Zach Johnson started out at 140 pounds and received a void because of a coaching decision by Grand Haven Coach Jamie Richardson. Tyler Johnson, dropped down from 152 pounds to 145 pounds. Using a late third-period reversal won his match 2-0 over Grand Haven’s Jack Dempsy, giving Rockford a 9-0 lead. Bruce Carlstrom put in a strong match at 152 pounds, and lost to Tyler Collard 10-2. At that point Grand Haven was within five points of Rockford with a score of 9-4.
Jake Johnson (160) was next, taking on Tyler Kaffenberger. Falling behind early in his match 2-0, Johnson turned the tables, only giving up five more points the rest of the way and winning 16-7. At 171, Jake Dorulla continued his winning ways, building the Ram lead with a 12-2 major decision, making the team score 17-4.
Zach Banazak (189), stepping up from the B team, faced a very tough Grand Haven opponent, losing his match with a 6-5 score. Banazak moved up to the A team because of a possible season-ending injury to Jarod Dubay, who broke his arm during practice when another wrestler fell on him.
At 215 pounds, Joe Stephanski won his match by a fall in 1:30, bringing the Ram lead to 16. At this point the team score was 23-7 for Rockford.
At the heavyweight division, Jesse Somsel took just 1:08 to pin his opponent, giving the Rams a 29-7 lead. Tyler VanRooyan (103) gave up the first takedown to the Grand Haven wrestler. He was able to reverse the situation, only to give up an escape to fall behind 3-2. Just as the first period was about to end, VanRooyan made a wonderful double-leg takedown to pull ahead 4-3. In the second period, a technical violation by the Grand Haven wrestler and an escape by VanRooyan made the score 6-3. Choosing the top position for the third period, VanRooyan exposed his opponent’s shoulders to the mat, giving him an 8-3 lead and the victory.
Kyle Hurley (112), another B team wrestler stepping up to varsity, went the full six minutes, losing to Grand Haven’s Vanderhyde 11-3. The team score was 32-11.
Three-time state champion Kyle Waldo received a void at 119 pounds due to a coaching decision by Grand Haven’s Richardson. Jake Byers (125) used six takedowns and two escapes to win his match with a 14-3 major decision. This added another four points to the Ram total. Austin Scogg (130) of Rockford used 5:25 to pin Dakota Smith of Grand Haven. The team score was then 48-11, Rams over Buccaneers.
At 135, Shawn Hurley was pinned by the Buccaneers’ Colin Bertucci, making the final score 48-17.
Coach Richardson of Grand Haven said that he is impressed with what Rockford brings to the mat. He could have sent wrestlers out at both 119 and 140, but his wrestlers are just not in the caliber of Johnson and Waldo. Rockford’s void in each of these two matches gave the team an automatic six points.
Richardson also said, “Rockford is always well-coached by Rinehart. It is a class program and a class man.”
Rinehart told his Rams, “You had better take Grand Haven seriously. The OK Red is that way week in and week out. I think the boys did what we asked tonight.”
On Saturday, Jan. 24, the Rams traveled down the lakeshore to Stevensville for a team tournament where the Rams dominated the field. Wrestling Mason first, Rockford won the first six matches, all by fall. The Rams built a 30-0 lead before losing the 103-pound match 6-4.
Kyle Waldo (119) suffered his first loss of the season, falling 3-1 in overtime to Mason’s Conor Youtsey. Jake Byers (125) won with a fall at 33 seconds to swing the momentum back to the Rams, giving the team a score of 42-6.
Zach Johnson (144), also suffered his first loss of the season, a tough-fought 9-5 decision. Bruce Carlstrom took a sudden victory in overtime with a takedown. This gave the Rams a 45-15 lead.
The final match of this dual meet was CJ Scholl (152), coming up from the B team and winning 8-3. The final score was 48-15.
The wrestlers from Niles were next on the list for the Rams. After the first two matches with the score tied at 6, Rockford had put together falls by Stephanski (215) at 1:20 and Somsel (285) in 39 seconds. This gave the Rams an 18-6 lead going into 103 pounds.
VanRooyan took a 7-4 decision to help build the Ram points. Charlie Hall (112), coming back from illness, lost 7-2, giving Niles 19 points to the Rams’ 21.
Waldo won his match 11-1 for a four-point major decision. He was followed by a technical fall for Byers (125). The Rams’ only loss in the next six matches was at 130 pounds, making the final team score 53-12.
Rockford continued their dominance in the tournament, beating Three Rivers 65-3. The real highlight in this meet was Byers taking his 100th career victory.
Rockford’s next meet was against the host school, who had just lost a heartbreaking tilt to another local power, Lowell, 32-30. Lakeshore showed some resiliance but was unable to overcome the Rams’ strength as Rockford took away a 51-14 victory.
The team title for the day was shared by both Rockford and Lowell with undefeated records. Fans were disapointed because these two state powers did not wrestle one another.
Of his team on Saturday, Rinehart said, “There were some great matches and some disapointing matches. It was great to see we didn’t die off at the end of a long day.”
Next up for the Rams will be the Holt Invitational on Saturday, Jan. 31 where the Rams will take on perennial state power Holt and Temperance Bedford. On Wednesday, Feb. 4, the Big Reds of Muskegon pay Rockford a visit.