by TIM COOPER
On Wednesday, Jan. 6, the Rams stepped back into OK Red action, hosting the Buccaneers of Grand Haven. Early on it was all Rockford with the lightweights. Grand Haven showed promise with the middle weights, only to be denied at the end.
At 103 pounds, sophomore Tyler VanRooyen used an early lateral drop to take Grand Haven’s Jarod Spencer off his feet onto his back. VanRooyen improved his position further, pinning Spencer in 1:47.
Nate Rojas (112) would not be denied against Dylan VanderHyde. Rojas attained the first takedown early in the match, using a double-leg takedown. Rojas gained an early 2-0 lead before VanderHyde reversed the situation, tying the score as time ran out in the first period.
VanderHyde took a 2-3 lead when he escaped Rojas at the start of the second period. Rojas again took back the lead with another double-leg takedown. Each wrestler reversed one another before the period ran out, giving Rojas a 6-5 lead to start the third.
Rojas continued scoring in the third with an early escape followed by a takedown, giving him a four-point advantage when time expired, and giving the Rams a 9-0 lead after two matches.
Freshman Cullen Maximowski (119) showed that the Rams came to wrestle, as he continued the trend for the lightweight wrestlers. For the third consecutive match, the Ram wrestler was first to the takedown, an accomplishment which would continue through 11 of the 14 matches. Maximowski used his takedown to build a 7-4 lead and gain a tough-fought victory.
In the 125-pound match, Rockford senior Chris Barrentine dominated Garret Young. Young relentlessly turned his opponent’s shoulders to the mat, building a 12-5 lead after two periods. Young took down his opponent in the third, only to be reversed by Barrentine for the final score, 14-7, giving the Rams a 15-0 lead.
Grand Haven finally was able to get on the board in the 130-pound match, when the Buccaneers’ Justin Mezzo pinned Rockford’s Trent Boyer in 1:47.
Rams senior Jake Byers, wrestling up one weight class at 135 pounds, remained undefeated with his 13-4 victory over CJ Stock. Byers, as he’s done all season, used takedown after takedown to build his score and add four more points to the Rockford lead, making the score 19-6.
The Buccaneers came back with a vengeance, trying to right the ship, winning tough-fought decisions in the next four matches, and tying the team score at 19-19.
Rockford again took control of the dual meet in the 171-pound match when Rockford’s Jake Dorulla pinned Derek Lattig in 2:29, giving the Rams a six-point lead at 25-19.
Ram senior Jake Johnson, wrestling up two weight classes at 189 pounds, used seven takedowns in his six-minute match, giving him a 15-5 victory and four more team points for the Rams for a score of 29-19.
The Rams put the dual meet out of reach for the Buccaneers in the 215-pound weight class, when Eastern Michigan-bound senior Joe Stefanski pinned Grand Haven’s Dylan Radde in 25 seconds with one match remaining.
Weighing in at less than 200 pounds, Rockford’s Jake Baniszak wrestled up to the 285-pound class. Taking on Dan Nevines, Baniszak more than held his own, scoring five points in the third period to win 5-3, allowing the Rams to double up on the Buccaneers’ score, 38-19.
Rockford Coach Brian Richardson said he was very pleased with the “little guys” in this one. “This keeps us on track to win the OK Red conference. It’s always tough to beat teams in the OK Red. We knew Grand Haven’s middle weights would be strong and ours just limited the points.”
On Saturday, Jan. 9, the Rams made the long trip to Novi to wrestle in the Detroit Catholic Central Invitational. A tournament that traditionally draws many of the top-ranked teams in the state, there were five of the top 10 Division I schools present and a couple of ranked lower division schools.
The Rams fell behind early in the team school, because of multiple byes in the first round. Rockford was also short-handed with VanRooyen hurt.
The Rams made up ground in the second round of the tournament, when all of the Rockford wrestlers finally saw action. Beginning the second round, Rockford found themselves in sixth place. However, the Rams were determined to come back, and eventually won the majority of their second-round matches, which vaulted them to second place behind host Detroit Catholic Central.
Detroit Catholic Central’s early lead proved to be too much for the Rams, who wrestled hard, distancing themselves from the other 13 teams in the tournament. Medal winners for the Rams were senior Drew Scogg (135), finishing sixth; sophomore Robbie Gorton (160), with a fourth-place finish; junior Bruce Carlstrom (145), finishing third. Senior Jake Banaszak, wrestling up once again in the heavyweight division, won his third-place match with a double-leg takedown 13 seconds into sudden death overtime.
Rockford also had five wrestlers vie for championships, Byers won the 130-pound match with a tough-fought 8-6 victory over Tecumseh’s Jeff Jenkins. Sophomore Austin Scogg (140) fell in his final match, losing 5-0 against Matt Frish from Oxford. Dorulla remained undefeated at 171 pounds, beating Keith Zech of Canton 9-2. In the 189-pound match, Jake Johnson took a dominant 12-3 major decision over Anthony Abro of Canton to place him on the top of the podium.
The final Rockford wrestler to see action on the day was Stefanski (215). In an emotional match, Stefanski faced Mike Kinville of the hosting Shamrocks. Stefanski showed his strength, performing four tough-fought takedowns, giving him a 9-4 victory in the six-minute war.
“This truly was our best outing of the season,” said Coach Richardson. “We faced some of the best teams in the state today and our boys wrestled very well.”
Next up for the Rams will be the Rockford Invitational on Saturday, Jan. 16, at Rockford High School, and a rare Tuesday evening dual meet with Muskegon on January 19 at Muskegon High School.