by TIM COOPER
With the starting weight drawn at 160 pounds in Rockford’s dual meet against West Ottawa, held on Wednesday, Jan. 13, Rockford’s Robbie Gorton started the night’s wrestling. Showing a systematic destruction of West Ottawa’s Austin Sanders, Gorton began scoring early with a takedown and two near-falls, building a 7-0 lead before the end of the first period. In the second, Gorton continued to build his score by using a takedown and two-point near-fall to hold an 11-0 lead after the first four minutes.
Gorton’s dominance over Sanders continued early into the third as he scored four more points, receiving a technical fall with a 15-0 win in Rockford’s first match.
In the 171-pound match, number-one state-ranked Jake Dorulla remained undefeated as he followed Gorton’s scoring closely, ending the first 7-0, the second 12-0, and a technical fall in the third with a 15-0 dismantling of West Ottawa’s Joey McClure. This gave the Rams a 10-0 team score after two matches.
Jake Johnson, once again wrestling up two weight classes at 189 pounds, faced West Ottawa’s sixth-ranked Steve McClure. In the first period, Johnson took McClure to the mat early, but McClure managed to escape. Midway through the first period, Johnson stepped into a throw by McClure, going from his feet to his back, giving up four points and the lead. Trailing 5-2 at the start of the second, Johnson battled back, reversing McClure, who escaped and achieve a takedown on Johnson.
Trailing 9-5 starting the third period, Johnson again reversed McClure and receive one more stalling point to pull the match to within one point, 8-9. Knowing time was running out, Johnson released McClure and attempted numerous times in the final seconds to take McClure down for a final victory. McClure fought off all of Johnson’s attacks, and took home a hard-fought 10-8 win, giving West Ottawa their first points of the night.
In the 215-pound match, Rockford senior Joe Stefanski faced Christian Nagelvoort. In a short and sweet 25 seconds, Stefanski added six points to the Rams’ total, winning with a fall.
In the heavyweight match, Jake Banaszak (285), wrestled up one weight class. He is ranked sixth in the state as a heavyweight, despite only weighing 198 pounds. Banaszak shows heart week in and week out, and this match, facing Gerardo Garcia, was no different.
Banaszak built a 4-0 lead after two periods. With determination, he continued to score in the third, using a reversal, a takedown and a near-fall to finish the match with an 11-1 major decision. The win gave the Rams a 20-3 lead after five matches.
In the 103-pound match, Rockford’s Pat MacGregor filled in for the injured Tyler VanRooyen to face West Ottawa’s Tanner Kuipers. Kuipers took MacGregor to the mat early in the first, then turned MacGregor for a fall in 1:10, cutting into the Ram lead to 20-9.
The Rams were back on track in the 112-pound match with Nate Rojas facing Josiah Zuniga. Rojas added three points to the Ram total with a 5-1 victory.
In the 119-pound match, Cullen Maksimowski wrestled Aaron Chavez to a 0-0 tie after the first six minutes. In sudden victory, Maksimowski took Chavez to the mat for two points, building the Ram lead to 26-9.
Matt Trinh of West Ottawa added six points to the Panther total with his 3:57 pin of Rockford’s Chris Barrentine.
West Ottawa did not send a wrestler to the mat for the 130-pound match, giving Jake Byers a victory by forfeit and the Rams a 32-15 lead.
Sophomore Danny Apkarian wrestled West Ottawa’s Jerry Sarli at 135 pounds. Apkarian, filling in for Rockford’s Austin Scogg, showed the depth of the Rams’ talent by winning a 7-4 decision and bringing the team total to 35-15.
Next up for the Rams was Drew Scogg at 140 pounds, wrestling against Andrew Stoddard. Scogg carried a 2-0 lead through the first period after achieving an early takedown. In the second, Stoddard reversed Scogg, tying the score at 2-2 going into the third. Scogg escaped early in the third, for the final score of the match and a narrow 3-2 victory, adding three more points to the Ram total, 38-15.
West Ottawa scored their final three points in the 145-pound match, when the Panthers’ Auggie Matta won another 3-2 match over Rockford’s Bruce Carlstrom.
In the final match of the evening, Rockford’s Sam Williams (152) won a 9-4 hard-fought decision over Zach Rehfus, helping the Rams to the final victory, 41-18.
On Saturday, Jan. 16, the Rams hosted the Rockford Invitational, competing against nine other teams, including notable opponents Hisperia, the number-one-ranked team in Division IV, and Oxford, the Division I sixth-ranked team.
Ten of the 14 Rockford wrestlers finished in the medals. Third-place finishers for Rockford were Tyler VanRooyen (103), Nate Rojas (112, taking his first medal of the season), and Bruce Carlstrom (wrestling up at 152). Finishing fourth for the Rams was Danny Apkarian (140).
Rockford placed six wrestlers in the championship finals, winning five first-place medals and one second.
At 125 pounds, Jake Byers won a 25-10 technical fall over Oxford’s Mike Thomas. At 160, Robbie Gorton defeated Oxford’s Cody Parker 9-4, winning his first championship on the varsity squad. Jake Dorulla (171) remained undefeated with a 17-1 dismantling of Jake Barrie from Oxford.
At 189, Jake Johnson faced another Oxford wrestler, winning a 3-1 overtime decision against AJ Logan. Johnson’s final two points came with 12:03 remaining in overtime.
At 215, Joe Stefanski wrestled in overtime, winning a 3-1 decision with his takedown of Prescot Line of Oxford with 10 seconds remaining.
Jake Banaszak (285) lost by fall to Cody Wolever of Hesperia in 1:51. Banaszak finished second to a much heavier wrestler.
Despite a final round charged by the Rams, Hesperia won the team championship by 6.5 points.
Next up for the Rams will be the Holt Invitational on Saturday, Jan. 23, and the final home dual meet against East Kentwood on Wednesday, Jan. 27. The Holt Invitational has produced the Division I state champion the last three seasons. This highlight tournament is a must-attend for wrestling fans.