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Rams Qualify 7 for State Wrestling Finals

By Jeannie Gregory, 02/16/19, 3:15PM EST


The three Ram Regional Champions with the Rockford State Qualifiers. Connor White, Noah Anderson, and Trenton Wachter. ~ Photo by Jim Glave

Rams shine in individual wrestling regional

GRAND HAVEN - The MHSAA D1 Individual Wrestling Regionals were held, Saturday, Feb. 16, at Grand Haven High School. There were 13 Ram wrestlers who qualified for this prestigious event, and the Rams laid it all out on the mats. Seven Rams earned a top-four finish and earned the right to move on to the MHSAA Individual Wrestling State Finals, Friday, Feb. 22 and Saturday, Feb. 23. Trenton Wachter, Connor White, and Noah Anderson all claimed Regional Crowns.

Trenton Wachter (47-1) at the start of Regionals, claimed the championship in the 130-pound weight class. Trenton topped Jeffrey DeYoung (KZOC) in a MD 15-7, then beat Sam Scott (GVIL) in a 6-2 Decision, and then topped Damian Ballan (TCWE) in the finals by a 7-0 Decision for the title.

“I’m not surprised at all,” said Ram head coach Brian Richardson. “The record he has for a sophomore is phenomenal. The beauty of it is, he came in this season on a mission to make it to the Individual State Finals. That’s easy to say, but it’s quite another thing to carry out when you’re wrestling juniors and seniors. The mental toughness and focus he’s displaying week in and week out is nothing short of amazing. He’s the model of consistency right now for us.”

Evan Kaser (38-11) placed fourth in the 135-pound weight class. Evan topped Aiden Brown (BRIG) in an 8-3 Decision, and then fell to Zach Johnson (BRIG). He then topped Jack Tadych (ROCK) in an extremely close 5-4 Decision that was an emotional one for Ram fans and coaches. He then wrestled Cameron Ensign (HUDV) for third place, claiming the 2-1 Decision.

“He’s another kid that his whole goal was to become a better wrestler and he wanted to get to Individual State. He and Trenton are work-out partners and you can see the correlation in how they are doing this season. Today he started out with a tough wrestler from Brighton and he out-worked him and out-hustled him. Last year, he was one match away from going to state and he said it wasn’t going to happen again. You knew he was going to be successful. Hard work has paid off for him and I couldn’t be happier for him.

Senior Captain Connor White (41-5) captured the title at the 140-pound weight class. Connor topped Devin Pfau (GRDL) with a 2:44 Fall, then beat William Heffron (EK) by a 10-6 Decision, and topped Rhett Newton (BRIG) in the finals by a 4-0 Decision.

“He had a really close match against the East Kentwood kid,” said Richardson. “The thing that impresses me the most is that we talked about the match afterwards and the areas he had to get better at.  Connor made those adjustments and dominated his last opponent. He was in complete control in those matches. This is his first Regional Championship, so it was very special.”

Senior Captain Jack Richardson (40-4) earned second place in the 145-pound weight class. Jack pinned Logan Stuckhardt (PORT) at 1:40, then topped Mitchell Derhammer (PORT) with a 15-0 Technical Fall. In the finals, he fell to Jack Samuels (HUDV) by a 4-2 Decision in overtime to earn second place.

“He’s wrestled each of the two Samuels boys twice in the last week alone. In all four matches, he went to overtime. Clearly James (Samuels) is a very talented wrestler, as his only loss on the year is to Jack. You know you aren’t going to blow them away – you have to outwrestle them. One little opportunity is all it takes in those matches. That being said, Jack qualified for the fourth time for the Individual State Finals. He won’t be too high, nor too low. He’ll handle the loss, and I have no doubt he’ll be ready for the State Finals in two weeks.

Senior Captain Noah Anderson (12-1) earned the Regional Crown at the 160-pound weight class. An amazing feat, considering that he just came back from a sidelining injury. Noah wrestled Nick Saumier (BCLK) and registered a Fall at 1:28, then topped Dane Donabedian (BRIG) by a 2-1 Decision, and then beat Colby Deberry (HOLT) by an 11-6 Decision for the championship.

“Noah is just getting into the heart of his season,” said Richardson. “The beauty of watching Noah wrestle is he’s getting better every day and you can see his confidence rising. The cool thing is this is his first Regional Championship and his third time qualifying for Individual States. He’s knocking off rust week by week. I’ll tell you, if I was 160-pound wrestler out there, I’d be wary of wrestling this ‘Noah kid from Rockford.’ He’s tough and proved it on Saturday.”

Cole Gleason landed third place at the 171-pound weight class. Cole topped Garrett Kroczaleski by an 8-6 Decision in his first match, then fell to River Shettler (BRIG). He topped Vincent Savaya (WLAK) by a Fall at 4:24, and then met up with Kroczaleski again, only this time he pinned him at 2:30 to earn third place.

“I truly believe right now, and as witnessed, he’s just scratching the surface of how good he can be,” said Richardson. “Qualifying as a sophomore for State Finals is something special. He hasn’t had one bad loss this season and he’s wrestled extremely talented wrestlers. He is so explosive and so powerful day in and day out, you know he’s going to have an awesome career. It’s a whole different animal wrestling at a higher weight as a sophomore. I’m excited to see what his future looks like.”

Senior Captain Tyler Waterstrat earned second place at the 189-pound weight class. Tyler topped Logan Kozarian (HOWE) by a Fall at 5:00, beat Jake Slabaugh by a Major Decision, 15-6, and then fell by just a 1-0 Decision to Brighton’s Greyson Stevens to claim second place.

“Tyler is a poster boy for our program,” said Richardson. “He proves it doesn’t matter when you started, or how good you were when you were young. He is the definition of hard work pays off. Tyler is not the fanciest wrestler by any stretch of the imagination on our team, but embraces the idea, ‘I know what I do well and I’ll make people stop me, or adjust to me.’ He’s executing his game plan for the season as well as anyone on our team. He wound up losing a 1-0 match in the finals, that clearly could have gone either way. That result could have changed on a dime.  If they wrestled that match 10 more times I’d put my money on Tyler every time, he’s so powerful and so explosive.

“How cool is it that all four of our senior captains made it to the regional finals?” reflected Richardson. “I’m so proud of them. I’m elated for our program. It’s first time since 2010 that Rockford has seven wrestlers advance to the Individual Finals. They are all awesome young men, and they all have different ways of getting there.”

The seven Rams will compete at the MHSAA D1 Individual Wrestling State Finals, March 1-2 at Ford Field, in Detroit.

Connor White wrestling at the individual regional. ~ Photo by Jim Glave

Noah Anderson works on his opponent in regional competition. ~ Photo by Jim Glave

Trenton Wachter competing in the MHSAA D1 Individual Wrestling Regional. ~ Photo by Jim Glave