The team honors the flag during the National Anthem. ~ Photo by Connie Hill
ROCKFORD – The glow of the scoreboard was high above Ram head wrestling coach Brian Richardson. The score made him smile – a lot. The lights said it all, Home 37 – Guests 23. It was a testament to how hard his Rams had worked in preparation for the OK Red match-up against defending OK Champs, the Hudsonville Eagles. The Wednesday, Jan. 23, win moved the team’s record to 26-2.
“That’s a good team,” Richardson says, obviously with relief. “They’ve been in the Top 8 in the state, they are a quality program. They pose a lot of problems for their opponents. We really didn’t wrestle all that well last Saturday, and we rebounded impressively. Hudsonville was there at the Lakeshore Duals, too, and watched us lose to Stevensville Lakeshore. To be honest with you, I don’t think they knew what kind of a team we could be. I know they had to be saying to themselves, “They aren’t as good as everyone thinks they are.’ I know if I were them, I would have thought that Saturday.”
The Rams dropped the first match in a close one, and then Tyler Waterstrat (189) put on a take-down clinic in his match to clinch a 10-5 win to tie the score at 3-3. The Rams fell in the next two matches, with Taylor Green losing in an incredibly tight 3-2 match to move the score to Hudsonville 10 and Rams 3.
The Rams got their fans’ hearts pumping when Brysonn Aulbach (103) took the mat and pinned his opponent with just 16 ticks off the clock. Michael Rozzano (112) then pinned his man at 1:48.6, and Ashton Halland (119), registered a fall at 1:04. In less than four minutes of wrestling, the Rams had turned a 7-point deficit into a 11-point lead, with the score 21-10.
Rams Trenton Wachter (130), earned a decision, Evan Kaser (135) and Connor White (145) registered major decisions, and Jack Richardson (152) notched a technical fall by a 17-2 score to clinch the Rams 37-23 victory.
“I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our 103, 112, 119-pounders,” says Richardson. “I think, without a doubt, they took the wind out of everyone on Hudsonville’s side. First, Brysonn Aulbach. I couldn’t ask for more from a freshman in our lineup. Making 103 isn’t easy for him, but he stayed disciplined for the team, and has made weight all year. He’s getting better week in and week out. That’s why you coach, and help them to work to improve. He’s impressing the team and the coaching staff with the great effort he’s putting in. Michael Rozzano just broke into the varsity lineup. He did it with diet, discipline and working hard. We can only ask and do so much as a coach, the rest is up to them. Michael changed a couple weeks ago, and obviously decided, ‘Now is the time for me to step up for the team.’ Last Saturday was first time in the lineup and he made mistakes early on, but got better and better as the day wore on. His confidence is growing by leaps and bounds at every match and every practice. He’s the shot in the arm this team needs. And, Ashton Halland, talk about rebound, He had arguably as tough a day as a kid could have last Saturday. He lost three tough matches by the slimmest and narrowest of margins. He came out with an attitude tonight. When he comes out with attitude, watch out because he’s going to be tough. I’m so happy for him.”
“The seniors worked their tails off to keep points away from Hudsonville,” shares Richardson. “They went up against bigger, more talented opponents and did a great job. We took a couple losses, but in reality, they were victories. Even in a loss, they still kept points away from the Eagles. That’s the beauty of wrestling.”
Now, the Rams will prepare for next week’s match against OK Red opponent Grand Haven.
“This victory was big on our way to earning the OK Red Conference,” Richardson says. “That is first and foremost on the coaching staff and wrestlers’ minds. We talk about that. Everything else will take care of itself. We have to take care of Grand Haven next week. First things first. Then we will look at the conference tournament. We corrected the mistakes we made on Saturday, and took a giant step forward. It’s what I wanted and needed to see out of this team.”