by TIM COOPER
On Wednesday, Feb. 18 at Kentwood High School, the top-ranked Rockford Rams faced Grand Ledge in district dual competition. The district consisted of Rockford, Grand Ledge with the winner facing East Kentwood.
At 145 pounds Bruce Carlstrom took on Corey Knapp of the Comets. In a match that would go the full six minutes, Carlstrom came away victorious with an 11-4 decision, giving the Rams a 9-0 lead.
CJ Scholl (152) was up next for the Rams, facing Ethan Schulert. Scholl jumped to a quick 2-1 lead in the first after taking Schulert to the mat and releasing him. Scholl carried the lead into the second and at the 2:41 mark turned his opponent to the mat, securing the fall. The win brought Rockford to a 15-0 lead.
At 160 pounds, Jake Johnson carried a 7-1 lead through the first against Grand Ledge’s Wade Smith. In the second period Smith chose the down position, reversing Johnson only to have the tables turned as Johnson reversed Smith and turn Smith’s shoulders to the mat for the pin in 3:31.
At 171 pounds Paul Crieghton came up from his usual B team spot to face the comets John Cosgrove. Creighton kept the mat close as the first period ended in a 3-3 tie. The second period saw Creighton in the up position and Cosgrove reversed for two points, giving him a 5-3 lead going into the third.
In the third period Creighton scored one point on a technical violation for locking hands. Time expired with Creighton trailing 5-4, putting Grand Ledge on the board with a team score of 3 to Rockford’s 21.
Rockford spent the next few matches racking up plenty of points.
The Rams began their tear with a pin by Zach VanAzak (189) at 5:50. Voids by Grand Ledge at 215 pounds and 285 pounds
Tyler VanRooyen used just 17 seconds to pin his Comet opponent in the 103 pound weight class.
The match was followed by a void in the 112-pound weight class, bringing the team score to 51-3 in favor of the Rams.
At 119 pounds, Kyle Waldo recorded a fall at 1:34 in the first period over Dalton Kerkey of Grand Ledge.
Jake Byers of Rockford showed dominance over his opponent in the 125 pound match over Curtis Brownell of Grand Ledge. Byers had his own way over Brownell for the full six minutes, taking an 18-4 major decision, upping the Ram lead to 61-3.
At 130 pounds Austin Scogg returned to the lineup from injury, wrestling the full six minutes, falling in a hard-fought 6-2 decision to Andy Jones of Grand Ledge.
In the final match of this dual meet, freshman Robbie Gorton (135) of the Rams faced Christian Weiss of Grand Ledge. The only scoring in the first period was a takedown by Gorton, giving him a 2-0 lead. In the second, Gorton escaped for the only tally, giving him a 3-0 lead at the start of the third. Weiss scored his only point on a technical violation by Gorton. Time expired with Gorton winning 3-1. The Rams outshined the Comets this go-around, taking a final score of 64-6.
In the second tilt of the evening the Rams faced the East Kentwood Falcons for the second time in the past two weeks.
Carlstrom put the Rams on the board early, recording a 7-2 decision over the Falcon wrestler in the 145-pound weight class.
Tyler Johnson was called upon to fill the spot at 152 pounds and faced Deshawn Nelson. Nelson showed why he’s a state-ranked wrestler by recording a fall in 4:57 seconds, giving the Falcons a 6-3 early lead.
At 160 pounds, Scholl wrestled up one weight class on the coach’s decision, facing Desmond Couch. Scholl used 5:14 to dispose of Couch with a pin, putting the Rams back on top 9-6.
In another coaching decision, Jake Johnson bumped up to the 171-pound class and face Phil McIntosh. Johnson used just a little over one period to record an 18-0 technical fall, upping the Ram total to 14-6.
Zach Banazak (189) again showed the Ram depth by taking a 6-3 decision from East Kentwood’s Jesse Keagan with two takedowns and a reversal.
With a quick pin in 1:25, Joe Stefanski (215) added six more points to the Ram total followed by Somsel doing nearly the same at 1:53 in the heavyweight match.
Freshman Tyler VanRooyen faced a familiar foe in Mahamud Sharif in the 103-pound match. These wrestlers faced-off twice in the seven days prior to Saturday’s meet. In the first two Sharif won both encounters against VanRooyen.
This time VanRooyen was able to get the better of Sharif, taking a slim 7-6 decision away from the mat. After the match VanRooyen said, “It felt great to finally beat him.” Coach Rinehart agreed that it was huge in terms of momentum for the rest of the night.
Hall used 1:01 to up the Ram score by pinning Anwar Munye in the 112-pound match. The win gave the Rams a commanding 38-6 lead.
Senior Kyle Waldo recorded six more team points for the Rams by pinning Sam Broecker in 2:16 in the 119 pounds. This season, the three-time state champion has only been beaten twice, and is lining himself up for a likely fourth state championship.
At 125 pounds, Kameron Olsen of East Kentwood has had a big thorn in his side in the form of Rockford’s Jake Byers. These two wrestlers have faced-off numerous times this season with Byers winning each time. In another close match, Byers took a 3-1 decision away from Olsen, giving the Rams a 47-6 dual meet lead.
Drew Scogg filled in for his brother Austin at the 130-pound match, facing Bernie Vilker. Vilker, along with his twin brother Paul, Olsen and Nick Bohn make up the heart of the Falcon line up. Scogg was outclassed in this one, falling 12-2, only managing one escape and one penalty point to Vilker’s continuous scoring.
Paul Vilker, used 1:41 to pin Pete Nugent of Rockford, giving the Rams a team score of 47-16.
Zach Johnson showed why he is the number-one wrestler in the state at 140 pounds. He squared-off against the number-two ranked Nick Bohn of Kentwood. With no scoring in the first, Johnson was in the bottom position starting the second. Johnson started the scoring with an escape, only to be taken to the mat by Bohn. Johnson escaped again, this time turning the tables and taking the Falcon to the mat in a 4-2 lead.
In the third period Bohn chose neutral, with both wrestlers on their feet. A series of takedowns by Johnson and escapes by Bohn eventually ended with Johnson recording a two-point near fall as time ran out. Johnson recorded a 10-4 victory on the mat, giving the Rams a 50-16 win and the district championship.
In the individual district competition on Saturday, Feb. 21, Rockford crowned six champions. CJ Scholl, Jake Johnson, Jake Dorulla, Joe Stefanski, Kyle Waldo and Jake Byers all stood on top of the podium taking their medals.
Second-place finishers were Jesse Somsel at heavyweight and Tyler VanRooyen at 103. Other medalists were Zach Johnson finishing third, Bruce Carlstrom finishing fourth and Charlie Hall also finishing fourth and advancing to this Saturday’s regional competition at Lansing Everett High School on February 28.
Ram fans be reminded of a celebration of Coach Rinehart’s coaching career for Rockford to be held at the Corner Bar on Friday, March 20. The event is open to all Rockford wrestling fans and family and a chance to thank Rinehart for all he has done for the Rockford wrestling program.