Aaron Rothwell is aiming for a perfect season.
Thirty-six matches in — so far, so good.
Sheboygan North’s star 182-pound grappler pinned his first three opponents Saturday and didn’t have to break a sweat in the championship round en route to his second straight gold medal in his school’s own Raider Invite.
“It’s not only about the wins, but it’s practically about a flawless season,” said Rothwell, who won Saturday’s championship match by default after his opponent stepped out because of an injury. “That was my goal this season. It’s not just to get as many wins as I can without any losses; it’s not to get taken down, not anything. I want to be the perfect wrestler.”
He looked close to perfect for stretches of Saturday’s 20-team invite. He pinned Oshkosh West’s Isaac Rumbuc in about 21/2 minutes in the opening match, and subdued Little Chute’s Max Keyzers in just 30 seconds. Random Lake’s Jesse Verbanac lasted 1 minute, 41 seconds in the semifinal.
“He went out there on a mission today,” North coach Jake Frias said of Rothwell’s quick three wins. “… We tell him in practice: You don’t got to be out there longer than you have to. Go out there, take care of business. Punch in, punch out.”
Sheboygan Falls’ Mitchell Lambrecht won the event’s 160-pound title after clawing to a 5-4 decision against Southern Door’s Nolan Wagner in the championship match. He was the area’s only other first-place finisher Saturday.
Two Rivers was the overall invite champion, and Two Rivers’ Ty Pelot (113 pounds) was voted the event’s Outstanding Wrestler. Random Lake was the area’s highest-scoring team; the Rams finished in fifth place, just a few points behind fourth-place Little Chute.
Sheboygan Falls finished sixth; Oostburg finished eighth; host Sheboygan North finished 12th; Plymouth was tied for 13th; Sheboygan South was 15th; and Elkhart Lake-Glenbeulah finished in 16th place.
South’s Skylar Kroening (106 pounds); Oostburg’s Alex Korthals (120); Plymouth’s Trevor Miske (138); Falls’ Brandon Broetzmann (152); and Random Lake’s Adam Risse (170) each took second place in their brackets.
Random Lake, ranked ninth in the state among Division 3 teams, faced tough fights all day against the many big-division schools that filled the Raider Invite’s brackets. Jon Mudlaff, the state’s highest-ranked 106-pound wrestler in Division 3, finished third in the event’s 113-pound bracket. Two of his Rams teammates — Brandon Depies (120 pounds) and Trent Gottsacker (126) — also finished third in their respective weight classes.
“I think it only helps our guys down at the state tournament,” Random Lake coach John Hatfield said of having his wrestlers compete in events that pit them against large-school opponents.
“That’s the nice thing about a big tournament like this — is you get to see people who you won’t see for the rest of the year,” Hatfield said. “Higher divisions, other area programs that are real good. … It’s a good preview of sectionals and State.”
Plymouth’s Jakob Ohman took third place in the 152-pound weight class, and Sheboygan Falls’ Drew Setzer took bronze in his 182-pound class.
Setzer nearly wrestled against Rothwell in the championship match, but lost to Stevens Point’s Mitch Mallek in the semifinals. Mallek was expected to square off against Rothwell in the championship, but an injury forced him to default the match.
That resulted in a rather anti-climactic finish to Rothwell’s big day. When the 182-pound wrestlers hit the mats for their final matches Saturday, Rothwell walked to the center of his empty ring, where a referee raised his arm and called the uncontested match.
The championship marks his second consecutive Raider Invite win, and pushes Rothwell’s season record to a still-undefeated 36-0.
But for a wrestler aiming to do better than just win all his matches, it was just another day — one of many on his road to an always-elusive level of perfection that Rothwell is convinced he hasn’t quite yet attained.
“I’ve got a long way. As far as a high school state wrestler, I’ve made a lot of progress; I think I’m as close as I can be to where I’m capable of,” said Rothwell, who as of last week was ranked second among Wisconsin’s 182-pound wrestlers in Division 1. “But there’s so much improvement I have left, that I’m so excited for.”
Frias, his coach, seemed to echo those sentiments.
“He’s where we expected” him to be by now, Frias said. “He’s showing flashes of greatness. He’s still got things we got to improve on. We’re critiquing every minor thing so that when it comes time for regionals and sectionals and State, we’re perfect.”
Team scores: Two Rivers 238, Stevens Point 193, Oshkosh West 145, Little Chute 127, Random Lake 122.5, Sheboygan Falls 109.5, Southern Door 108.5, Oostburg 101, Seymour 81, Valders 81, Brookfield East 72, Sheboygan North 68.5, Milwaukee Riverside 54, Plymouth 54, Sheboygan South 50.5, Elkhart Lake 38.5, Nicolet 35, Milwaukee Lutheran 34.5, Shawano 33, Shoreland Lutheran 5.
Championship match winners
106 — Paul Bianchi, Two Rivers, def. Skylar Kroening, Sheboygan South, 7-0; 113 — Ty Pelot, Two Rivers, def. Walker Christensen, Seymour, 6-1; 120 — Kolten Pope, Stevens Point, def. Alex Korthals, Oostburg, 4-3; 126 — Fritz Schierl, Stevens Point, pinned Hunter Pawelski, Southern Door, 3:08; 132 — Jacob Englebert, Southern Door, pinned Bryce Zdanovec, Little Chute, 5:36; 138 — Stetson McCulley, Valders, maj. dec. over Trevor Miske, Plymouth, 12-2; 145 — Colin Schubert, Southern Door, tech fall over Reed Matz, Oshkosh West, 20-4; 152 — Tim Schumann, Oshkosh West, pinned Brandon Broetzmann, Sheboygan Falls, 3:21; 160 — Mitchell Lambrecht, Sheboygan Falls, def. Nolan Wagner, Southern Door, 5-4; 170 — Wes Dimmick, Two Rivers, def. Adam Risse, Random Lake, 3-2; 182 — Aaron Rothwell, Sheboygan North, injury default over Mitch Mallek, Stevens Point; 195 — Nick Osowski, Oshkosh West, def. Scott Skornicka, Two Rivers, 7-5; 220 — Bobby Geiger, Two Rivers, pinned Russell Chambers, Milwaukee Riverside, 5:03; 285 — Brandon Elrick, Little Chute, sudden victory over Justin Pawlek, Stevens Point, 3-1.