BY DAN STICKRADT
WEB AND CONTENT EDITOR
RICHLAND, Mich. – Athletes growing up playing sports at various levels always have big dreams.
Dreams that are more often than not never realized but they are dreams nevertheless.
For Ryker Corstange, he’s more than lived the dream as a prep athlete – he’s been part of the bright spotlight all along. The current senior and two-sport standout at Richland Gull Lake has excelled on the soccer pitch and basketball court.
In his favorite sport of soccer, Corstange, who is also a standout player for his Kalamazoo Kingdom club team, has developed into one of the best players in the entire state of Michigan the last few years and entered the 2023 season as a candidate to become a two-time All-State Dream Team honoree and a candidate for the prestigious Mr. Soccer award, given annually to the top prep soccer player as selected by the Michigan High School Soccer Coaches Association.
“That’s truly an honor to even be considered for all of that,” said Corstange, who earned multiple postseason honors as both a junior and sophomore. “Just to be in that conversation means a lot.”
Jeff Corstange, Ryker Corstange’s uncle and Gull Lake head coach in both 2022 and 2023, said watching Ryker develop has been special. One of nine first cousins that reside in the Richland area, Ryker Corstange is much more than statistics and postseason awards.
The 5-foot-10, 160-pound, lightning-quick Corstange has played on three Final Four teams, including Division 2 state championship teams in 2020 and 2022, and a state semifinalist squad in 2021. The Blue Devils also finished with three conference titles and one league runner-up, two Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference tournament titles, three districts titles and three regional crowns during his tenure. The Blue Devils have also won a few weekend tournaments during the regular season.
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“Ryker has developed into a fine player. He’s one of those kids that just makes everyone around him better,” praised Coach Corstange. “He works very hard, has great vision and is equally (effective) both with creating chances for himself and creating chances for others.”
To put things into perspective, most high school athletes in any sport don’t even sniff championships in their sport of choice, let along take home several crowns. Ryker Corstange has been a part of many during his career and at times is one of the team’s top players on some deep and talented rosters.
Entering this year’s MHSAA Division 2 dstate tournament, Corstange and the Blue Devils are 15-2-1 this season and won another SWMAC regular season crown at 9-0-0. During his career, Gull Lake has amassed a stellar 83-9-3 overall record, collected 47 team shutouts and outscored the opposition 308-65.
A fourth-year varsity veteran for the Blue Devils, who have maintained a top 15 state rankings in Division 2 for the last six seasons, Corstange and his teammates have put up some big-time numbers.
“When I was a freshman and sophomore, we had some really good players – guys that were great leaders and that went on to play in college,” recalled Ryker Corstange, who said he used to attend games when he was in middle school. “I looked up to them and now that I’m a upperclassmen I like being a leader and helping our team compete at the highest level.”
Personally, Ryker Corstange ranks in the top 10 in Gull Lake lore in single-game, single-season and career categories for goals, assists, total points, hattricks, game-winning goals, game-winning assists and more. The Blue Devils have produced legions of all-league, all-district, all-region, all-area and all-state players since the program was launched in the early 1980s and Corstange ranks up their with the best of them.
All of that, coupled with the Blue Devils’ team success, has helped Ryker Corstange compile one impressive prep resume. Even when Corstange was in middle school, Gull Lake was lighting up scoreboards and contending for championships with Corstange watching from the stand s and yearning for his shot to come to dress in a Gull Lake uniform. The program has reached at least the state semifinals in four of the last five seasons leading up to 2023, where Gull Lake has been ranked well inside the top 10 all season and that includes a stint at the No. 1 slot.
He finished with 20 goals and 24 assists as a junior playing alongside an offensive juggernaut that outscored the opposition 93-19 and had 10 goals and four assists as part of an offense that outscored its foes 93-16 in 2021. He has collected 16 goals and 14 assists entering the tournament this season.
Corstange played ample minutes as a freshman in 2020 campaign but more in a limited role behind a talented junior and senior class. Now he’s one of 14 seniors on this year’s roster and has been a key player as a three-year starter.
Ironically on the basketball court, Corstange is more of a guard and small forward known more for his stingy defensive prowess than his scoring outbursts.
“I’ve had a couple of games, but I am more of a defensive type player due to my speed and athletic ability,” laughed Corstange. “My role in basketball is a lot different than in soccer."
Whatever happens during this wild and crazy world of the MHSAA boys soccer tournament, Ryker Corstange has more than made a name for himself and his playing days are far from over on the soccer field. Several NCAA Division I and Division II schools have shown serious interest while a multitude of NCAA Division III and NAIA schools have also reached out. Nearby power Western Michigan University, Oakland University, Eastern Illinois and Bellarmine University are amongst the D-I schools seeking his talents, while in-state D-II Davenport University is on the recruiting trail for his services. Depending on how Corstange fares this winter and next spring on the club circuit and in some upcoming ID Showcases, more pursuers may come calling.
“I’ve always thought about playing in college,” said Corstange. “We’ll wait and see how the recruiting process shapes out, but I’m hoping to end up somehwere.”
That ‘somewhere’ is not too far off into the future, as Ryker Corstange is in his final year of high school with many accolades in an incredible career.
The future is only the next chapter.