Orange and Black kicks off Rockford wrestling season

Rams shine at Comstock Park Tournament

by TIM COOPER

On Thursday, Dec. 2, the Rockford Rams opened the wrestling season with the annual Orange and Black intrasquad competition. Each year, this scrimmage decides who will wrestle in the varsity lineup for the Rams. All members of the wrestling team compete in wrestle-offs during the first few weeks of practice to determine who will participate in the Orange and Black meet.

Junior Austin Scogg grapples with Alex Pouba. Scogg hopes to improve on his state finals appearance in March by making the podium this season. Photo by JIM COOPER

Unlike years past, where Rockford had many returning champions, this year’s edition returns only two state championship-qualifying wrestlers in juniors Tyler VanRooyen and Austin Scogg.

Freshman Steven Jendritz won by major decision over sophomore Andrew Vanos. Jendritz will take over the 103-pound spot vacated by VanRooyen, who has jumped up to the 119-pound weight class. Returning to the varsity lineup at 112 pounds is sophomore Nate Rojas, who defeated freshman Aaron Stack by fall in 1:29. Rojas wrestled at 112 pounds last year, and is looking to stay in the starting lineup all season in 2010-2011.

At 119 pounds, VanRooyen defeated freshman Terry Gant in the second period by way of pin. This season marks VanRooyen’s third year in the varsity lineup. VanRooyen is Rockford’s only returning All State wrestler.

The Rams have another returning starter at 125 pounds, as junior Cullen Maksimowski is trying to stay healthy for the entire season. Maksimowski suffered a devastating injury at the Holt Invitational last year when he broke his arm, requiring surgery and ending his season. Maksimowski defeated Eathen Weaver to earn the position. Junior Trent Boyer will join Maksimowski, as he was unopposed in the Orange and Black. Boyer saw limited action in the varsity lineup last season.

Nate Rojas returns to the varsity lineup. Photo by JIM COOPER

Senior Alex Padilla defeated freshman Braden Zych with a fall (3:29) in the 135-pound match. Padilla was in the varsity lineup full time as a freshman, but saw limited time the last two seasons. At 140 pounds, another senior, Mick DeBoer, built an early 12-point lead over junior Jacob Dollaway, before sealing the match with a pin in 2:29.

Senior Peter Nugent defeated sophomore Wade Harrier by technical fall 17-2 at 145 pounds. Ram fans may remember Nugent, who saw limited time in the varsity lineup last year, including wrestling in last year’s regional finals with Lowell. Nugent’s match with Lowell’s Dan Fleet proved to be a barbaric one, in which Nugent lost a tooth and still finished the match, proving his raw grit.

Scogg will return for a third year in the varsity lineup after defeating junior Alex Pouba in the 152-pound match. Scogg, a returning state qualifier, looks to improve on last year’s finish and achieve All State honors.

Tyler VanRooyen and Terry Gant each try to set up a takedown. Photo by JIM COOPER

At 160 pounds, senior Solomon Gant defeated junior Dan Apkarian by fall. Fans may remember Gant from his success on the Rams’ football squad. Gant hopes to transfer that success to the wrestling mat. Though Apkarian was defeated by Gant, he is a proven wrestler, having spent much of last season in the varsity lineup.

Junior Robby Gorton will fill the Ram lineup at 171 pounds. Gorton, a three-year starter for the Rams, defeated Brady Gent with a fall at 1:38. Gorton has big shoes to fill, as this weight class was occupied by four-time All State wrestler Jake Dorulla. Dorulla was a two-time state champion as well as a two-time runner up.

Another returning varsity wrestler, Zach Banaszak, who saw action last year at three different weight classes, defeated sophomore Dan Labovitz by fall in 1:29. Banaszak will be joined by his twin brother Jake, who won the 215-pound match with Aquille Snowden. Jake, who spent much of last season wrestling larger opponents in the heavyweight division, hopes to be a force at 215 this year, where he’ll finally take on grapplers his own size.

Alex Padilla runs his signature chicken wing on teammate Braden Zych.

The final match of the evening had junior Jake Wilson pinning senior David VanderMey in the 285-pound weight class. This will be Wilson’s first year in the starting lineup for the Rams.

On Saturday, Dec. 4, the Rams made a short trip to Comstock Park for a team tournament involving six other programs. Rockford showed that they were hungry to improve on last year’s results by advancing once again to the finals of this invitational. En route to the finals, the Rams defeated Coopersville 49-22, Central Montcalm 78-6, and Comstock Park 46-22.

In the finals against Otsego, the Rams trailed only once, before pulling away to a 37-25 victory.

After Saturday’s action, Coach Brian Richardson said, “I’m very proud of this team. They work hard and it’s nice to see the fire inside of them. They push each other hard day in and day out in the practice room. We still have a ways to go, but this is a nice win for the kids. They saw some quality competition.”

Richardson had high praise for the efforts of Solomon Gant, who has only had a few practices this season, yet put in a solid performance Saturday.

J. Banaszak, Nugent and DeBoer all came through the tournament undefeated.

Next up for the Rams is the Kent County Classic to be held at Grand Rapids Union High School on Saturday, Dec. 11. The action starts at 9 a.m. The Rams will also take on the Grand Haven Buccaneers on Wednesday, Dec. 15 in a dual that could potentially decided who the eventual OK Red champion will be.

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