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INSIDE THIS ISSUE
Girls Varsity Basketball................2-5
Girls JV Basketball.......................6-7
Girls Frosh Basketball..................8-9
Cummings New Head Coach...10-11
Boys Varsity Basketball...........12-15
Boys JV Basketball.......................16
Boys Frosh Basketball..................17
Renaming of Stadium...................27
Middle School Cheer....................29
Where Are They Now?.............30-31
* Cover Photo girls varsity basketball
captain Syd Reinke by “Papa” Razzi
VOLUME 2 ISSUE 18
Director of Business Operations
Hello Ram Fans! The announcement of the Rams new
head football coach came with mercurial speed. ROAR
had to switch gears quickly to adjust to putting the
announcement in the February issue. What a great selection in
Brent Cummings! I’ve yet to hear a negative comment about
the man, and he has been in the Rams program for a very long
time. Losing Ralph was such a sad time for us Rockford lifers,
so it was nice to find out that the administration took some of
those emotions in their selection for Brent as head coach. There
will be a continuity for the program and Ralph’s vision. It’s
always interesting to find out a coach’s background and Brent’s
is steeped in experience and success.
Almost immediately after that announcement came another – the changing of
the name of Ted Carlson Memorial Stadium. What a nice, lasting tribute to a coach
who gave us so many wonderful memories on Friday nights under those lights.
This issue shines on plenty of Ram successes, but it really had me stepping back
to think about things. When I received answers from boys varsity basketball head
coach Kyle Clough, whose team started out at 1-6 on the season it really got me to
questioning our drive to win, and the coverage of it. At what cost? How much pressure
do we put on our athletes? How much pressure do they put on themselves?
How much pressure do we put on our coaches? I like Kyle, I have from the minute
I did my first interview with him. I like how cerebral he is about the game and
about his program. His game plan isn’t just thrown together, it is well-thought out.
There’s a reason he started his schedule the way he did and he explains it, candidly.
I admire his chops – a lot.
I also admire girls varsity basketball head coach Brad Wilson’s approach. I truly
admire him as a coach and a person. His team started their season 7-0. Those players
and coaches had to feel a lot of pressure to continue an undefeated streak that
stretched to 30-0 on the year for the program and 10-0 at the varsity level. What
an amazing accomplishment! What a tribute to all the players knowing their roles
and a coaching staff who leads the way! How much pressure did they feel to win?
How did it affect their love of the game? Did they enjoy it? I sure hope so, because it
was something special.
Let’s be honest, it’s a lot of fun to win. It’s why we play the game and strive to
always get better. It’s why we keep score. It’s why we gather in the stands of a stadium,
a natatorium, or a gym and cheer on our team. But it’s not all about winning,
it’s about losing, too. Some of the more important lessons in sports and in life
are learned when you lose. It certainly tests a team and player’s character more. It
makes you hungry for that “high” you get when you ring that victory bell.
The wonderful thing about Rockford coaches is win or lose, the players benefit
from the life lessons these dedicated men and women teach their young players.
They truly are concerned about them as individuals. They show they care no matter
the outcome of a competition – and that’s always a win.
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FEBRUARY, 2020 ROCKFORDROAR.COM 1
2 ROAR MAGAZINE FEBRUARY, 2020
Photo on opposite page: Elle Irwin takes on the competition as she drives to the hoop. Photo above: The Rams girls varsity basketball
team pose with their championship trophy at the Cornerstone University “Home for the Holidays” Tournament.
~ Photos by “Papa” Razzi Sports Photography
No one can ignore a basketball program that starts the season
30-0. Not only are all three levels letting their current area
opponents know that something special is happening, they
are putting the whole state on notice. That record is where
the Rams girls basketball program was sitting through three
weeks of January. Heady stuff for a relatively new coaching
staff, but there are some impressive pieces that are making it
all come together so well.
Varsity head coach Bradley Wilson puts the spotlight on
many of those key pieces, but let’s not forget about who is
leading the charge.
Wilson is in his third year as head coach of the varsity team.
He has cut his teeth in various levels of girls basketball since
2007 and contends he has had the honor and privilege to learn
under some tremendous mentors. He shares a bit about what
makes him tick.
“I grew up in Grayling and played sports in high school. I
just fell in love with sports and competition at a young age.
When my high school career was over, I majored in physical
education and health. I eventually taught and coached at Belding
High School for 10 years. During that experience, I coached
both genders, and at times coached football, baseball and basketball.
Basketball was always my favorite.”
CONTINUES ON PAGE 4
Alina Anderson goes up for a lay up.
~ Photo by “Papa” Razzi Sports Photography
FEBRUARY, 2020 ROCKFORDROAR.COM 3
“I was fortunate to eventually become the varsity girls basketball
coach at Belding for four years. It was a rocky beginning
and I learned a ton, but before I left, we were able to turn
the program around and win a conference a district title. I am
so thankful now to have the opportunity to teach and coach
in a community like Rockford. My wife and I absolutely love
Rockford and enjoy raising our two kids Luke and Lainee in
It doesn’t seem to be as rocky a start for the Rams program.
Last year the players made some huge strides, and the returners
are continuing the pace this season. The team is currently
10-1, with a variety of players leading the scoring in different
games. They suffered their first loss of the year against OK
Red foe East Kentwood by a 55-47 score. Conference opponent
Hudsonville, who is next on the schedule, will be another challenge.
Wilson always sees his team come together, though,
win or lose.
“Each season is always different. It doesn’t matter how
many returning players we have back,” shares Wilson. What
makes this team unique is that they are all in for the team 100
percent. We know exactly who we are as a team, and all the
kids are dedicated to work as hard as they can to fulfill their
role. When a team knows their identity and they play as a team
for each other, the sky is the limit.”
Wilson explains his roster and why they are so successful.
The team, which lacks in height, makes up for in heart, skill,
speed and gritty play.
“Our depth is what sets us apart,” explains Wilson. “We
have the goal of making conditioning a factor. We cycle our
players in and out regularly so that they can always give it their
all. This philosophy makes it very tough on the other team,
and once we run them down, we have a great chance to win.
We have three senior captains. Syd Reinke, Madi Kleefisch and
Maddie Hutchings. We are a very young team collectively and
these three have done a great job at keeping us grounded and
hungry each and every practice.”
The team has also enjoyed the skills of sophomores Elle
Irwin, Alina Anderson Sami KeDuiper, and Megan McCauley.
Freshmen Madee Whitford and Alyssa Wypych also add their
talents to the mix. The team also rotates in Sophia Segard and
Abby Bakita for their skills to complete the team’s rotation.
“We really have pushed ‘the team’ mantra,” shares Wilson.
“I think all of our girls realize that they all have a tremendous
role in what we do, and care for each other enough to star in
Wilson has a running list of why his teams are so successful.
Senior Maddie Hutchings fights off a defender for a basket.
~ Photo by “Papa” Razzi Sports Photography
He points to his assistants and shares how important they
are to him, and the success of his varsity team.
“My high school staff is incredible. I have never been around
a group of people who are this committed. Ashley Remtema,
Larry Fehrle and Jenny Wypych help me at the varsity level.
They are my best friends and dedicate countless hours for our
4 ROAR MAGAZINE FEBRUARY, 2020
“The amount of time that they sacrifice from their families
is unbelievable. We devote the spring, summer and fall to skill
development and closed the talent gap with the conference’s
best teams in two years.
Remtema, who has been an assistant at the varsity level for
seven years now is responsible for making sure the players are
ready for the games, not only strategically by watching film,
but preparing them both mentally and physically. She makes
sure they stay healthy, overseeing their care with the trainers.
She also does an incredible job on social media sharing the
team’s good news.
“I like to highlight our athletes on social media so we get
more attention as a team and to help our student athletes with
getting college scholarships more attention. All of our coaches
have a role with helping to get our girls scholarships to play
basketball if that is their goal. What I enjoy most about my
role is that I get to know the girls on a different level, because
I’m always making sure they are mentally okay. Asking them
how their day was and talking through the good and bad days
Remtema continues, “I also like that I get to coach alongside
some awesome coaches in Coach Wilson, Coach Fehrle
and Coach Wypych. They are some of my best friends and the
fact that we get to coach together and be friends off the court
with our families too is something special. That actually trickles
down to our JV coaches and freshmen coaches as well. We
all get along so well and challenge each other in positive ways
to be the best coaches we can be, so our athletes can be the best
they can be.”
Wilson shares other key pieces.
“It has been an amazing start. There are so many things that
contribute to the success. I think it starts with the parents. We
have so many that instill the work ethic and character traits
that are needed to be successful at the varsity level. There are
also usually a couple of parents who take a grade under their
wing and teach them the fundamentals, teach them how to
compete and take them all over the Midwest to play when
the kids are growing up. Jason Banfield, Ryan DeKuiper, Marc
Whitford and Jenny Wypych have put in countless hours with
the current varsity group when they were younger.”
