year, however, nothing was able to slow him down as he rolled to an unbeaten season.

“I’m just so thankful for everybody who pushed me through the season and helped me get to where I am right now,” said Assenmacher, who jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first period.

“I knew I had to keep pushing the pace, but I didn’t want to give up something stupid, so I just kind of played it safe but made sure I wasn’t taking anything off of him.”


Champion: Sean Spidle, Flint Powers, Soph. (40-3)
Major decision, 12-3, over Tyler Swiderski, Dundee, Fr. (33-11)

With two titles in two seasons, Spidle knows the four-timer talk is going to start following him around. But he’s not ready to focus on that quite yet.

“I’m not going to really think about that,” Spidle said. “I’m just going to try to take it one match at a time. Sure the goal is to win states each year, but I’m just going to try to not think about that and take it one match at a time.”

Last year’s 103-pound champion jumped out to an early lead against Swiderski, and had a confident look on his face following a big move in the first period.

“I think the turning point was when I took him down and got back points,” Spidle said. “I felt pretty good throughout the match, but that really gave me a huge confidence booster.”


Champion: Dametrius Castillo, Alma, Fr. (38-6)
Decision, 3-2, over Kyle Schaaf, Clare, Jr. (52-3)

After helping Alma reach the Team Quarterfinals for the first time in school history, Castillo came up with some more history in the individual tournament, claiming the Panthers’ first title since 1993.

“It means that it doesn’t matter how big your school is or how small your school is, if you come out here to wrestle and work for it, you can come out here and win,” Castillo said. “I think now that we’ve shown everybody that we’re here to wrestle and we’re coming up big and bringing up a lot of people, it shows them they have a chance and makes them want work harder every day in practice.”

Castillo took a 3-2 lead late in the match, and held off a late headlock attempt by Schaaf.

“I knew he was going to try and throw it,” Castillo said. “I was just waiting for it to lock him up and hold on so I didn’t get a stalling call. I just knew I had go out there and still be offensive and not get a stalling call to win.”


Champion: Dakota Greer, Howard City Tri-County, Sr. (43-2)
Decision, 9-2, over Reese Wallis, Montrose, Sr. (49-2)

After finishing off his third championship and a marvelous high school career, one could forgive Greer for taking some extra time behind the mat following his 9-2 win against Wallis.

“Right now, I’m just resting,” he said. “Trying to get my breath, trying to take it all in.”

Greer didn’t rest much on the mat, controlling his match from start to finish and adding to the 119-pound title he won a year ago and the 103-pound title he won in 2015.

“It was just a matter of figuring him out,” Greer said. “He was more of a defensive wrestler that was staying away from me, so it was more of just once I kind of figured it out and felt comfortable out there, I was in control for sure.”


Champion: Stoney Buell, Dundee, Fr. (43-4)
Decision, 6-1, over Trevor Robinson, Shepherd, Jr. (42-4)

On the night his teammate won a fourth Finals title, Buell took his first step toward accomplishing the feat as well.

“Brandon (Whitman) just told me don’t wrestle the crowd, just wrestle the opponent,” Buell said of the pre-match advice he received. “‘You’re not facing the crowd, you’re facing your opponent. And just have fun. Be thankful.’”

Buell took control of the match with near-fall points in the second period.

“I felt more comfortable, but I probably should have attacked more,” Buell said. “Just to separate the match and let him know that I’m the best in the state right now.”


Champion: Mason Breece, Birch Run, Sr. (57-3)
Decision, 2-1, over Nick Felt, Shelby, Jr. (50-5)

For 5 minutes and 58 seconds, Breece couldn’t break through Felt’s defense. But in those final seconds, the Birch Run senior saw an opening and took it.

“I knew I was running out of time, and I just had to score,” Breece said. “He put himself in a bad position and I capitalized. As soon as I got that lock locked up and I was ready for it, he just made a mistake and I caught it.”

Breece’s late takedown finished off a strong career that, up until Saturday night, was missing one key piece.

“I’ve been a contender for a couple years now,” he said. “And it feels great to finally get what was coming my way.”


Champion: Alex Roberts, Richmond, Sr. (36-5)
Decision, 5-3, over Sean Trombley, Lake Fenton, Jr. (48-2)

Alex Roberts doesn’t give up many points, so when a five-point move opened some breathing room for him, he knew the title was his to lose.

“I felt comfortable,” Roberts said. “I know that I’m hard to score on, and if I was going to give up anything, it wouldn’t be enough for him.”

