The sun is setting on Aaron Rothwell’s high school wrestling career.
But there’s time enough, his coach says, for the 182-pound star senior to leave his fingerprints all over Sheboygan North’s wrestling program.
Rothwell, who consistently has been ranked the state’s second-best 182-pound wrestler in Division 1 this year, is a few steps away from tying or even breaking several records at his school, according to second-year coach Jake Frias.
“He’s doing all the right things right now,” said Frias, who has relied on a cadre of experienced assistant coaches this season to mold Rothwell into a veritable force to be feared on the mat.
All that work could soon start paying big dividends. Rothwell is within easy striking distance of overtaking former North wrestler Tony Perl’s program-best 65 career pins, and is nearing a few other all-time bests at the school as well. He could break the school’s records for most career takedowns and consecutive wins, as well as finish with the program’s best-ever single overall season.
But, Rothwell said during a recent team practice, “It’s not over yet.” With the team’s final regular-season dual coming up Thursday against Manitowoc before Rothwell dives into the postseason, he knows there’s plenty of time left for an untimely slip-up.
“They are certainly important,” Rothwell said of the records that are within his reach. “But if I go out there thinking, ‘OK, well, now I need to get five takedowns in a match just to beat this record,’ the truth is I won’t be going out there to win that match. … I go out there with every intention of winning a match, being as dominant as possible. If I win, I win; if I get that record, then that’s just the way I’ve been wrestling.”
But while the wrestler is keeping himself firmly grounded to the mat and his focus on the next match, his coach insists Rothwell can finish his final year at North with a few program bests under his belt.
“I think he can get that (career pins record) for sure,” Frias said, noting Rothwell currently has 60 pins — just five short of Perl’s record.
He’s in a more distant second place behind Jack Jensen’s program-leading 432 career takedowns, though Frias noted he believes Rothwell (who currently has 387) can break that record, too. “We’ve got a shot of hitting that.”
Rothwell, who currently boasts an undefeated 36-0 record this season, is a few victories away from tying Perl’s program-best 41 straight wins in a season, and could easily become the program’s second wrestler to finish a season with more than 40 wins.
“And then he’s also in the running for best overall season,” Frias said. The current holder of that achievement, Perl, finished his 2010-11 season with a sterling 45-1 record and third-place finish at State.
Rothwell still has an estimated 10 matches left on his schedule this season, Frias said, noting he could face several opponents in each level — regionals, sectionals and then state — of the upcoming postseason tournament.
“I’m still pushing towards a goal. I haven’t had any time, really, to reflect back on what I’ve already done,” said Rothwell, who noted that all school records aside, there’s only one accomplishment he’s really burning to achieve. “Ever since freshman year, my goal was state champ. And I haven’t won it the last three years, so it’s so big in my mind right now that any other accomplishments (are) just out of the way for right now.
“I think I’m only going to be truly happy with a state championship.”