He also points to a number of programs for helping prepare
young players for high school play.
“We have re-vamped our Community Ed and summer basketball
programs and added the ROCK program. Ryan DeKuiper
is our youth program director, and those programs are
Rams senior captain Madi Kleefisch battles through a number of
Forest Hills Northern opponents to get to the hoop.
~ Photo by “Papa” Razzi Sports Photography
providing kids a chance to learn the fundamentals at a young
age and by the time they get to the high school level we have a
ton to work with.”
Just like his team, Wilson knows his program is only as
good as its leaders.
“In addition, I have also hired Marc Whitford and Kent
Graves as our JV and freshman coaches (respectively). These
two have a wealth of knowledge and experience and better
yet, are great with kids. I think building this staff has brought
the program to new heights. Lastly, I believe that coach Brent
Cummings and the entire physical education department do
an incredible job at strengthening our kids’ body and minds.
This has been a huge advantage.”
Despite how busy he is, Wilson is still taking time to enjoy
this year’s season.
“Rockford has such incredible tradition, and to me the best
part of this run we are making is simply getting the girls basketball
program playing to the standard of excellence that is
expected of us. Seeing how much these seniors are giving, I
would love nothing more than to send them out with a championship,”
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FEBRUARY, 2020 ROCKFORDROAR.COM 5
The RHS JV Girls Basketball Team (L-R): Front Row: Gavi Bultman, Kayla MacLaren, Aimee Zang, Natalie Barr, and Belen Aguilar. Back
Row: Assistant coach Sydney Savage, Karsyn Broderick, Macey Palmer, Meredith Simmons, Emma Campbell, and head coach Marc
Whitford. ~ Photo by Douglas Photography
JV Team Works Together
to Roll Out Impressive Season
The Rams girls JV basketball team has rolled to an 11-1 season,
always showing the same grit that their sisters do at the
other two levels. Their sole loss came Thursday, Jan. 23 at the
hands of the Hudsonville Eagles, whose entire program is giving
fits to plenty of OK Red opponents.
With plenty of speed and talent on the roster, the Rams are
proving a formidable foe on the hardcourt. Through 10 games,
the team had outscored its opponents 576 to 215, an average of
58 to 21 per game.
Head coach Marc Whitford is in his second season at the
helm for the Rams and has plenty of experience, bringing two
decades around the court as a coach.
Through the first 10 games, the team’s biggest test was
handed to them by Forest Hills Northern. The Rams were 0-of-
20 from beyond the arc, an extremely odd occurrence for this
high-scoring, potent offensive team. The Rams did a great job
of adjusting to their cold streak, still topping the Huskies by 13
points, a 41-28 final.
“We just couldn’t get our offense going like we normally
do,” explains Whitford. “We average about 60 points per game
and it just wasn’t there for us that night. Fortunately for us,
our defense is always solid, and we held them under 30 points
giving us a great chance to win, which we did.”
Whitford loves the makeup of his roster. He looks to returning
sophomore starts Aimee Zang, Macey Palmer, and Karsyn
Broderick as his leaders.
“Each one of these girls keeps the team accountable in their
own individual way,” he explains. “This team is also fueled by
an unbelievably talented freshman class.”
6 ROAR MAGAZINE FEBRUARY, 2020
He also looks to Meredith Simmons, Kayla Maclaren, and
Emma Campbell to fill in the holes.
“We also get great play off the bench from Natalie Barr and
Gavi Bultman,” adds Whitford.
“Even though we only have eight players that can play for
us, we are extremely blessed with very skilled and highly intelligent
players. You normally do not see this combination at
a JV level.”
Whitford is assisted by Sydney Savage, who adds her own
basketball expertise to JV team. Whitford likes the future of
the Lady Rams’ program, and believes there are a number of
factors to its success, with the coaches also being an integral
part of it.
“The dedication of the players and the coaches is what
makes the program successful. Most of these players have been
working on their skill level since age 6 or 7. You combine that
with the experience of the coaching staff and great things will
Whitford also knows how the players respond to the coaches’
vision is a big piece of the program’s success now and into
“This team has great leaders and competitors. I have three
returning starters from last year that lead the way and make
sure everyone is giving their all. The team loves to compete
and hates to lose.”
The Rams JV coaching staff talks to their players during a time
out. ~ Photo by “Papa” Razzi Sports Photography
FEBRUARY, 2020 ROCKFORDROAR.COM 7
The RHS Freshman Girls Basketball Team (L-R): Front Row: Laura Millan, Claire Gleason, Bella Augustine, Reagan Hall, Jaydin
Quinones, and Alyssa Axtman. Back Row: Assistant coach Katherine Lanczki, Brianna Rodriguez, Emily Obenauf, Jayelyn Vega, Kara
Higgins, Julia Wildman, and head coach Kent Graves. Missing: Rylee Zandstra ~ Photo by Douglas Photography
Rams Frosh Team Mowing Down Competition
The girls freshman basketball team is mowing down the
competition and putting the area on notice that the future of
the Lady Rams basketball program is looking bright. The Lady
Rams have amassed a 12-0 record, going perfect on the year
The team is led by first year head coach Kent Graves. That’s
not to say Graves doesn’t have a lot of experience coaching
basketball; he brings more than 30 years to the table. One of
those stints was 12 years at Forest Hills Northern, with five of
those coming at the varsity level.
Graves is particularly proud of his team for doing so well
with his roster short five freshman teammates. The players
were moved up to help the JV and varsity teams.
“That dramatically changed the projected makeup of our
team,” Graves shares. “This group has come together and
formed a deep and strong bond. I believe everyone knows
their role and supports each other and the team.”
The Rams defense has crushed plenty of opponents this season.
~ Photo by Memories By Mandy Photography
8 ROAR MAGAZINE FEBRUARY, 2020
Of the 12 games, the Rams were tested the most in their
game against Mona Shores. The Sailors gave the Rams a huge
test, but the players showed they were up for it. It was a 35-
34 double overtime victory. It was an exciting game, to say
the least. The Rams leading scorer, Kara Higgins, averaged
17 points per game heading into the game. Through the first
32 minutes of the game and 7 minutes and 53 seconds of two
overtime periods, the Sailors had shut her down. Kara hadn’t
scored a point. The Rams were looking at the wrong end of
a 34-32 score, when with just seven seconds left on the clock
Kara knocked down a huge 3-point shot for the Ram win.
“To answer your question about what made this game different,
our top scorer wasn’t scoring,” shares Graves. “That
made everyone have to dig that much deeper. It was our best
TEAM game of the season so far.”
Graves points to help from his assistants Bri Young and
Katie Lanzski as one of the keys to his team’s success. Young
is an RHS grad and a former Rams basketball player. She is a
medical assistant in Zeeland and focuses on the team’s offense.
Lanzski role is to focus on the defense. She played basketball
in high school for Adrian and is a Spanish teacher at the Rockford
“Both have great basketball minds,” he shares. “I couldn’t
do this without them.”
Graves likes how every girl on the team not only knows
their role for success, they embrace it. He is grateful for every
one of them.
Kara Higgins is still the team’s top scorer, averaging just under
14 points per game. Laura Millan is the team’s point guard
and second leading scorer. Laura is an exchange student from
Spain and only in Rockford for one year.
“She plays a fast and crazy game, we’ve had to get used to
how she learned to play in Spain,” says Graves.
The Rams’ leading rebounder is Bri Rodriquez, and their
two wing players are Emily Obenauf and Julia Wildman.
“They are both used to playing as post players and I have
asked them to move to the wing this year,” explains Graves.
“Emily is a slasher and loves to attack the basket. Julia has become
one of our best outside shooters.”
Players off the bench have been Jaelyn Vega, who has started
a couple games, Claire Gleason, Alyssa Axtman, Bella Augustine,
Rylee Zandstra, Jaydin Quinones, and Reagan Hall.
“Reagan has designated herself as the Bench Captain and
has put herself in charge of bench morale and all cheering,”
Bri Rodriguez defends for the Rams during recent freshman basketball
action. ~ Photo by Memories By Mandy Photography
says Graves. “She is a great example of what this team means to
each other. They find their roles and excel in them.”
Graves is happy to be part of the girls basketball program,
and understands what unity at all three levels can mean.
“What makes this program special is a dedicated coaching
staff and quality young ladies willing to work hard. Goals were
set early and plans were put in place to achieve those goals. At
all three levels, I see players willing to sacrifice personal goals
for team goals. Every team is about how ‘WE’ can succeed.”
Graves seems to be picking up his team’s mojo in how he is
tackling the season.
“I love this team,” Graves concludes. “Every team I have
coached is different and special in their own way, but this one
being my first at Rockford will always be very special. They are
social, funny, serious when needed, crazy, and weird. But when
we need it and definitely during games, they can be laser-focused.
