by TIM COOPER
The Rockford Rams traveled to Battle Creek on Friday, March 26 for the final dual meets of the season. In the quarterfinals the Rams took on Westland John Glenn, a team they had defeated in late December.
One Ram in particular found himself in an interesting situation for any wrestler at this time of the season. Jake Dorulla, defending state champion at 171 pounds, was told he had to gain weight to help fill out the Ram lineup. Dorulla took the task at hand and gained 6.5 pounds in about 20 hours, going over the 173-pound limit to possibly wrestle in the 215-pound weight class.
Dorulla set the tone early in his match, winning by fall and helping the Rams cruise to a 34-28 victory over the Westland John Glenn Rockets. Other victorious Ram wrestlers were Joe Stefanski at 285 pounds, Jake Scholten (119), Jake Byers (125), Austin Scogg (145), Bruce Carlstrom (152), Jake Johnson (160) and Zach Banaszak (171).
The victory over the Rockets punched the Ram ticket to the semifinal round where they wrestled the Eagles of Hartland. This was a rematch from December 19, when Hartland defeated the Rams 43-17. Because of key additions, the Rams were able to erase the 26-point deficit and turn the tables on the Eagles, beating them 29-25, and advancing to the state finals, a familiar place for Rockford, having been there three of the last four years.
In the finals, Rockford faced the top-seeded team from Detroit Catholic Central (DCC). The Shamrocks—who had defeated the Rams twice in individual tournaments earlier in the season—were loaded and ready for the defending state champions. The Shamrocks had qualified 14 individual wrestlers for a state championship run this week. The Rams will be wrestling seven boys, starting Thursday, March 4, at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
Byers (130) gave the Rams an early lead when he scored a major decision over DCC’s Charlie Joseph. Byers used a series of takedowns and releases to build a 13-5 victory, giving the Rams a 4-0 lead after the first match.
The Shamrocks strung three victories together, taking a 17-4 margin into the 152-pound match between Carlstrom and the Shamrocks’ Gerid Gee. Carlstrom cut into the DCC lead, scoring a 6-3 victory, and making the team score 17-7 in favor of the Shamrocks.
Carlstrom’s victory led into the strength of the Ram lineup, as Rockford won six straight matches, giving a Ram lead of 24-17 before the Shamrocks came back to take the match away.
In the 160-pound match, Johnson showed that he is a takedown artist, scoring 13 takedowns and putting on a clinic, beating DCC’s Brandon Bennett 27-12. Bennett’s only scores came when Johnson released him for 12-point total.
At 171 pounds, Banaszak—who had gone the opposite way of Dorulla, losing weight to compete—won a tough-fought 4-2 decision over DCC’s Andrew Erickson. Likewise, Zach’s twin brother Jake dropped from his customary 285 to compete at 189 pounds. Controlling everyone he wrestled, Banaszak scored a 5-1 victory over DCC’s Miles Trealot.
At 215 pounds, Dorulla proved he was a force no matter where he was placed in the Rockford lineup. Giving up nearly 14 pounds, he scored an 8-3 decision over state qualifier Andrew Johnson. Dorulla will spend this week dropping back down to 171 pounds in order to defend his individual state title.
Defending 215-pound state champion Stefanski posted the Rams’ final victory in the team state finals. Stefanski faced familiar foe Mike Kinville. These two wrestlers had gone head to head at the DCC and Holt tournaments with Stefanski winning both matches. In their first meeting, Stefanski won 7-5. In the second he received a 9-5 decision. In their third meeting of the season, Stefanski put an exclamation point on the rivalry, beating Kinville 7-2.
At this point, DCC took the dual meet away, winning the next three matches, two of them by fall. Rockford Coach Brian Richardson, knowing the Rams could not win, conceded the 125-pound match, which gave the Shamrocks the final 39-24 victory.
About finishing runners-up, Coach Richarson said, “I have so much to be thankful for. I feel blessed to be the coach of this team. What Jake Dorulla and Joe Stefanski did, giving up large amounts of weight in their matches, was great for the team. Our road was tough, and we came up a little short. I hope we represented our school, our community and our fans well. I am extremely proud to be a Ram.”
The final action for the seven remaining Rockford wrestlers will take place on the big stage at the Palace of Auburn Hills, beginning with a grand march on Thursday, March 4 at 3 p.m. The Rams will compete there in a three-day tournament, culminating with individual state championships to be decided on Saturday, March 6 at 4 p.m. Competing for Rockford will be Stefanski (215), Tyler VanRooyen (103), Scholten (119), Byers (125), Scogg (135), Johnson (160), and Dorulla (171).
Congratulations goes to Coach Richardson, who was named Regional Coach of the Year at the regional individual tournament. This is an honor voted on by all the coaches of the region in which the Rams compete.