Pox knocks Stefanski from title defense
by TIM COOPER
On the verge of defending his individual state championship title at 215 pounds, a childhood illness knocked senior Joe Stefanski out of the competition when he contracted chicken pox, ending his high school wrestling career one week early. Stefanski is bound for the University of Ohio next fall where he intends to play football.
Six other Rockford wrestlers walked the floor of the Palace of Auburn Hills in the grand march on Thursday, March 4.
The state individual high school wrestling tournament begins each year with 896 wrestlers parading their school colors before cheering fans and families. This year over 44,000 wrestling fans attended the three-day event, culminating with the individual championship matches on Saturday night, March 6.
Following the opening ceremonies, six Rockford wrestlers participated in the first round of action. Senior Jake Scholten (119) led the Ram attack with a 7-1 victory over Detroit Catholic Central’s Matt Thompson.
The 125-pound match saw senior Jake Byers win a 15-5 major decision over Dan Jaijo of Troy. Byers used numerous takedowns in his dominance of Jaijo, earning his advance to the second round.
Sophomore Austin Scogg faced a tough opponent in Detroit Catholic Central’s Justin Melick, the eventual 135-pound champion. Scogg fell into the consolation bracket when Melick pinned him at the 1:58 mark of the match.
Takedowns and releases seemed to be the order of senior Jake Johnson’s opening match in the 160-pound bracket. Johnson achieved 12 takedowns, building a 24-10 major decision over Matt Schodowski of New Baltimore Anchor Bay. Johnson, the runner-up in last year’s 160-pound tournament, showed he was determined to get back to the finals.
Defending state champion at 171 pounds, senior Jake Dorulla dominated his first opponent, Ryan Erps of Pinkney. In this match Dorulla proved why he is the top-ranked wrestler in his weight class in the state of Michigan. This highly recruited wrestler has committed to Eastern Michigan University where he will continue his wrestling career next fall.
First-time state qualifier, sophomore Tyler VanRooyen also found himself dropping into the consolation bracket when he lost a 7-1 decision to Macomb L’Anse Creuse North’s Lucas Banning.
Early Friday morning, the two wrestlers in the consolations were back at work. Austin Scogg (135) took his only win of the weekend with a 3-1 decision over Nick Burt of Millford. In the 103-pound match VanRooyen made short work of Rochester Adams’ John Ko, pinning him in 54 seconds.
In the championship bracket, all four Ram wrestlers advanced to the semifinals. Scholten (119) defeated Chris Bohacek of Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse with a 16-1 technical fall. Byers continued on his quest, defeating Jeff Sloney of Clarkston 10-6. In the 160-pound quarterfinal, Johnson downed Keith Zech of Canton 10-4. Dorulla (171) faced a tough Rochester opponent, defeating him 12-4. Dorulla proved to be a master on his feet, taking down his opponent numerous times, building to the final tally.
In the blood round, Scogg fell in a tough 1-0 decision to a Portage Central wrestler, putting a cap on Scogg’s season, falling just short of All State honors.
At 103 pounds, VanRooyen turned around a match that had no scoring in the first two rounds. VanRooyen fell behind early in the third, but tied the score before the period ended. In overtime, both wrestlers were on their feet, trying for sudden victory, when VanRooyen used a double-leg takedown to score two points and end the match victorious.
In semifinal action, Scholten, the number-two-ranked 119-pound wrestler in the state, wrestled Alec Morradian of Detroit Catholic Central. Morradian, a former state champion at 112 pounds, proved to be too tough in this overtime thriller. With the match tied at two after six minutes, both wrestlers were unable to score during the first three overtime periods. In the fourth overtime period, Morradian was able to ride Scholten for the full 30 seconds and win the match.
Byers pinned his semifinal opponent in 1:17, advancing him to the state finals.
At 160 pounds, Johnson wrestled a game opponent in Pontiac’s D’Oneti Polk. Johnson won a tough-fought 6-5 decision, placing him in the finals for the second time.
In anther overtime thriller, Dorulla defeated Mike Andering of Holt 7-5.
On Saturday morning, VanRooyen fell into seventh- and eighth-place matches when he was defeated by Detroit Catholic Central’s DJ Fagan 2-0. VanRooyen went on to win the seventh-place match with a fall in 3:31 over Hudsonville’s Zack Henderson.
Scholten bounced back from his previous loss, showing the mark of a true champion. He defeated Cameryn Jackson of Lansing Eastern 3-0 and Brendan Papin of Bellview 8-1 to finish in third place.
In the finals, Rockford’s Byers put his 46-0 record on the line against Ben Methieson of Holt. Byers held a 4-3 lead after the first two periods before Methieson took control of the match in the third. Methieson scored six points, escaping from Byers and taking him down, turning him for a near-fall. For the second straight season, the Eastern Michigan-bound Byers finished runner-up.
The 43-7 Johnson faced Lowell’s Jackson Morris, Michigan’s highest-recruited wrestler. This match showed why Morris has this honor as he scored at will. Three of Johnson’s seven losses this season were at the hands of the Lowell wrestler. Johnson escaped twice during the match, but was unable to stop Morris from winning his third state championship 7-2.
The final Rockford wrestler to take to the mat in the 171-pound finals was Dorulla. For the second straight match, Dorulla struggled to score. Against Lowell’s Ryan Olep, Dorulla built a small offense in the second period, taking Olep to the mat after Olep escaped. Olep escaped a second time, tying the score at 2-2. In the third, Dorulla put Olep away with two escapes and a takedown, snatching a 6-4 victory and his second state title.
Coach Brian Richardson said, “Jake Dorulla got a tough win in our last match against Lowell again. I couldn’t be more happy or proud of him. What a fantastic career for Jake. The kids got so much talent and he proved what a great wrestler he is. I am proud of all our kids. We had six of them down here and each one of them took at least one win this weekend.”
While fans congratulate this year’s Ram wrestlers on a strong season and individual accomplishments, a former Ram also won a conference championship. On Sunday, Ben Bennett, now at Central Michigan University, won a Mid-American Conference (MAC) championship when he defeated Keith Witt of Bowling Green with a technical fall at the seven-minute mark of his match.