It makes practice and games fun.”
FEBRUARY, 2020 ROCKFORDROAR.COM 9
Cummings Takes Over Reins
as Rams Head Football Coach
The very second former legendary
Rams varsity football head coach Ralph
Munger announced his retirement after
28 years at the helm, there was speculation
on whom would earn the position.
The date was Friday, Dec. 13, and there
was plenty of surprise from Ram Nation
to the announcement. The Rockford
Public School Administration quieted
all the talk just six weeks later with a
press release dated Thursday, Jan. 23.
Rams assistant coach Brent Cummings
was named as the next head coach to
lead the football program’s Team 108 in
the fall of 2020.
“With the recent retirement of longstanding
varsity head football coach
Ralph Munger, Rockford Public Schools
began the formidable task of finding
a new head football coach. These were
big shoes to fill after the exceptional
success of the program under Munger’s
leadership over the past 28 seasons,” the
Big shoes, indeed, with Munger
earning a career record of 335-109, the
sixth-winningest coach in Michigan history.
He led the Rams to three Division
1 MHSAA State Championships while
setting a record of 25 consecutive playoff
A committee was formed, and they
narrowed the field down to four, conducting
interviews with the candidates.
The committee then submitted their
recommendation of Brent Cummings to
Superintendent Dr. Michael Shibler.
The news seemed to please many in
Ram Nation. Cummings is well-known
and respected not only in the football
program and Rams athletics, but in the
Cummings was the current strength
& conditioning and running backs
coach for the football program. He
knows a great deal about the program,
having performed numerous coaching
roles for 10 years. In the past, he
has served as defensive line coach and
defensive backs coach, showing experience
on both sides of the ball as a leader.
Newly appointed Rams football head coach Brent Cummings says he’s excited to lead
the Rockford Football program. ~ Photo by Connie Hill
10 ROAR MAGAZINE FEBRUARY, 2020
A staple for the Rams Football program for many years, Brett Cummings addresses the varsity team during recent football action.
~ Photo by Connie Hill
A graduate of Belding High School,
Cummings was a gifted athlete where he
was a member of the “Team of Destiny,”
named due to a long string of playoff
successes from 1993 to 1999. That included
two state titles, six semifinals and four
state finals appearances. Cummings was
recognized by the MHSAA for 85 career
touchdowns from 1995-98, with 38 of
those coming in a single season.
His talent on the gridiron earned him
a football scholarship to the University
of Michigan. While there, he played in a
Rose Bowl game, with two of his teams
earning Big Ten Conference championships.
A gifted athlete, he also ran track
there from 2002-04. He graduated with a
degree in Kinesiology, majoring in physical
education instruction. He earned a
master’s degree in coaching sport performance
with an emphasis on strength
and conditioning, leading him to his
current position in the school system.
“Brent checks all the boxes,” says
Shibler. “He is an educator first, which
is a prerequisite for this position. Add
to that his history with Rockford, his
understanding of our culture, and his
outstanding personal and professional
achievements. He is a great fit.”
As for Cummings, he is eager and
ready to lead Team 108.
“I am extremely excited to be named
the head football coach for our Rockford
Football program,” shares Cummings.
“I look forward to working in my
leadership role and finding ways to
serve our current players and coaches.
Our coaches are ready to collaborate together
to put our plan in action. We have
all been blessed to serve as assistants
under Ralph (Munger) and fully understand
the time and dedication it takes
to build a successful program. There is
a lot of excitement within our football
program right now and we cannot wait
to take on this next season together as a
FEBRUARY, 2020 ROCKFORDROAR.COM 11
RISING TO GREATER HEIGHTS
Rams Varsity Team Grows with Season
Every Rockford coach knows how tough the OK Red is. In
fact, most coaches in the whole state of Michigan know. It’s the
conference plenty of people point to when discussing which
one is the toughest. Each coach plots out a strategy for how
they are going to attack and combat the stiffest competition.
Rams boys varsity basketball head coach Kyle Clough is assisted
by the talented duo of Joe Estrada and Joe Trolla. Neither
are strangers to basketball, bringing their experience with
them to help Clough solidify his vision. They talk constantly as
they tackle the season.
The team started the season by taking on the best of the
best in the area and started 1-6. He has his eye on playing at the
next level. Clough talks about his plan of attack for the 2019-20
season practically and honestly.
“I think most people probably think I am the dumbest
coach in America,” Clough shares. “Who the heck schedules
those first seven games? There were times where I asked myself
that, too. But at the end of the day, our goal here is to play on
the biggest stage, against the best competition we can. We are
not going to shy away from playing big time players or teams.
We want our program measured against the best, and we want
our players to have platforms to perform and earn recognition
if they have aspirations of playing at the next level.”
Clough knew heading in it would be a true test for his team.
He also knew his answers of how this team was going to do
moving forward, even if they did suffer losses, was going to be
provided by their play.
“I do think the early season schedule has benefited us some.
When you’ve played Muskegon, Union, Christian, Wyoming
and others, you really won’t see anything better. If you handle
those experiences the right way, they can really benefit you.
More importantly, I think we proved in that early season schedule
that we were close. If we had been completely outplayed or
beat up on by those teams it could have broken us, but that
wasn’t the case. We had a great chance to win each game in the
pre-season. So, I think our kids built on that, maintained an
unbreakable spirit, and now after a couple wins, are playing
with a confidence. Still a long way to go, and every game in
our division is a grind so we won’t probably know the overall
impact until the end of this thing.”
The Rams did compete well. They were close in a good
number of those games. They fell to a current 8-1 Grand Rapids
Union team by just one point and turned immediately around
to hold a high-scoring East Grand Rapids team who had been
scoring an average of 68 points to just 37, an amazing display
of defensive skill.
Gut-checks, to be sure. And, Clough knows it was hard for
his team to keep their heads up through it all.
“I’m very proud that we were able to keep our focus and
block the noise. These kids live in an environment that isn’t
very conducive to battling through adversity.”
Alex Varady connects for a basket in recent basketball action.. ~
Photo by “Papa” Razzi Sports Photography
12 ROAR MAGAZINE FEBRUARY, 2020
“They hear about their failures on Instagram, Twitter, and
other platforms and it’s hard to block that noise. It has taken
some great leadership by our upperclassman and support
from our entire program to maintain the course. We have a
saying that we use often…‘You’re never as good as you think
you are, as bad as you think you are, or far away from either
side.’ This is something we remind our kids of often and remind
them how important it is to stay the course and believe
in what we are doing. We really have never wavered from believing
we are close to being a great team.”
When the Rams headed into their OK Red schedule those
early experiences did pay off. The team is currently 3-1 in the
OK Red, bringing down Grandville, Caledonia and Grand Haven.
It’s never easy, though. They fell to East Kentwood 62-53
and an undefeated Hudsonville is waiting on the horizon.
However, it is sure those early experiences on the hardcourt
have helped the Rams adjust to so many different styles of play
and how to adjust to who they are playing.
Through all of it, Clough has never lost sight of the heart
and talent of his team.
“This is a close team,” he shares. “They really love each other.
Maybe more importantly, this team has bought into the idea of
starring in their roles. That is, to me, the hardest thing to do in
coaching today. In society today, it’s nearly impossible to get a
team of 14-15 guys to buy into the idea of roles. Everyone wants
to score and play 28 minutes. The reality of it is, that’s not going
to happen and in a way we’re all set up for failure when we
expect that. So, it takes the right pieces to the puzzle for it to
work. You never want a kid to accept a lack of playing time, or a
lack of shot attempts…but you need kids to buy into what the
team needs them to do for us to be successful, and these guys
have done that. Ben Bosscher, Nick Silverman, Ryan Frommeyer,
Calvin Kibbe, Jacob Ray…guys like that are unsung heroes.
They practice so hard, give us energy on the bench and love
being a part of this team. They do all of that without much or
any playing time. Talk about the ultimate sacrifice, that to me
makes this team special. They are buying into those roles, even
though that doesn’t get a lot of retweets or news clippings.”
And a team needs many pieces to be successful.
“Leadership is something we’re really working on in this
program. I think teaching leadership is hard in coaching today.
Making that the cool thing is a challenge. I remember
my high school coach telling me that great leadership among
players is just so rare. I thought he was crazy, but turns out he
was right. You just don’t get a lot of kids who love that role.
Mostly because it’s not popular to always do the right thing,
or demand excellence from your peers. With that being said, I
think the leadership on this team is getting better. Alex Varady
Kaden Seelye works around a defender.
~ Photo by “Papa” Razzi Sports Photography
has been a steady voice for us, and he is our best communicator.
He’s really bought into the importance of leading, even
when he’s not on the floor. That is awfully impressive from
a guy who played two minutes per game as a junior. He has
stayed the course, battled through adversity and now is helping
our team in a big way.”
