by RANDY GREGORY
The Rockford wrestling team knew they faced formidable odds when they squared off with Grandville in the opening match of Division 1 regional action at East Kentwood on Wednesday, February 13th. Though the margin had narrowed considerably over the course of the season during multiple confrontations, the Bulldogs always emerged on top in fairly comfortable fashion. The winner stayed the same in the regional bout with Grandville claiming the 35-19 victory and eventually advancing to the state quarterfinals with a win over Forest Hills Central in the regional finals.
“We came a long way this season from start to finish,” said Rockford coach Brian Richardson. “It is always tough when you have to say goodbye to your seniors after the final match and tonight was no different. Grandville has a very good team and we wish them luck going forward but this was a much closer match then the score indicated. We lost seven different matches by three points or less including five in a row between 160 and 285 pounds.”
Grandville won nine of the first ten matches to establish a 31-4 lead and secure the win before the final four matches were contested. The lone win for Rockford in the first ten matches was a major decision from Braden Zych at 140 pounds.
Jared Bennett won for the Rams at 103 pounds and Stephen Jendritz (112) and Michael Tankersley (119) were the recipients of forfeits to secure the final points of the evening for Rockford.
“Caleb Childers lost a real tough match in the final ten seconds and Aaron Ortiz and Nick Guerra both came up just short for us,” Richardson continued. “The first time we wrestled Grandville this year they just steamrolled us. But I am really encouraged by the strides we made over the course of the season both as individuals and as a team.”
“We have 33 wrestlers coming back next year and I told a lot of the younger guys that sometime you just have to pay your dues. Braden (Zych) won six matches last year and has won over thirty this year. Jared (Bennett) and Stephen (Jendritz) both took their lumps last year as younger wrestlers but have both had outstanding seasons this time around.”
Richardson also pointed to some strong wrestlers at the middle school level and in age group wrestling that paint a rosy picture for the future of Rockford wrestling.
“We were all disappointed with the results this year,” said Richardson. “But with the success we are having at the younger levels I am really looking forward to the future. I am lucky enough to spend seven days a week working with wrestlers of all ages who will eventually come into the program. And next year and the succeeding years will be something we can all look forward to.”