by TIM COOPER
Following a brutal tournament at East Kentwood in the opening weekend of the 2011-2012 wrestling season, the Rockford Rams hosted their first dual meets on Wednesday, Dec. 14. In the opening meet of the evening, Rockford battled with the OK Red conference foe Panthers of West Ottawa.
The Panthers jumped out to an early 14-3 lead, winning three of the first four matches. The Rams’ sole victory, 103-pound Jared Bennett, defeated West Ottawa’s Ivan Hernandez 5-0.
Rockford started to roll in the 125-pound match when Tyler VanRooyen pinned Panther Mitch Beckman in 50 seconds. The Rams received a 6-1 victory from Nate Rojas at 130 to bring them within two points of West Ottawa.
When Cullen Maksimowski defeated Clayton Castro 13-5, the Rams went on top for good.
Rockford continued their dominance as they won the following seven matches to close out the dual and take a 44-14 OK Red conference victory. In addition to VanRooyen’s fall, Dan Apkarian pinned Joel Munoz in 1:44 at 160, and Robby Gorton added a fall at 189 as he defeated Justin Rich in 1:59.
In Rockford’s second duel of the night, the Rams took on the Forest Hills Central Rangers. Once again, Rockford found themselves battling back after falling behind early, as the Rangers opened up a 13-0 lead after the first three matches.
VanRooyen again ignited the Rams, this time with a 5-2 decision over the Rangers’ Steve Emery. Rockford won eight of the last 10 matches, en route to a 35-22 victory.
Coach Brian Richardson said of his Rams, “I am very happy about tonight. West Ottawa was very tough. The boys gave a great effort. Freshman Grant Tennihill gave us two big wins tonight.”
Richardson also gave high praise to the senior leadership on the Ram squad.
On Saturday, Dec. 17, the Rams traveled to Holland High School for the Tim Horn Memorial tournament. This tournament put the Rams into action against some of the top teams in the state of Michigan. Following a first-round bye, Rockford wrestled St. Johns, the top ranked team in all divisions. A void at 103 and a 5-0 decision at 130 from VanRooyen were the only victories the Rams received against the overpowering Redwings. St. Johns cruised to a 58-9 victory.
Rockford faired slightly better in round three against the Hartland Eagles. Victories by VanRooyen at 130, Trent Boyer at 135, Collin Curtis at 145, Austin Scogg at 152, and Dan Apkarian at 160 were not enough, as the Rams fell 43-23.
The fourth round gave the Rams their first victory of the day as they won 12 of 14 matches against the Coloma Comets en route to a 69-10 blowout.
The final round of pool competition saw the Rams take on conference rival East Kentwood. Falls by Trevor Bopp at 285, Tyler VanRooyen at 130, Collin Curtis at 145, Austin Scogg at 152 and Grant Tennihill at 171 paced the Rams, who outdistanced the Falcons 39-27.
In the sixth and final round, Rockford faced the third ranked team in Division II as they took on the Greenville Yellowjackets. The Rams battled hard throughout the dual meet, coming up five points short, as Greenville downed Rockford 35-30.
Tyler VanRooyen was the Rams’ sole undefeated wrestler on the day, winning all five of his matches.