CONTINUES ON PAGE 14
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FEBRUARY, 2020 ROCKFORDROAR.COM 13
Rams point guard Brendan Schueller blows by a defender as he
takes the ball down the court.
~ Photo by “Papa” Razzi Sports Photography
“Kaden Seeyle is probably the quiet leader that not many
people notice. He doesn’t say a lot, but he’s like the big brother
of this team. That kid has come a long way from his sophomore
year, and to be honest, I wouldn’t want to be in a foxhole
with anyone more than Kaden. He’ll always have your back
and fight for what he loves and that in itself is leadership.”
Clough continues, “Brendan Schueller has started to
emerge as a better leader. It’s not natural for him, to be honest,
but he’s making a very conscious effort to improve and that’s
very meaningful. He is starting to figure out that he controls
the temperature of our team. When he’s dialed in, we’re dialed
in with him. That can be pressure on a young guy, but he’s embraced
it and taken some big strides. Andrew Carlson and Sam
Krist, our two captains, are always leading by example. They’re
usually doing what they’re supposed to be doing, when they’re
supposed to do it. That is important.”
Clough realizes it’s not about just one year, it is about his
entire program growing to be able to compete successfully
now and into the future.
“The ROCK program is starting to pay dividends. I realize
there are a lot of different ways to do this, and to be fair I do
not think there is a perfect system. But for us, we are starting to
see the depth of talent shine through. Our players are coming
in more experienced, and more equipped to play high level
talent and athleticism. Our kids who have played for us in the
youth program, have traveled all over the Midwest playing the
best competition we can find. Because of that, they are coming
into the high school program fearless and comfortable
against elite competition.”
There are plenty of dividends coming in, the JV team is 7-3
and the freshman team is 9-1.
14 ROAR MAGAZINE FEBRUARY, 2020
“Being a head coach here at Rockford is a big job. It is much
more than just making adjustments on a Friday night. We take
a lot of pride in connecting our program from top to bottom.
We try to include our youth players, youth coaches and lower
level high school guys as well in everything we do. We want
the experience to be a special one, and we want the young kids
to understand expectations and standards as they make their
way up the ranks. Having an opportunity to have your thumb
print on that, and really create the vision here is something I
am very lucky to do.”
The varsity Rams will continue on their 2019-20 campaign
with the lessons they’ve learned on the way and the skills
they’ve honed as they face more challenges in the OK Red and
then the playoffs.
“The difference between being at Breslin and losing in the
first round of districts is actually a lot smaller than most people
understand,” Clough explains. “It’s easy to jump ship and
start pointing fingers when you have a slow start like we did.
It takes a strong soul, and an unbreakable spirit to stay the
course, put your head down and continue to work. That’s what
these kids have done, and I am confident they will do that until
this thing comes to an end.”
Clough continues to be ready to lead his team into the fray.
“We are looking forward to the next stretch,” Clough concludes.
“We are going to find a lot out about our team. There
are no easy games, and you have to get up each night. That can
be taxing on a team, but I believe our guys are up for the challenge.”
Ram Sam Krist connects for a “3” from beyond the arc in recent
basketball action. ~ Photo by “Papa” Razzi Sports Photography
FEBRUARY, 2020 ROCKFORDROAR.COM 15
The RHS JV Boys Basketball Team (L-R): Front Row: Kyle Varady, Colin Williams, Isaac DeMan, Max Williams, Joe Williams, and Zak
Ahern. Back Row: Head coach Jay Peterson, Logan Kaiser, Gabe Spees, Charlie Deutsch, Jack Lamancusa, Blake Murphy, Hudson
Fehsenfeld and Simon Bolo. ~ Photo by Douglas Photography
‘Hoop Junkies’ Shine on Court
The motto for the boys basketball program is “Family,” and
the 2019-20 boys junior varsity team have taken that message
Their head coach, Jay Peterson, tells why.
“This is a special group of kids who really support each other.
They are all ‘hoops junkies’ who are always in the gym. They
believe in what they are doing, and they love each other. When
you do that, you can be great.”
This is the first year Peterson has been at the helm for the
Rams JV team, but he brings plenty of experience with him.
He actually started coaching elementary basketball when he
was in high school, and then spent six years as an assistant at
the varsity level in Marquette. He is not new to the Rockford
program, spending last year assisting Rams varsity head coach
The team has done well this season, tallying a 7-3 overall
record while going 3-2 in the always tough OK Red.
It hasn’t been an easy road; the team has had to make adjustments
as the season has progressed.
“Three of their sophomore classmates are up on varsity, including
Jack Lamancusa, who started the year with the JV,” Peterson
shares. “He was our leader and when Jack left, some of
our guys figured out pretty fast that he rebounded and cleaned
up a lot. Guys have had to step up in some different roles and
play tougher and we have had some adversity through that experience.
We’ve had bouts of the flu, so changing playing rotations
and some tough competition have solidified our guys.
They have bounced back every time I have challenged them.”
The team has been pretty solid with two players stepping
up to help the team’s cause.
“Blake Murphy has been our leading and most consistent
scorer and rebounder,” shares Peterson. “His footwork in the
post is extraordinary for a young player. He has really worked
hard in the offseason and developed a toughness that will
serve him well in the future. Our point guard Kyle Varady is
also developing into a really good player. I have probably
coached him harder than any of our guys, because I know
what it will take for him to succeed at the next level. He has all
the tools, good ball handler, good shooter, tough kid, but he
has really worked on taking care of the basketball and doing
the little things that make me proud as a coach.”
The Rockford culture isn’t lost on Peterson.
“It is such a blessing to be a part of this program and the
Rockford schools community,” he says. “Our kids have tremendous
resources available to them and every opportunity
is theirs if they want it. The administration, the facilities, the
kids, the dedicated parents and coaches working together,
it takes everyone to succeed at a high level. We are building
something special here. Coach Clough has high standards for
our basketball program and higher standards for our young
men. We are competitors, but basketball is just another teaching
opportunity we can use to teach life lessons. That’s why I
am here. From our varsity kids I coached last year, to our JV
guys this year, I have told this group that they can be special.
They are competitors with talent and have the potential to
make a run. I am looking forward to our basketball future with
this group of young men.”
16 ROAR MAGAZINE FEBRUARY, 2020
The RHS Freshman Boys Basketball Team (L-R): Front Row: Liam Peterson, Cohen Overholt, Sho Clay, Asher Erickson, Chris Cool, Austin
Harvey, and Colin Murphy. Back Row: Brody Thompson, Jake Brown, Ben Brough, Joey Pitsch, Caden Pokorzynski, Cayden Lepper,
and head coach Jeff Cole. ~ Photo by Douglas Photography
Frosh Team Plays Inspirational Ball
The boys freshman basketball team has amassed an impressive
9-1 record on the season. The team is coached by firstyear
coach Jeff Cole, a 2002 Rockford High School grad. Having
played under head coach Steve Majerle, he understands the
rich Ram basketball tradition.
The team has done extremely well, and Cole is quick to answer
“This group of young men are extremely close both as
teammates and friends off the court. Many of them have competed
together in a variety of sports, including basketball. The
way they approach the game of basketball is inspiring. They’re
extremely talented, selfless and play hard for one another. I
think the latter has been the most impressive to me as their
coach. When they suit up to play wearing our traditional orange
and black uniforms, they conduct themselves to the
highest level of character and integrity. They play the game of
basketball the right way in every way and represent Rockford
to the highest standard. As their coach I couldn’t be prouder
His team’s first OK Red opponent was Grandville. No walk
in the park, as it’s always a challenge to face off against the
Bulldogs. The Rams prevailed by a 71-63 score, and the history
isn’t lost on the coach.
“It is always challenging to win on the road and certainly
against a conference opponent,” says Cole. “Grandville has historically
been a rivalry game for both schools. In these types of
games, I believe you can expect that both teams are going to
give you everything they got, and this was certainly the case
in this game.”
Cole points to his captains Brody Thompson, Cayden Lepper
and Liam Peterson as another reason his team is so solid.
“Leadership plays a huge role in our program’s culture
and it’s no exception to our team specifically,” he shares. “We
currently have three captains on our team that were voted by
“Aside from being voted upon by their teammates, these
three individuals also had to submit an essay to me outlining
their role as team captain and each explaining what characteristics
are vital with accepting a leadership role on this team.
Upon my review of the essays and their actions as student-athletes,
I had the final say on who was accepted. All three young
men passed with flying colors and are yet another huge reason
for our team’s success.”
According to Cole, Ram pride is also a key to his successful
“This team, and these young men, understand the importance
and responsibility they have to representing Rockford,
the right way. In this day and age of competitive sports, it’s
become increasingly challenging to make a team sport. Competition
is ultimately very high with the number of talented
youngsters who try out, and here in Rockford we’ve certainly
been blessed with the sheer number of talented athletes to
choose from. They understand that it’s a privilege to wear our
jersey and they have done so and much more to be a part of
this great tradition.”
