February 2020 ROAR

jeanniegregory

Coverage of Rockford athletics at all levels.

FEAR

FACTOR

BOYS

CAGERS

RUN OVER

OK RED

FOES

LADY RAMS

DOMINATE

COURT

GYMNASTICS

TEAM

CONTINUES

WINNING

TRADITION

...MORE

INSIDE

FEBRUARY

2020


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REFLECTIONS

FEBRUARY

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

Gymnastics............................18-20

Comeback Chronicles.............22-23

Wrestling................................24-25

Renaming of Stadium...................27

Bowling.......................................28

Middle School Cheer....................29

Where Are They Now?.............30-31

Extra Credit..................................32

* Cover Photo girls varsity basketball

captain Syd Reinke by “Papa” Razzi

Sports Phtography

VOLUME 2 ISSUE 18

Managing Editor

Jeannie Gregory

jeannie@rockfordroar.com

Director of Business Operations

Joel Koch

joel@rockfordroar.com

Rockford.ROAR

ROAR_Mag

ROAR_Mag

JEANNIE

GREGORY

ROAR Editor

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


NET

GAIN!

GIRLS

BASKETBALL

PROGRAM

SHINING ON

HARDCOURT

2 ROAR MAGAZINE FEBRUARY, 2020


NET GAIN!

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

JEANNIE GREGORY

ROAR Editor

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

the community.”

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

that role.”

Wilson has a running list of why his teams are so successful.

NET GAIN!

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

success.”

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

with them.”

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

NET GAIN!

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,”

Wilson concludes.

Proud to support our hometown athletes!

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NET GAIN!

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

JEANNIE GREGORY

ROAR Editor

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

happen.”

Whitford also knows how the players respond to the coaches’

vision is a big piece of the program’s success now and into

the future.

“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.”

NET GAIN!

The Rams JV coaching staff talks to their players during a time

out. ~ Photo by “Papa” Razzi Sports Photography

FEBRUARY, 2020 ROCKFORDROAR.COM 7


NET GAIN!

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

PICTURE-PERFECT

Rams Frosh Team Mowing Down Competition

JEANNIE GREGORY

ROAR Editor

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

thus far.

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

Freshman Center.

“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,”

NET GAIN!

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

JEANNIE GREGORY

ROAR Editor

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

release states.

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

appearances.

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

Rockford community.

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

collective unit.”

FEBRUARY, 2020 ROCKFORDROAR.COM 11


RISING TO GREATER HEIGHTS

Rams Varsity Team Grows with Season

JEANNIE GREGORY

ROAR Editor

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

JEANNIE GREGORY

ROAR Editor

The motto for the boys basketball program is “Family,” and

the 2019-20 boys junior varsity team have taken that message

to heart.

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

Kyle Clough.

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

JEANNIE GREGORY

ROAR Editor

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

why.

“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

of them.”

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

their teammates.”

“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

team.

“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

JEANNIE GREGORY

ROAR Editor

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

their routines.

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

success.

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

when needed.

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

there.

“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

together.”

Averi Nixon showing the rip she got while competing bars. ~ Contributed Photo

20 ROAR MAGAZINE FEBRUARY, 2020


February Check-in:

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

weight loss goal but can’t seem to make it to the gym? No

worries. There are plenty of ways to get more activity throughout

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

which improves your mood and helps to prevent anxiety and

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

is not reason enough, daily exercise increases energy levels,

benefits physical intimacy and is a great way to be social and

have fun! So, find something you enjoy because if it’s fun, you

will keep doing it!

Still not sure if you’ll be able to stick with it? Put a plan in

place. Make sure you know why you want to make a change

and remind yourself of that every day. Is your goal concrete

and measurable? Can you track your progress and see your

improvement? Who will be on your team as you work towards

your goals? How will you celebrate your victories?

Having a plan and people to support you is important in helping

you stick with your resolution.

Perhaps pain is preventing you from sticking with your

plan and achieving your resolution. Many obstacles in life

can get in the way of achieving our goals, however, if pain is

one of them, Robinet Physical Therapy can help. We offer free

30-minute consultations with one of our Physical therapists.

During your visit, we will provide a physical assessment as

well as discuss your goals and limitations with you to determine

if physical therapy is right for you. Keep your resolution

and call us today!

Robinet Physical Therapy

Rockford (616) 866-2727

Greenville (616) 232-2400

FEBRUARY, 2020 ROCKFORDROAR.COM 21


PROUDLY PRESENTS

Comeback

Chronicles

Luke Watkins wrestles as a Ram after his leg injury. ~ Contributed Photo

Watkins ‘Takes Down’ Adversity

JEANNIE GREGORY

ROAR Editor

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

properly.

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

very disappointing.”

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

team.

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

again?

“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

the issue.

“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

go numb.”

Not to mention the pain it caused,

which Luke didn’t even mention in our

interview.

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

jut out.

“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

needed.

He has one thing in mind now that he

has healed.

“My goal this year is to become the

best athlete I can be.”

Richardson sees that Luke is attaining

his goal.

“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

(616) 647-4300

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

JEANNIE GREGORY

ROAR Editor

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

world.”

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

ones.”

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

season’s team.

“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

program.

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

JEANNIE GREGORY

ROAR Editor

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

day.

“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

this year.”

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

impressive accomplishment.”

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

JEANNIE GREGORY

ROAR Editor

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


Spares Key

to Success

CRAIG BREKKE

ROAR Contributor

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

tournaments.

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

JEANNIE GREGORY

ROAR Editor

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

the team.”

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


PROUDLY PRESENTS

Where Are They Now?

JEFF COLE

CLASS OF 2002

JEANNIE GREGORY

ROAR Editor

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

you will.”

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

sport.”

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

program’s history.

“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

Detailing, LLC.

“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

far.

“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

athletes.

“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


LIAM SMITH

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.

MADISON KLEEFISCH

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.

RACHEL GAMM

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.

18.

32 ROAR MAGAZINE FEBRUARY, 2020


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