The Rams celebrate their MHSAA Regional Wrestling Title. ~ Photo by Connie Hill
GRANDVILLE – The Rockford wrestling team earned themselves the MHSAA D1 Team Wrestling Regional 103 crown, Wednesday, Feb. 13. Coach Brian Richardson’s Rams mowed down Traverse City West easily, notching a 71-6 victory in the semis. In the finals, the Rams faced a familiar OK Red foe, the Hudsonville Eagles. Rockford had already topped the potent Hudsonville team on January 23, but, this was a must-win situation for the Rams. The team was able to put together an impressive match and downed the Eagles by a 40-26 score to claim the Regional title. The victory earned the Rams the right to move on to the MHSAA D1 Team Wrestling State Quarterfinals.
The TC West contest gave the Ram coaches and wrestlers a special opportunity, which doesn’t always happen in post-season competition.
“We were fortunate enough in that dual to build a comfortable lead and were able to divide our line up to let some of the kids wrestle in a regional,” said Richardson.
The Ram coaching staff were facing a dilemma when trying to plan out their next strategy – and that was they weren’t sure who was going to win the other semi-final. Would their opponent be Grandville? Or, would it be Hudsonville? They knew that Grandville had handed Hudsonville a loss earlier in the season. Would it happen again?
“Right out of the gate it posed some problems for us,” shared Richardson. “We had to plan for both teams. That made it a little bit interesting. When Hudsonville won, I was pretty confident the way we matched up against them. That’s not to say they don’t have very good wrestlers, because they do, but it comes down to bonus points and who could get the most. I felt it was us.”
The Regional Final started with Ram Taylor Green, who had wrestled his opponent two times, and they both came down to one-point matches. This time was close, too, with Green taking a loss in overtime.
“Taylor didn’t give up any bonus points, which was a huge start for us,” said Richardson. “It was an exciting match, a great way to start the dual.”
Brysonn Aulbach came out next and notched a huge win for the Rams, pinning his opponent.
“We knew Brysonn could do it, but it sure gets the team excited when our freshman comes through and gets a pin for us,” said Richardson.
He continued, “Michael Rozzano wrestled for us a 112 and limited bonus points again, so we were proud of him. Then Asthon Halland had a huge pin at 119 and then we limited bonus points at 125.”
The dual continued to see-saw, with Trenton Wachter earning valuable bonus points at 135 by pinning his man, and then Hudsonville winning a match – but, again, not earning any bonus points because there was no pin. So, even though the Eagles had won four of the seven matches, the Rams owned an 18-14 lead. The coaching staff’s game plan was working – earn big points and not give up big points.
“We did it perfectly,” shared Richardson. “The team has really matured and bought into what we need to do to win as a team.”
The Rams continued following the game plan. Evan Kaser notched a pin at 140. Then the Rams reached what Richardson called the “interesting part” of the dual.
Enter Hudsonville stand-outs Jack and James Samuels.
“We knew those two wrestlers had to get big points for Hudsonville,” said Richardson. “What are we going to do? Are we going to avoid them, or are we going to wrestle against them? We decided to wrestle them.”
The Ram coaching staff put aces Connor White and Jack Richardson on them, knowing there was a 50/50 chance. Connor went up against one of the best wrestlers in the state and fell 9-3. Jack faced off against one of the state’s top wrestlers, too, and lost 4-2 in an overtime nail-biter.
“Even though on paper they were both losses, in reality, they were huge matches for us because those two didn’t give up and kept away valuable points from Hudsonville.”
The Rams held a 22-20 lead after those matches. The Rams tallied three consecutive pins to close the door, with Noah Anderson, Tyler Waterstrat and Cole Gleason dominating their opponents and bringing huge points to the Rams for the Regional crown.
“I’m extremely happy for our seniors,” said Richardson. “The last two years our team has lost in the Regional Finals. That was one of the big goals at beginning of year. First, was an OK Red title, which is the first time since 2012, and second was to get back to team State, which we haven’t done since 2010. It’s a great thing for our seniors, and the team.”
The Rams now travel to the Wings Event Center, in Kalamazoo, February 22-23 for the MHSAA D1 Team Wrestling Finals.
Noah Anderson lifts his Hudsonville opponent in the Regional finals. ~ Photo by Connie Hill
Ashton Halland works on pinning his Hudsonville opponent. ~ Photo by Connie Hill
Tyler Waterstrat moves to pin his Hudsonville opponent. ~ Photo by Connie Hill
The team captains, along with head coach Brian Richardson, pose with the MHSAA D1 Team Wrestling Regional trophy. ~ Photo by Connie Hill
Blake Gordon works on pinning his opponent from Traverse City West in the Regional semis. ~ Photo by Connie Hill
Ram Eric Schulte works on his Traverse City West opponent in the Regional Semis. ~ Photo by Connie Hill
Noah Anderson shows some acrobatics as he takes on his TC opponent. ~ Photo by Connie Hill