FEBRUARY, 2020 ROCKFORDROAR.COM 17
The Rams gymnastics team is a tough, tight-knit group who has enjoyed plenty of success this year. ~ Contributed Photo
LIKE A ROCK
Rams Gymnastics Team Stays Steady
The highly successful Rams gymnastics
team has picked up where they left
off last year. Their 2018-19 campaign saw
them complete an undefeated season in
the OK Rainbow Conference, claim the
Regional Crown, and follow those accomplishments
with runner-up status
in the MHSAA State Finals.
This year’s campaign is looking just
as impressive, with the Rams attaining
high scores and adding new skills to
Michelle Ankney is in her fourth year
as the head coach and continues to inspire
her team of 17 athletes to reach
their goals. Twelve of them are building
on what they learned last year as returners.
Ankney is being ably assisted this
season by Macey Hilliker and Lindsay
Helsley and seniors Morgan Case and
Nicole Curtis are doing a great job of
co-captaining the team to add to their
Gymnastics is not for the faint of
heart. There are plenty of opportunities
to sustain injuries; some can be extremely
serious, occasionally coming from the
constant pounding that gymnasts put
their body through as they practice and
perform their routines. Sit in the stands
with a group of gymnasts between
performances and you’ll see indications
everywhere on their bodies. Huge
bruises, bumps, scrapes, and blisters
in various stages are ever-present. The
group of gymnasts seem to take it all in
stride, viewing it as ‘just part of’ their
sport. It’s obvious they are having a lot
of fun this season, battling the pressure
with laughter. They control the sport, it
doesn’t control them.
They’ve continued their march to yet
another undefeated season. So far, the
team has won all of their dual meets,
putting up their highest score of the
season against Forest Hills, where they
earned a 145.075.
18 ROAR MAGAZINE FEBRUARY, 2020
The Rams hosted their annual Flip
Flop Invitational in early January, and let
the competition know they were once
again going to be a force. The team was
led by five all-arounders – Averi Nixon,
Morgan Case, Ashley Faulkner, Joey Gair,
and Anna Tacey. All five placed in the
Top 6 in the event for Division 2. Further,
Tacey was crowned champion on beam,
Nixon placed first on floor, and Case
earned the title of all-around champion
for the event.
As a team, the Rams did so well they
tallied enough points to eclipse Farmington,
who was last year’s MHSAA State
Champion. This was a huge accomplishment,
as Farmington was also their only
loss last year.
There is a lot of depth on the team,
and although the Rams are currently
being led by those five all-arounders,
Ankney is quick to point out that Nicole
Curtis, Elise Kinlaw, Abbie Franko, Olivia
Schubert, and Maya Anderson are all
improving their routines and may eventually
step in as event specialists if and
Ankney has a huge goal for her roster
of talented gymnasts.
CONTINUES ON PAGE 20
‘Just hanging around’ Seniors (L-R) Morgan Case, Elise Kinlaw, and Nicole Curtis ham it
up for the camera. ~ Contributed Photo
FEBRUARY, 2020 ROCKFORDROAR.COM 19
Ram gymnasts (L-R) Joey Gair, Nicole Curtis, Olivia Schubert, and Elise Kinlaw take a break from the action for a photo.
~ Contributed Photo
“As a team, we are currently focused
on trying to add new skills to upgrade
routines and to clean up and perfect the
skills we have,” she shares. “There are 17
girls on the team, and everyone has already
started posting Regional qualifying
scores. Our goal is to send all 17 girls
to Regionals this year.”
Lofty aspirations from a coach who
knows she has an incredible roster and
how to help them hone their skills to get
“This team is working hard, and we
will continue doing what we’ve been
doing - improving what we have and trying
to upgrade to keep improving our
scores. For us, team is the most important.
There isn’t one girl on this team that
can win state alone, so we are all in this
Averi Nixon showing the rip she got while competing bars. ~ Contributed Photo
20 ROAR MAGAZINE FEBRUARY, 2020
How’s your New Year’s Resolution Going?
Like so many, your New Year’s resolution may involve increasing
your physical activity. And like so many, you may
have already given up or not even started. According to
Forbes magazine, less than 25% of people keep their resolution
after only 30 days. We know that getting regular exercise
is an important aspect of our health, so why do so many give
up early? Robinet Physical Therapy is here to tell you that you
don’t have to be part of that 25%.
Why physical activity? There are many benefits of physical
activity and just as many excuses to avoid it. Do you have a
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your day that don’t require a gym membership like taking
the stairs at work or parking further away at the grocery
store. Winter blues kicking in? Exercise releases endorphins
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depression. Diagnosed with high blood pressure? Playing
pickleball, going for a brisk walk, and taking a yoga class are
all types of exercise that can help prevent and manage diseases
and health conditions like high blood pressure, stroke,
type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and several types of cancer. Did you
know that exercise helps improve your sleep? It’s true, regular
exercise leads to better quality, more restful sleep. If that
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Still not sure if you’ll be able to stick with it? Put a plan in
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Having a plan and people to support you is important in helping
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Perhaps pain is preventing you from sticking with your
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can get in the way of achieving our goals, however, if pain is
one of them, Robinet Physical Therapy can help. We offer free
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During your visit, we will provide a physical assessment as
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Rockford (616) 866-2727
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FEBRUARY, 2020 ROCKFORDROAR.COM 21
Luke Watkins wrestles as a Ram after his leg injury. ~ Contributed Photo
Watkins ‘Takes Down’ Adversity
It was the “snap heard around the
world,” according to Ram athlete Luke Watkins’
mother Celene. It was Luke’s freshman
year at Rockford High School and he was
competing in a soccer scrimmage against
the Rams JV team in early October 2017. A violent
collision with another player left Luke
writhing on the ground. He had suffered a
fractured tibia in his right leg. A bad break,
the Watkins family learned the injury would
require more than just a cast. Luke’s injury
was severe enough to need open reduction
and internal fixation (ORIF) surgery to put
metal rods in place to allow the leg to heal
Celene wasn’t at the practice, but she
certainly heard about it, with descriptions
of the injury lingering with her to this day.
“Anyone who was on that field that day
remembers the sound,” she shares.
Luke showed a gift as a three-sport athlete
for the Rams heading into his first high
school season. His talent ranges from soccer
to wrestling to track. He competed year
around and is skilled at all three sports. The
injury was going to affect his athletic life for
a number of seasons.
The family adjusted to Luke’s injury after
the surgery, moving his bed to the main
floor to make it easier on everyone, as the
prognosis was that Luke wouldn’t be able
to put any weight on the leg or return to his
normal routine for quite some time.
It certainly wasn’t the best early birthday
present the athlete could have received. He
attended Rockford’s homecoming dance in
a wheelchair. On Christmas break he was
still using crutches. Due to the injury, Luke
not only lost his soccer season, he also lost
his wrestling season that year. A tough consequence
for a kid who has dedicated himself
to wrestling since he was a kindergartner.
It was likewise hard on his biggest fan.
“It was disappointing that he couldn’t
wrestle that season,” says Celene. “He had
worked so hard and was looking forward to
being part of the team. He grew up as part
of the Rockford Wrestling Club, but that is
more about individual results. He watched
the high school team as he grew up and was
looking forward to that aspect. He was finally
a freshman and he was physically unable
to join the team. It was tough on all of us and
22 ROAR MAGAZINE FEBRUARY, 2020
When spring came around that year
Luke tried to run track but found his leg
still wasn’t ready, he learned he’d have to
wait a while longer to be able to rejoin his
teammates. “It was a rough time for me but
what helped me get through it was looking
forward to competing again,” he shares.
The process was a slow one, as the type of
injury Luke suffered has an expected recovery
time of up to a year. The long scar running
down his lower leg showed that the
outside had healed, but the inside wasn’t
nearly as quick to mend. Physical therapy
was also part of the healing plan. When soccer
season started in the fall his body wasn’t
ready; in October Luke was still walking
with a limp.
When the wrestling season rolled
around his sophomore year, he couldn’t
wait any longer. He was going out for the
Rams wrestling head coach Brian Richardson
saw Luke’s obstacles.
“Him losing a year to a broken leg was a
pretty devastating blow. I know he was very
passionate about soccer, which has fall and
spring seasons, he basically lost a full year of
sports. A lot of times when that happens kids
disappear and you never see them again,
but Luke stayed with the wrestling team all
the way through that season, helping out
whenever he could. He finally got back on
the mat last year and spent most of the season
wrestling on the JV’s and C team.”
How did Luke feel finally able to wrestle
“It was difficult at first because I had
lost so much technique,” he shares. But
there was another problem. Luke, who
can be described as pragmatic, explains
“They planted two rods in my tibia.
