If a rumble breaks out during one of the Sterling chess team’s matches, smart money is on the Golden Warriors.
That’s because Aidan Munoz-Ripley is on the scene.
Munoz-Ripley is a 6-foot-2, 260-pound junior who is a two-way starter in the trenches for a Sterling football team that is on
the doorstep of its first-
ever championship game appearance. He’s a road grader at right guard, and on the defensive side, he floats between end and tackle, depending on that week’s opponent.
He’s also currently the top chess player at SHS, as he occupies the “first board.” In matches, he takes on the Golden Warriors’ top opposing player, and relishes the challenge.
“You really have to out-think your opponent and make sure you fulfill your strategy,” Munoz-Ripley said. “You’ve got to think a few moves ahead and be aware of everything. Matches can go from a couple of minutes to a couple of hours. It definitely takes patience.”
Munoz-Ripley began playing chess when he was in second grade, and was taught the game by his grandfather, Marvin Ripley.
It was a slow process, learning the moves and strategies involved, but he soon was hooked.
“When the chess team would come to the elementary school, I’d play there,” Munoz-Ripley said. “That moved to me showing up to a few high school practices, and eventually joining the high school team.”
Munoz-Ripley is the only SHS football player who is also on the chess team, and he noted it’s a mixed bag of reaction to the sport he’ll resume once the football season is done.
“Some of them think it’s funny and will laugh about it with me,” Munoz-Ripley said. “Some of them think it’s cool that I do that.”
Sterling coach Jon Schlemmer drew a bit of a parallel between the cerebral side of being a good chess player and the intelligence needed to play football.
“He’s a smart cat,” Schlemmer said. “He’s got his stuff together, and he understands the little intricacies of both sides of the ball. Chess, I don’t know how to play chess, so I won’t be having any conversations about that with him. I just know Aiden is an intelligent kid who has turned himself into a really good football player.”
Munoz-Ripley saw an opportunity to become a crucial part of the Golden Warriors this year and seized it. The graduation of several linemen from the 2017 Sterling club meant spots were up for grabs. He was a regular at offseason workouts, hit the weights, and was ready to rock by the time the season started.
His improvement caught the eyes of his coaches, and he’s been a fixture in the lineup all season.
“I just saw all of the seniors that were going to be leaving, and I was really going to have to work hard this summer to get a spot,” Munoz-Ripley said. “So that’s what I did, and I ended up with two positions.”
Schlemmer mentioned good mobility, the ability to fight with his hands, and playing with an edge as Munoz-Ripley’s biggest strengths.
“For being as quiet of a kid that we have, between the lines, he’s got a little nasty to him,” Schlemmer said. “He likes to finish blocks. He likes to play football, and we think he’s playing it the right way. He’s been a great player for us as a junior. He came a long way from last year, and to be doing the things he’s doing this year, it’s helped bring us a lot of success.”
FYI: Two-way starting lineman for Sterling football team. … Also top chess player for Golden Warriors. … Took up chess in second grade.