Ram wrestling team still searching to find identity

Tyler VanRooyen, a 103-pound sophomore, goes for the pin in the finals at Eastern Michigan University.	Photo by JAMES COOPER

Rockford freshman Nate Rojas, at 112 pounds, shows promise at Eastern Michigan University. Photo by JAMES COOPER

Coach Richardson faces former coach

by TIM COOPER

On Tuesday, Dec. 22, the Ram wrestling team made the short trip to Lowell to face the Division II second-ranked team in Stevensville Lakeshore and the defending Division II state champion, the Lowell Red Arrows.

The Rams opened an early 4-0 lead on the Lancers of Stevensville with an 11-3 major decision by Jake Byers AT 130 pounds. In the second match, senior Drew Scogg, 135 pounds, built the lead to 7-0 with his 7-1 win. The Lancers got on the board in the 140-pound match by taking a 3-2 decision from Rockford’s Austin Scogg. Bruce Carlstrom (145) bounced back with a 6-4 decision, giving the Rams a seven-point lead at 10-3.

Lakeshore took back the lead in the next two matches, with a fall at 152 pounds and a 9-3 decision in the 160-pound match.

At 171 pounds, senior Jake Dorulla continued to show why he is the number-one-ranked wrestler in the state. The Eastern Michigan University-bound senior took a 15-0 technical fall in the second period, giving the Rams a 15-12 lead.

Jake Johnson (189) added four more points to the Ram total with an 18-5 major decision, once again giving the Rams a seven-point lead, 19-12. Paul Creighton, wrestling up one weight class at 215, failed to best his opponent, giving up a 7-1 decision. The team score then stood at Rockford 19, Lakeshore 15.

Tyler VanRooyen, a 103-pound sophomore, goes for the pin in the finals at Eastern Michigan University.	Photo by JAMES COOPER

Tyler VanRooyen, a 103-pound sophomore, goes for the pin in the finals at Eastern Michigan University. Photo by JAMES COOPER

Joe Stefanski, also wrestling up a weight class at 285 pounds, proved to be the last bright spot for the Rams in this dual meet. Stefanski used his speed and strength to build an 11-1 lead before time ran out, giving Rockford their largest lead of the night at 23-15. The Lancers came charging back, winning the final four matches and giving them a 37-23 victory over the Rams.

Ram Coach Richardson, for the first time as a high school coach, faced his former mentor, Coach Bruce Bittenbender of Lakeshore. Bittenbender was Richardson’s wrestling coach while Richardson was a student athlete at Lakeshore himself. Bittenbinder is also the winningest coach in Michigan high school wrestling history with 740 dual meet wins.

In the second tilt, Rockford faced the Red Arrows of Lowell in a dual meet that went much the same way as the first. The Rams fell behind early, losing four of the first five matches. The only bright spot was Austin Scogg (140) winning a 5-3 decision over his Red Arrow opponent.

With the Rams trailing 18-3, defending state champion Dorulla (171) took on Lowell’s sensational sophomore Gabe Dean. In a match that proved to be frustrating for Dorulla, Dean thwarted Dorulla’s attempts to score. Dorulla opened the scoring in the first period with a takedown, but was unable to improve his position. In the second period, Dorulla was continually busy and was rewarded two stalling points for his efforts. In the third period, Dorulla escaped at the initial whistle, building his lead to 5-0. At this time, Dean initiated his only move of the match, with a takedown against Dorulla. The final score was Dorulla 5, Dean 3. A frustrated outburst by Dorulla cost the team one point, making the score 18-5 in favor of the Red Arrows.

At 189 pounds, Jake Johnson was wrestling up two weight classes from his usual 160. He broke his Red Arrow opponent with a 27-12 technical fall in what was a takedown clinic. The score at that time was 18-10, Red Arrows.

At 215 pounds, Stefanski faced one of the state’s top wrestlers at 189 pounds in the Red Arrow’s Ryan Olep. Olep initiated the first takedown in a classic double-leg move from which Stefanski eventually escaped. With Stefanski trailing 2-1 and time running out in the first period, Stefanski used a bear hug to take Olep off his feet for the two-point takedown at the buzzer.

In the second period Lowell’s Olep chose the neutral position and again took Stefanski to the mat, giving the Lowell wrestler a 4-3 lead. Stefanski tied the match with a beautiful stand up escape and time expired.

In the third period Stefanski chose the down position and escaped at the opening whistle. Stefanski, using a second bear hug, took Olep to the mat, giving him a 7-4 lead in the final minute. With just seconds remaining, Olep escaped from Stefanski, but failed in any other scoring attempts. Stefanski walked away a 7-5 winner, cutting the Red Arrow lead to 18-13.

Rockford only managed winning two of the final five matches, giving the Red Arrows a 33-23 victory and the Rams their fourth defeat of the season.

On Wednesday, Dec. 30, the Rams finished the 2009 portion of their season by traveling to Eastern Michigan University for a tournament hosted by the Canton Chiefs.

Rockford coasted through the first three rounds of the tournament with a 47-20 victory over Riverview and 80-0 victory over a combined Tecumseh and Canton team. A 42-18 thumping of the Adrian Naples team was the third victory of the day.

In the semifinals, Rockford faced the sixth-ranked Westland John Glenn Rockets. In a dual meet that came down to the final match, Tyler VanRooyen (103) took a 7-3 decision, giving the Rams a hard-fought 35-30 victory and advancing them to the finals against the host Canton Chiefs.

In a dual meet that saw the Rams split 7-7 in head-to-head matches, the short-handed varsity squad came out on the short end, losing a tough 32-25 dual meet.

The Rams are at home against Grand Haven on Wednesday, Jan. 6, followed by another long road trip to Novi on Saturday, Jan. 9, where the Rams will take on Detroit Catholic Central, among other teams. On Wednesday, Jan. 13, the Rams will again be at home wrestling against West Ottawa.

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