The problem with it was that the rods
would stick out of my knee. This was
extremely inconvenient for wrestling
because you constantly slam your knee
into the mat and whenever I did that, I
would hit those rods causing my leg to
Not to mention the pain it caused,
which Luke didn’t even mention in our
Luke worked through the wrestling
Luke Watkins’ player card from the Rockford
Wrestling Club. ~ Contributed Photo
season and ran for the Rams track team,
primarily competing in the gut-wrenching
400-meter run. He set a PR in the
West Ottawa varsity meet with a time of
54.04, placing second. That same night
he joined forces with Luke Vanderwiel,
Eli Haddad and Jacob Rademacher in
the 4X400 and helped the relay team
place first. The Rams 4X400 relay team,
with Luke running anchor, also landed
second in the MITCA Division I Team
State Meet in May.
A dedicated athlete, the family waited
until Luke was between seasons before
he had the doctors address the rods
in his leg and the issues it presented
while wrestling. He had the surgery in
July, with the surgeon planning on removing
the rods. However, they were so
embedded in Luke’s bone, he couldn’t
take them out. The surgeon opted to
shave down the rods so they wouldn’t
“It was a pretty easy surgery,” says
Luke, comparing it to the first. “I could
walk right when I woke up. Also, since it
happened in the summer, I had no sports
going on that would be hindered.”
Luke is now in the junior year of his
high school career and is working his
way back to full ability. Currently, it is
wrestling season and he is bouncing between
the 171- and the 189-pound weight
classes, wherever his team needs him.
He has wrestled both on the Varsity A
and Varsity B teams, depending on the
tournament, again filling in where he is
He has one thing in mind now that he
“My goal this year is to become the
best athlete I can be.”
Richardson sees that Luke is attaining
“He entered this year about 20
pounds heavier, and I’m talking a quality
20 pounds, clearly he spent a lot of
time in the weight room,” Richardson
shares. “You can just see the confidence
that has given him when he practices
and competes. He’s a physical presence
when he walks on the mat. It becomes
even more evident when he actually
starts wrestling, he throws kids around
and makes it look easy. Our team has affectionately
nicknamed him ‘The Terminator’
this year. Not to say that this year
has been a smooth road. He’s had to deal
with skin issues, banged up nose issues
and a strained bicep to name a few of the
potholes he’s had to navigate. But Luke
has persevered to keep on contributing
in a big way. I think his past experiences
have given him a bit of a mental toughness
to deal with the setbacks he’s encountered
this season. It’s great to see as
a coach, because he’s going to be someone
we lean on in the future and he’s
molded himself into the kind of warrior
we need to lead our team.”
Luke shares what he hopes other athletes
take away from his experience.
“I learned that hard work and patience
truly does pay off. I remember
thinking every day during my downtime
about how amazing it would feel to run
and compete again. Though it takes
time, you’ll eventually get there.”
of NE Grand Rapids
FEBRUARY, 2020 ROCKFORDROAR.COM 23
The Rams wrestling team pose with their runner-up trophy in the Kent County Championships. ~ Contributed Photo
A NEW ERA
Ram Wrestlers Reaching Their Goals
The 2019-20 Rams wrestling team set a goal of stepping
up their game and gave it a name – “New Era.” They kicked off
this season with what head coach Brian Richardson called, “as
tough a schedule as you can put together.” The Rams wrestled
eight ranked teams head-to-head and competed against 16
incredible teams at the Detroit Catholic Central (DCC) Invitational
and the Kent County Championships. So far it looks like
Richardson’s faith in his wrestlers was well-placed. His Rams
are making their mark on the mat.
“This group doesn’t in any way want to discount the contributions
of the guys that came before them, but they want to
make their own name for themselves.”
The Rams are working hard to do exactly that.
They started their tournament campaign with the Kent City
Kick Off Classic in early December and claimed the title with
10 Rams going undefeated on the day. Just four days later the
Rams competed in the Grandville Quad and came home with
two more victories, dominating Grand Ledge and Niles. The
Rams then claimed runner-up in the Kent County Championships.
In the Grand Haven Quad, the Rams topped two OK Red
opponents to move their season record to 10-1 and notch two
valuable conference wins.
The first weekend in January found the Rams competing
in the DCC Invitational in Novi. The tournament fielded the
toughest competition in its history, with five of the teams nationally
ranked. Rockford was able to earn a sixth place out of
the 21 teams in the highly competitive wrestling tournament.
“This tournament was brutal,” shares Richardson. “They
had an incredible field and fortunately we took sixth place.
We had a great day all the way around, and I couldn’t be more
impressed with what our kids did in this competition.”
The Rams topped Grand Haven and Caledonia in dual
meets and battled slippery roads, Saturday, Jan. 18, to compete
in the Lakeshore Super Duals. The team came away with a 4-0
record on the day to claim the meet. With the victories, the
Rams’ record moved to 16-1 on the season.
24 ROAR MAGAZINE FEBRUARY, 2020
“Last year we graduated a very talented senior class so I
think a lot of people thought we would take a dip with the
losses,” shares Richardson.
“But, since day one this team has wrestled hard. It has been
an absolute joy to coach this team, they showed up last summer
when we started getting back together for the camps, and
they showed they were ready to make their own mark in the
Richardson shares part of the reason his team is so successful.
“This group has embraced the attitude of we aren’t taking a
step backwards and it shows. I always try to adapt as a coach to
the team that I have, and this group is just a lot of fun. I’ve had
to adjust and tweak practices and tweak the line-up and they
are so open to new ideas and new things. They all get along
so well, and they have great vision. They understand that a
change might be the best thing to do for the good of the team.
They never hesitate to put the team before the individual and
it has clearly paid off. You can’t ask for much more than that
as a coach.”
Richardson looks forward to tackling the day, every day.
“I’m having a ball with these guys. I walk into practice and
I’m so happy to be there. I think, ‘this is going to be a great
day,’ and every day is. They are always prepared, and they show
every intention of maintaining the success we’ve had this season.
These kids embrace the challenges. We make mistakes, for
sure, but we are getting really good at not making the same
Richardson points to the senior class as excellent role models
for the team.
“They are a tight-knit group of friends. There are no big superstars
and they show it by valuing each other equally. They
all get along so well and that sets the tone for how our team attacks
every day. It’s clear that it is our leaders who set the tone
and are phenomenal young men.”
Varsity A wrestling seniors Josh Hill, Ashton Halland, Reid
Nicholson, Andrew Bolen, Evan Kaser and Brocke Fisher have
added positive points on the mat. Kaser, along with junior
Trenton Wachter, claimed their 100th high school career win
at the Lakeshore Super Duals. Underclassmen Brysonn Aulbach,
Cole Gleason, Hunter Chilcote, Moses Bosscher, and Mason
Jakiemiec have also added points to the Rams’ season.
There are two freshmen who are also making a mark on this
“We are getting amazing contributions from Jak Keller and
Elijah Bunn. They are establishing themselves as the cream of
the crop of the lightweights in the area. It’s been a lot of fun for
the team to see that happening. It’s been a while since the program
had wrestlers walk in and make such a big contribution,
and it has been a big help that those two have blossomed early
for us. They’ve done a great job and have made the team better.
The experience, attitude and toughness they’ve brought
is impressive. Both of them are fierce competitors and have
already matured with the high school competition. They’ve
taken some losses, sure, but every week they have also taken
a giant step forward. I can’t wait to see what the ceiling can be
for these two.”
There is no doubt that Richardson and his group of hungry
wrestlers are stepping up their game and furthering the
Richardson concludes, “This year’s team is all about making
their own identity, about taking the excellent examples
they have been given over the years to make this program better
than they found it. I think that’s such an admirable goal.”
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FEBRUARY, 2020 ROCKFORDROAR.COM 25
Wrestlers Notch 100 Career Wins
The Rams wrestling team was competing at the Lakeshore
Super Duals, Saturday, Jan. 18, when a very special milestone
was reached for two wrestlers. Evan Kaser, a senior who wrestles
at the 140-pound weight class, and Trenton Wachter, a junior
who wrestles at the 145-pound weight class, both notched
their 100th high school career win. It’s an accomplishment
that many wrestlers can only dream about.
The duo represents a 1-2 punch on the Ram roster, with Kaser
hitting the mat first to claim a victory. Then, it’s a sure bet
that Wachter is going to follow in the next weight class with
another win, giving the Rockford team plenty of points on the
“The 100 career-win marks a very special day,” shares Rams
head coach Brian Richardson. “There is a pattern that seems to
go with most teams who have very talented kids, they usually
come in groups of two. They have been wrestling partners for
years and to have them reach the milestone on the same day
is really cool. It’s great to see how these guys have helped each
other become better wrestlers. The milestone is a testament
to how hard they’ve both worked and the time and effort that
they have put into every day for the wrestling program.”
According to Richardson, the duo rally their teammates to
be better, as well.
“They both have completely different leadership styles.
