by Jim Jakiemiec
The Rockford High School wrestling program started its season last week in a dominating fashion. On Wednesday, the Varsity A team competed in Greenville, while the Varsity B team traveled to Holton. Then on Saturday, the A team competed in the Kent City Kickoff as the B team went to Allendale.
The Varsity A team finished the week 7-0 in dual meets. It opened at Greenville with a 59-15 win over Byron Center and then defeated the host Yellowjackets 54-18. The Rams had 9 wrestlers go 2-0 on the night, including Ashton Halland, Jacob Simkins, Trenton Wachter, Jack Tadych, Connor White, Jack Richardson, Blake Gordon, Cole Gleason, and Tyler Waterstrat.
Their winning ways continued Saturday in Kent City going 5-0 in duals on the way to their first championship of the season. In the early rounds, they defeated the Whitehall B team 64-9 and blanked Kenowa Hills 75-0. The Rams then handled Belding 70-12 and rolled Grand Rapids Catholic Central 62-12. In the championship match, Rockford beat the Packers of Fremont 54-18 to secure the title. Evan Kaser, along with Halland, Simkins, Wachter, Tadych, and White all went 5-0 on the day.
Coach Brian Richardson was pleased with his team’s opening week. “I couldn’t be happier with our team this week. We have so much depth, which really helps in so many ways. We had three state qualifiers dealing with injuries this week, and the quality of their replacements is quite impressive.” Indeed, breaking the starting lineup for the Rams is no easy task with 7 returning regional qualifiers. “Josh Hill, Reed Roberts, Blake Gordon, Landon Demorest, and Jacob Slabaugh stepped in and took full advantage of their opportunities,” Richardson added. “We haven’t had this type of depth in years. It will make a difference the entire season. At any given time, I know that there is a quality kid ready to fill in when needed.”
That depth was clear as the Varsity B team also went 7-0 on the week. On Wednesday, they opened with Central Montcalm and a 68-6 win. Then Rockford hammered the host Red Devils 69-6. 10 Rams went 2-0 on the night: Josh Hill, James Capp, Reid Nicholson, Jacob Slabaugh, Tanner Hohnholt, Jacob Seeley, Levi Utter, Colin Harju, Mason Jakiemiec, and Eric Schulte. The B team kept its momentum on Saturday at the Allendale JV tournament, going 5-0 to secure the title for the second year in a row. They opened with convincing wins over Hudsonville Unity Christian B, West Ottawa B, and Hudsonville B. Then the Ram B team hammered the Allendale C team to earn its way to the championship against the Grand Haven B team which was also undefeated on the day. The Rams jumped to a fast start and never looked back, winning 63-12. Rockford won every match wrestled; Grand Haven’s only points came from Rockford forfeits.
Coach Richardson is excited about the team this year and has high expectations for his athletes. “Our goals are always to win a conference title and to qualify for the team state finals. We have been close in recent years, but haven’t followed through like we wanted. The upperclassmen on this team are eager to prove that we are one of the premier programs in the state. They have worked incredibly hard in the offseason to improve. Their dedication is unquestioned. Now is the time for that work to come to fruition in the form of championships!”
This week will be a tougher challenge for the Varsity A grapplers as they compete in the Kent County Classic at Forest Hills Central on Saturday.