Roberts finished sixth a year ago and fourth as a sophomore. After Saturday’s win, his post-match emotion was palpable.

“I can’t even describe it,” he said. “I wanted to be a state champ since I was a little kid, and finally the hard work paid off.”


Champion: DJ Daniels, Caro, Jr. (58-2)
Fall, 3:45, over Zachary Bellaire, Dundee, Sr. (42-8)

Daniels didn’t have the opportunity to stop Bellaire from winning the 140-pound title a year ago, but he was still plenty motivated to take on the guy who took home the bracket he wanted in 2017.

“He won my chart last year, so there was a little bit of vengeance there,” Daniels said. “I knew the match would be won on our feet, and apparently it was.”

Daniels took advantage of a Bellaire shot attempt, catching the returning champion and taking him to his back late in the second period where he finished off the match with a pin.

“It felt great,” Daniels said. “There’s nothing like it. You don’t even think about it until it’s over.”


Champion: Jackson Nevadomski, Lake Fenton, Sr. (43-2)
Fall, 2:59, over Tylor Orrison, Dundee, Sr. (44-4)

Nevadomski made a B-line to the Lake Fenton cheering section to celebrate with his family after claiming his first championship.

“They’ve done everything for me to get to this point – parents, coaches and friends,” Nevadomski said. “I just figured they should be the first to celebrate for me.”

Nevadomski had defeated Orrison, the 2017 145-pound champion, in the Regional Final two weeks ago, and took some notes while he did, which led to the second-period pin.

“When I was on top I got a couple wings in, so I knew if I could get on top and get those wings in, then I just needed to switch them up a little, so we worked on that in practice the last couple weeks,” he said. “We worked on running the chicken wing and coming over with a half. I guess it worked out for me.”


Champion: Owen Guilford, Portland, Jr. (40-1)
Major decision, 10-1, over Robert Granberry, Remus Chippewa Hills, Sr. (45-6)

Guilford said there wasn’t a special strategy heading into his title match. But when you’ve had as much success as he has this season, it’s best to not stray too much from what’s worked.

“Just trust your training,” Guilford said. “That’s what Coach has instilled in me. We knew we could win that match, so just trusted our training, stuck together and pulled it off in the end.”

Guilford had a big lead heading into the final period, and remained calm to claim his school’s first title since 2000.

“Maybe if anything, stay cautious, don’t try anything stupid,” he said. “It only takes one move to lose in wrestling.”


Champion: Ethan Weatherspoon, Napoleon, Jr. (54-0)
Decision, 6-4 (SV), over Brockton Cook, Birch Run, Jr. (56-5)

Weatherspoon hasn’t been in many tight matches this season, but when he found himself in a dogfight against Cook on the state’s biggest stage, he dug deep enough to pull out the win.

“It was just all in my head for a second,” Weatherspoon said. “Being in a big championship match, you just have to relax. That’s what I started to do, and that’s when I started getting my rhythm.”

Weatherspoon was able to get a takedown early in the sudden-victory overtime, but Cook led early, putting a scare into the unbeaten wrestler.

“I just told myself, ‘Hey, you gotta do it,’” he said. “’All that work you put in, I’m getting what I put out.’ I was not about to stop right there.”


Champion: Tyler Marino, Richmond, Sr. (31-5)
Decision, 5-1, over Tyden Ferris, Delton Kellogg, Sr. (45-2)

Marino was one match short of his championship goal a year ago, but the motivation that created helped push him over the top in his final season.

“It feels great, coming from being second last year to winning it this year; it’s all I’ve been training for and it feels amazing,” Marino said. “You just have to make yourself calm before the match. I just listen to music, keep myself calm and do what I do.”

Marino won four low-scoring matches on the weekend, something he’s excelled at all year.

“I’m always attacking and trying to draw the stalling calls,” he said. “I do active stalling. Active stalling is a huge part of wrestling. You’re moving, but you’re really not trying to score, you’re just showing the ref that you’re doing what you’ve got to do.”

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PHOTOS: Dundee's Brandon Whitman (left) and Lake Fenton's Jarrett Trombley receive salutes from the Ford Field crowd after becoming the latest four-time MHSAA Finals champions Saturday. (Middle) Whitman and Trombley take a quick photo together during a quieter moment. (Top photos by HighSchoolSportsScene.com, middle photo by Michelle Campbell.)

Constantine Football All-Stater, Wrestling Champ Aiming for Grand Finale

By Scott Hassinger
Special for MHSAA.com

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.)