There’s no denying that Aaron Rothwell’s first two trips to State didn’t go the way the Sheboygan North senior would have liked.
As a junior a year ago, Rothwell entered the WIAA Individual Wrestling State Championships 31-2 and poised for his first trip to the podium.
But after winning his first match, Rothwell fell to fifth-place finisher Eric Walsh of Oregon 6-4. After a 17-5 tech fall, Rothwell ran into Quinn Faust of Mt. Horeb/Barneveld, who finished fourth and beat Rothwell 3-2.
Just like that, his run at State was done, again with no medal — he went 1-2 as a sophomore.
“He wants to finish on top, he wants to be a state champion,” North coach Jake Frias said of his 182-pound undefeated senior. “It’s been his going since the get-go.
“He’s going to take it match-by-match, he’s not overlooking anybody.”
Rothwell heads to Madison 43-0, and ranked No. 2 in his weight class by Wisconsin Wrestling Online, a spot he’s held for most of the season.
However, he’s not the only wrestler with a perfect mark. Faust (46-0) is back and ranked No. 1 in the state, and is a potential semifinal opponent for Rothwell.
“If all goes as planned, he’ll see Faust in the semifinals, but we’re not overlooking anybody,” Frias said. “We’ve looked at a lot of film the last few days (of Rothwell’s potential opponents).”
Rothwell will open his tournament with Racine Case junior Larry Harleston (35-7).
“He’s very athletic, a very raw talent,” Frias said of Harleston. “We’ve had a variety of different coaches at practice, different sizes, giving Aaron a lot of different looks these last few days. We’re just preparing Aaron for the different looks he’s going to be given.”
And what Frias and his assistant coaches have been working on with Rothwell — who has won 115 matches over the past three seasons — is mostly little things.
“In practice we’re really working on improving anything we can improve,” Frias said. “The minor details, nothing flashy.
“I really have to thank my assistant coaches more than anything. They’ve been there through thick and thin. I’ve really relied on my coaching staff to provide the competition Aaron needs to see week-in and week-out.”
Those tweaks and the competition in practice will hopefully prepare Rothwell to finally reach that elusive goal, ending up on the podium in Madison.
“I think with Aaron, he’s been there a couple of times before,” Frias said. “He knows what to expect, he’s been to the big tournaments. He’s got a good mindset going in.”