By Randy Gregory
After having had great success in the team districts, Rockford journeyed to Grand Haven for individual district action on Saturday, February 9th. Five different Rams moved on to regional action next week including a champion, two runners-up and a pair of third-place finishers. The top four placers in each weight class earned the right to advance.
“These five young men have led the team all year,” said Rockford coach Brian Richardson. “I am extremely excited for all of them. They have put in long hours during the off season and even more time over the course of the season.”
Sophomore Jared Bennett led the way for Rockford by claiming the top spot at 103 pounds with a 5-2 decision in the finals. Bennett’s record now stands at a very impressive 41-1 on the season.
“Jared was outstanding from start to finish today,” said Richardson. “He is peaking at the right time and has been wrestling at a very high level. He hasn’t received the recognition that I think he deserves statewide and is an outstanding technician on the mat.”
Juniors Stephen Jendritz (112) and Brandon Houle (215) fell just short of a title in their respective weight classes by losing in their final bouts. Jendritz record now sits at 34-3 while Houle is 19-6 in an injury-plagued campaign.
“Stephen has been one of the top wrestlers in the state in his weight class,” said Richardson. “He lost to probably the top wrestler in the state in the finals in Cam Bertucci of Grand Haven. I think he learned some things and will wrestle much better when he gets to face him again. Brandon missed a month with a dislocated knee cap and has had to change his style of wrestling to compensate for the injury. I don’t think he has been close to 100% all year long but still has more than held his own.”
The final two Ram placers were senior Nate Rojas (125) and junior Braden Zych (140) who both placed third in their respective weight classes by winning the final match of the consolation finals. Rojas’ record is now 26-14 and Zych’s mark is 32-12 on the season.
“Nate is wrestling on the hottest streak he has ever been on recently,” said Richardson. “He is very focused and came out of an extremely difficult weight class to advance. Braden won a grand total of six matches last year and is definitely my favorite story of this season. He worked very, very hard to make himself a better wrestler and is now reaping the rewards of his efforts. He also came through a meat grinder in his weight class and avenged a pair of earlier losses this year when he won in the consolation finals.”
The regionals will be contested right back in Grand Haven on Saturday, February 16th. The Grand Haven district placers will be combined with the same quartet from the Portage Central district with the top four placers at the regional earning the right to move ahead to individual state final action at Auburn Hills the following week.
“We had several underclassmen who really battled through what we call the blood rounds in an effort to advance,” said Richardson. “They didn’t quite make it out, but I think they all learned what they need to work on in order to make it next year. It was a nice day all the way around and the kids really gave it their all.”