By JIM JAKIEMIEC
The RHS grapplers finished the regular season last week with a thrilling dual win and a strong tournament effort. On Wednesday, the Rams hosted conference rival Grandville in a critical dual to keep their hopes of an elusive O-K Red championship alive. It was a thrilling affair that saw eight lead changes throughout the fourteen matches! Every point scored during a match elicited a response from the packed stands. Coach Brian Richardson knew his team was in for a battle from the start. “This is a big rivalry for us. We knew it would be close. Our kids got excited about the chance to shoot for a league title.”
The Rams who lost matches early in the dual did an excellent job of minimizing the damage by keeping the scores close to limit Grandville’s points. One shining example of this was Tyler Waterstrat’s match at 171 pounds, which pitted him against a state placer from last year. He kept the match close and wrestled with grit for the entire six minutes. Levi Utter did the same at 103 pounds, stepping in the varsity lineup for a sick teammate. Utter got beat, but he saved valuable points by avoiding the pin. Richardson cites these as examples of how tough his team is. “I was so impressed with the way our kids toughed it out in those losses. They knew their job was to limit Grandville’s points.”
As the dual progressed, the capacity crowd knew the team win would come down to the last match of the night. That is exactly what happened. With only the 125 pound match remaining, the Dawgs led by one point, 29-28. Junior Jack Tadych stepped onto the mat knowing that his job was to get the win to secure the dual victory. He did his job in convincing fashion with a second period pin, giving his team a 34-29 win. “Jack Tadych is not a flashy wrestler. He is a ‘grinder’ who does his job each and every day. I am ecstatic for him and the team right now,” Richardson commented. “This keeps our chances of a conference title possible.”
On Friday evening at West Ottawa High School, the O-K Red held the individual conference tournament. Hudsonville earned the outright championship, scoring 215.5 points to Rockford’s 156. “We didn’t come through like we needed to. Some of our wrestlers had disappointing nights,” Richardson admitted. “This conference is one of the toughest in the state and to place here is quite an accomplishment.” The Rams did have several impressive performances. Both Jack Richardson and Noah Anderson were crowned champions. This was the third title for each of the juniors, setting up the possibility for them to become four-time conference champions next year. The last time the Rockford wrestling team had that was 2010. Two freshmen, Trenton Wachter and Cole Gleason, both earned berths in the finals, falling short of the win. Connor White and Ashton Halland also finished second in the conference.
With the regular season completed, the team is eager to start the postseason. It will host team districts on Wednesday evening at 6 p.m. The Rams will take on the Rangers from Forest Hill Central to determine the team district title. Then on Saturday, they will travel to Grand Haven High School for the individual district tournament, which is the first step toward the coveted state tournament at Ford Field in Detroit.