Trenton is quieter and leads by example on the mat. Evan is
very vocal and tends to rally his teammates with words. They
both have different wrestling styles, too, so they each serve an
important purpose to our team. This has clearly paid off on
the mat with all their individual success and our team’s success
Richardson continues describing his captains. “Evan is such
a nice young man. He gets the job done everywhere – in the
classroom, in the practice room and he always leads by example
on meet days. This 100th win was an awesome honor for
such a deserving young man. He’s done everything right with
his work ethic and his dedication to the sport of wrestling and
it’s great to see it pay off in such a big way. It’s always nice when
kids like Evan get recognized for their hard work with such an
Trenton Wachter (L) and Evan Kaser both notched their 100 high
school career win on the same day. ~ Contributed Photo
“For Trenton to pick up his 100th win as a junior is a mark of
sustained excellence and dependability. He has been a symbol
of consistency for our team. We know we can always count on
him. Day in and day out for three straight years he has been
successful and is consistent in everything he does. Nobody
trains harder than Trent, he is always laser-focused. He will be
on the Top 10 list next year and has aspirations to be a D1 college
wrestler. I believe he will become one, and a good one.”
26 ROAR MAGAZINE FEBRUARY, 2020
Stadium to Experience Name Change
How does a school system honor a man who has dedicated
countless hours of his time to not only building a program but
also guiding hundreds of young men on their life journeys?
A person who orchestrated a program that is recognized not
only in the state, but the entire nation? A coach who saw almost
100 of his student-athletes go on to coach themselves
and mold other young athletes’ lives? That was the question
that faced many members of the administration of the Rockford
Public School System recently.
Legendary football head coach Ralph Munger announced
he was hanging up his head set after 28 years at the helm of
the Rams Football Program in December, 2019. Through those
years, Coach Munger notched enough victories to earn the title
of the sixth most winningest coach in the state of Michigan.
He led the Rams to three MHSAA Division I state titles, 25
consecutive playoff years, and six undefeated regular seasons.
When all was said and done, Coach Munger holds a 75 percent
win/loss total career record. But numbers aside, Coach Munger
instilled a sense of responsibility and pride in the student-athletes
whose lives he touched. Munger honed the skills of many
on his roster, with many going on to play at the next level, and
four who played in the National Football League.
It had to be a fitting, lasting tribute. One of the things the
administration did immediately was retire the No. 28 Rams
football jersey. That jersey will be resting behind glass, unless
Munger’s beloved son Thys VanderWall decides to pursue a
Ram high school football career. But, there was a need to do
more. What could be more visual to not only the Rockford
community, but those visiting the area? What was needed was
a visible reminder of what the honored coach had gifted Ram
Nation through almost three decades. The idea was created
to rename the place where Munger had built his legacy. The
place where so many special Friday nights had been gifted to
the Ram Nation.
In 1991, the RPS Board of Education dubbed the high school
varsity stadium “Ted Carlson Memorial Stadium.” Its namesake
Ted Carlson was not only a community member who served as
a trustee on the Rockford Board of Education, but he was well
known as Rockford’s own “super fan” of Rockford sports.
Former Rams football head coach Ralph Munger.
~ Photo by Miles Postema
One year later, Ralph Munger was hired as the Rams varsity
head football coach, and nobody could have predicted how
the next 27 years would play out. It was the beginning of a legacy.
“Mr. Carlson and Coach Munger, each in their own way, defined
and promoted ‘Ram Pride’ throughout the community,”
shares Dr. Michael Shibler, Superintendent of Rockford Public
Schools. “Ram Pride isn’t only evident in high school sports,
but in all of Rockford’s schools, academics, the arts, and the
community in general. It is our culture.”
Those reasons are leading Dr. Shibier to recommend that
the Board of Education honor Coach Munger’s contributions
alongside Mr. Carlson’s impact on the athletic programs and
community. At its regular meeting held on January 27, 2020,
Dr. Shibler will recommend the Board of Education officially
rename the varsity stadium “Carlson-Munger Stadium” to
honor two men whose contributions exemplify Ram Pride.
FEBRUARY, 2020 ROCKFORDROAR.COM 27
According to Rams bowling coaches
Paul Bellgraph and Denny Porter,
the most important part of the sport of
bowling is shooting spares.
“Strikes may look pretty on the scoresheet
but spares win tournaments” said
Porter, who is leading the girls team for
the first time this year. The Lady Rams
have struggled at times in the early
season to cover the spares they usually
make. However, they’ve still managed
to win their opening tournament hosted
by East Kentwood, as well as take first
place in the pre-conference meet for the
OK Red. The girls team also participated
in the Cedar Springs Invitational but
were missing senior Lexi Reamer due
to illness and were eliminated by OK
Red rival Hudsonville. In the only other
competition prior to conference play,
the Lady Rams travelled to Muskegon to
play in the Fruitport Invitational. Playing
without any available bench subs,
the Rams had difficulties with spares on
the day, having nobody to turn to when
scoring went cold. The team still managed
to qualify fourth overall in the 17-
team field, facing Zeeland in their opening
head-to-head match, but lost in the
first round again.
Head-to-head conference match play
began on January 20, and the Lady Rams
have managed a 2-0 start after facing
Grand Haven and East Kentwood in the
opening week. Rockford defeated Grand
Haven on the road 22-8 using match play
scoring which consists of 10 points from
two Baker games and 20 points from
two traditional team games. Rockford
defeated East Kentwood 27-3 at home to
stay perfect on the season.
The girls team is anchored by 2-time
OK Red all-conference selection and
4-year starter Isabelle Brekke, who has
an early season conference average of
194 and has made two All-Tournament
teams. The team will also be leaning
heavily on fellow 2019 All-Conference
selection junior Emma Korhorn, who is
looking to improve on last year’s 174 pin
average. Seniors Jade Reamer and Lexi
Reamer will also be back for their third
year of significant playing time, along
Photo above: The RHS Girls Bowling Team (L-R): Front Row: Carly Chapman, Jade Reamer,
Abby Demarest, Emma Colby, Alexis Reamer, and Machenna Nienhuis. Back Row:
Coach Paul Bellgraph, Caydee Kennedy, Isabelle Brekke, Makenzie Harrell, assistant
coach Denny Porter, Emma Korhorn, Gabby Brekke, assistant coach Jim Mattson. Photo
below: The RHS Boys Bowling Team (L-R): Front Row: Cooper Christian, Tony DeLucca,
Sam Colby, Brendan Conard, Nathan Frost, and Matthew Buck. Back Row: Coach Paul
Bellgraph, Kaleb Simon, Brayden Colin, Chad Simons, Jonas Ahonen, Caleb Mask, and
assistant coach Brandon Engstrom. ~ Photos by Douglas Photography
with sophomores Gabby Brekke and
Carly Chapman, who return from last
year’s MHSAA Final 8 state qualifying
team. Freshman Emma Colby is also expected
to be a key contributor, bringing
the powerful two-handed bowling style
to the girls team for the first time ever.
In the early tournaments, the boys
team found ways to make spares, as well
as stringing together strikes in critical
moments. They won their division at
the East Kentwood Invitational, as well
as the Cedar Springs invitational, while
finishing second overall at the OK Red
Pre-Conference Meet to perennial powerhouse
Hudsonville. At the Fruitport
event, the Rams had spare issues, where
they qualified for match play but finished
just one pin short in the semi-finals.
After a promising showing for the
boys at the pre-conference meet, the
team had high hopes opening against
Grand Haven and East Kentwood. At
Grand Haven, the Rams unfortunately
fell short to the Bucs losing by a match
score of 20-10. Heading home to Rockford
Lanes against East Kentwood, Rockford
again was in a deep hole facing a
10-0 deficit after the Baker matches. Still
in the hunt after the first traditional
game, it came down to the final frame
of Game 2 for the Rams, where they fell
just one spare short of taking enough
points to claim victory for the match.
The Falcons defeated the Rams 17-13 to
put Rockford at 0-2 in conference play.
“We fought hard in the loss to Kentwood
and I was very proud of the effort
the team gave being down two starters
to illness,” said Bellgraph.
The Rams are anchored by 2018 Class
A State Champion senior Matt Buck, who
is looking to close out his Ram career in
style. Buck is averaging 214 in the early
season and has already claimed all-tournament
medals in three of four events
this year. Another key contributor for
the boys will be freshman Tony DeLuccia,
who is averaging 183 in the early
season. Deluccia begins his Ram career
with high expectations, following several
first-place finishes in regional youth
28 ROAR MAGAZINE FEBRUARY, 2020
The RMS Competitive Cheer Team celebrate their first-place finish at the Hudsonville Invitational. (Not in order): Elise Henkel, Jordan
White, Ashley Speck, Ellie Wilcox, Jetta Dengler, Kirsten McDonald, Lelaina Schneider, Madison Pyle, Andrea John, Ashton Web, Ava
Boyd, Ava Lovell, Delainie Ausland, Jordan Withers, Katelyn Himmelspach, Madalynn Fulton, Mikayla Tomasunas, Sidney Gardner,
Madison Goss, Sophia Best, Joselyn Stouffer, and Amelia DeYoung. ~ Contributed Photo
Cheer Team Soars in Competition
Head coach Bobbie Demorest’s middle school cheer team
has had a big year. The team, consisting of a combination of
athletes from both Rockford middle schools, claimed a number
of competitions this season. The biggest was claiming the
crown at the OK Red Conference Meet in Caledonia, where
they tallied a 394.72 to eclipse second-place Cedar Springs who
had earned a 378.46.
The team features 22 talented athletes, including four that
Demorest pulled up from the seventh-grade team. Besides
the conference meet, the Rams earned first-place finishes at
the Coopersville, Rockford and Spring Lake Invitationals. The
team placed second at Allendale and the East Rockford Middle
School Invitationals, placing behind rival Cedar Springs. That
made the Conference Championship all the sweeter for the
Rams. They closed their season with another championship at
the Hudsonville Invitational.
Demorest is proud of her team’s accomplishments, and
points to strong leadership as part of the reason the Rams
were so successful and performed as a cohesive unit.
“All of the girls are great leaders, but I really feel like Elise
Henkel and Jordan White have stepped up this year and
helped the seventh graders to grow and feel like a true part of
Demorest was ably assisted by Torri Mills and the team was
expertly managed by Charlotte Gross. She will now see how
the foundation these athletes learned this season will help
them in the future.
“This group made great strides this season coming together
and working as a team,” she shares. “They are all very hard
working and we are excited to watch them excel as they move
up to the high school level.”
FEBRUARY, 2020 ROCKFORDROAR.COM 29
Where Are They Now?
CLASS OF 2002
There are plenty of lessons that RHS boys freshman basketball
coach Jeff Cole likes to teach his players. Those lessons are
not all about the sport of basketball; plenty are about what life
hands you and how to handle those challenges, as well as how
that impacts the person one becomes.
“For me personally, coaching has been much more about
the opportunity to develop impactful relationships with my
student-athletes,” Jeff shares. “I enjoy competing at a high
level as much as anyone, but it’s been far more rewarding to
help mentor my players to be the best version of themselves,
emphasizing the importance of developing a high standard of
character, to be an active role model in their community and
to help achieve their dreams and aspirations. A life coach, if
Jeff had to handle his own life lessons at a young age. He
grew up as a Ram, living in Rockford since he was 4. He set his
sights on being a three-sport athlete, playing football and basketball
through the fall and winter his freshman year while
eyeing the baseball team for the spring. Those plans had to be
shelved, however, when he started experiencing some issues.
“Unfortunately, during football season I received some very
tough news,” he shares. “I was experiencing lower back pain
at the time which eventually resulted in seeing a neurologist.
An initial MRI revealed that I had an acute disc herniation and
also discovered I was dealing with sciatica of the lower back.
At the age of 15 I was told that my prognosis was quite rare and
in all likelihood my dreams of competing as a three-sport athlete
were extremely unlikely. I remember feeling completely
devastated. I was informed by the medical specialists that I’d
be fortunate to have the opportunity to compete in even one
He kept with basketball and played under the guidance of
coaches Steve Majerle and Ryan DeKuiper. He was a shooting
guard for the Rams, wearing No. 42, inspired by his admiration
of the likes of Jackie Robinson and Jerry Stackhouse. His
Rams freshman basketball head coach Jeff Cole talks to one of
his players. ~ Contributed Photo
junior year found the Rams crowned as district champions. In
his senior year, which he fondly recalls as a magical season, his
team earned an OK Red title and posted a perfect 20-0 record
during the regular season. That feat was a first in the basketball
“Basketball has been a huge part of my life since I was quite
young,” he shares. “Having lived in Rockford most of my life
I had the opportunity to play this great game as a young boy
in our Community Education program on through my junior
and senior years of high school. I’ve been extremely blessed
to have played for many phenomenal coaches and teammates
that certainly had a major impact on my development as a student-athlete.
Playing under the leadership of head coach Steve
Majerle and assistant coach Ryan DeKuiper was special to say
the least. I firmly believe both coaches developed the high
standard of success and winning culture that our basketball
program strives for to this day.”
30 ROAR MAGAZINE FEBRUARY, 2020
The Rams freshman basketball team. ~ Contributed Photo
He also gives a nod to his eighth-grade coach Greg Crowe.
“Although it was junior high, I can’t leave him out (as an
influence). He was instrumental to my development as a basketball
player and was who brought out the ‘toughness’ in me
as an athlete.”
After high school, Jeff earned his bachelor’s and master’s
degrees in social work at Grand Valley State University. He
married his wife, Erin, and they still reside in Rockford with
their three children (Alex, 13, Avery, 10, and Harper, 3).
He’s sure his hometown will have the same positive influence
on his children.
“This community has provided me with a great environment
to grow up in. I’ve been blessed to have made lifelong
friendships, received a great education, and of course the opportunities
that I’ve had in athletics. I now get to raise my family
here and witness all the wonderful transitions this community
has gone through.”
In February of 2017 he launched his business, JC’s Mobile
“In the three years open for business I’ve been blessed to
watch my dream grow quite fast in a short time. It’s been quite
rewarding to connect with the community in many ways and
I take great pride in giving back to my community and supporters.”
Along the way he has continued to be a coach, primarily for
youth basketball, but he also spends time coaching his kids.
He’s competitive, there is no doubt, but there’s more about
coaching for him personally. He took over the reins of the
freshman team this year and has led them to a 9-1 season thus
“From a basketball standpoint, I couldn’t be prouder of
what we’ve accomplished. Expectations are high, make no
mistake about it, but measuring success far exceeds what our
record indicates. I find so much value in conversations with
school staff sharing news of how ‘Johnny’ helped out a new
student with navigating their schedule, or, how ‘Billy’ comes
The Jeff and Erin Cole family. ~ Contributed Photo
to the office every day to help a student with special needs.
Principal Tom Hosford tells me how the guys have expressed
how much fun they’re having this season. To me, these are the
things that fill my heart and not putting too much emphasis
on how many points ‘Joey’ scored the other night, although
that has its place as well. Measuring success goes far beyond
stat books and team records.”
He seems to be enjoying the season as much as his team is,
as he brings his own special brand of coaching to Rockford
“I find it fascinating to step back as the teacher and become
the student. Watching these young men problem solve, to balance
the high demands of their school work and the multiple
roles they’re involved in. I believe as adults we often overcomplicate
things and it’s refreshing to observe these young minds
handle all that they do and in the way they do it. You can learn
so much from them if you just simply step back and pay attention.
It’s very powerful.”
Jeff concludes, “I take a great deal of pride with all the opportunities
that come with coaching. Rockford is a special
place, and many would like to be in my shoes - as would many
other kids who would love to be a part of something like this.
I’m very blessed and thankful for this opportunity to be Rockford’s
freshman boys head basketball coach. Rockford has given
me so much and I hope now as a coach I can give back the
many valuable lessons and expertise that our program, players
and community deserve.”
By the looks of things, he’s already off to a great start.
FEBRUARY, 2020 ROCKFORDROAR.COM 31
Rockford swimmer Liam Smith once again made his mark
on the national swimming stage, setting another record
during competition. Over the weekend of Jan. 18-19, he attended
the Jimi Flowers Classic at the Olympic Paralympic Training
Center in Colorado Springs, CO. In the 200-meter breaststroke
he set a new SB7 Pan American record of 3:15.50, adding to all
of his other accomplishments. Liam represents Riptide and
also swims for Rockford High School as a member of the boys
swim & dive team.
The Rams girls varsity basketball team had a big game when
they faced off against a tough East Kentwood team on the
road on Tuesday, Jan. 21. The Falcons, always a tough OK Red
opponent, were looking for redemption after falling to Hudsonville
the previous Friday. The Ram roster was at a definite
size disadvantage and the team had to stay on the perimeter to
score points. Ram Madison Kleefisch answered the call, knocking
down five threes and a bucket to tally 17 points, keeping
the Falcons reeled in. The Rams ultimately lost the game, but
Kleefisch’s acumen from beyond the arc kept it a close one.
Ram Rachel Gamm, who is a standout in water polo and
swimming for RHS, was named as a finalist for a Michigan
High School Athletic Association Scholar-Athlete Award for
the 2019-20 school year. Rachel is one of 24 finalists for the
girls division for Class A schools, with six of the 24 being honored
with a scholarship. To be eligible for the award, a student
must have a cumulative grade-point average of 3.50 (on a 4.0
scale) and previously have won a varsity letter in at least one
sport in which the MHSAA sponsors a postseason tournament.
The six Class A scholarship recipients will be announced Feb.
32 ROAR MAGAZINE FEBRUARY, 2020
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