Seniors relish first trip to state
Rotta, Kicherer wrap up wrestling careers
By Greg Seubert
Forty-two wrestlers won championships at this year’s WIAA Individual Wrestling State Tournament.
Waupaca’s Derrick Rotta and Weyauwega-Fremont’s Dylen Kicherer aren’t on that list, but the seniors were more than happy to wrap up their wrestling careers with their first trip to state.
Each wrestler won their first-round match Feb. 23 at the Kohl Center in Madison and Kicherer wound up placing sixth in Division 3 at 220 pounds.
Rotta is Waupaca’s first wrestler to qualify for state since Logan Bernhardt and Levi Petroske placed fourth at 106 and 160, respectively, in 2014.
“I’ve never watched this tournament before,” he said. “Just the size of it was intimidating a little. It’s great that I had a chance to come down here and I made it. I am ecstatic right now just being at the state tournament.”
It didn’t take Rotta long to get a taste of success, as he pinned St. Croix Central’s Ryan Larson in 1:31 in a Division 2 preliminary round match at 195 pounds.
“If I win my first match, that’s a dream come true to get my hand raised at this level,” he said.
That turned out to be Rotta’s only win in Madison, as Lomira’s Collin Feucht pinned him in 3:00 in the quarterfinals and he dropped a 13-1 major decision to Prescott’s Ty Sanford in the wrestleback round to end his season at 31-10.
Meanwhile, Kicherer advanced to the Division 3 220-pound quarterfinal round with a 10-4 win over Poynette’s Wesley Sandstrom.
Wrestlers that lose their preliminary round matches in divisions 2 and 3 do not get a chance to advance, so getting the win over Sandstrom was a big deal for Kicherer.
“It’s very big,” he said. “I had to win that match or I’m out. It’s a stressful feeling knowing that I have to win that first match. He started slowing down and then I got him on his back two times, but couldn’t pin him. He kept rolling through.”
Kicherer then dropped a 9-2 decision to eventual runner-up Noah Wieczorek of Clear Lake, which placed him in the wrestleback round against another area wrestler, Amherst’s Max Villnow.
Villnow had to forfeit the match due to an injury and Kicherer then fell 3-1 to Cornell/Gilman/Lake Holcombe’s Matt Kostka. That loss placed Kicherer in the fifth-place match, which he lost after Westby’s Hunter Groom pinned him in 1:14.
“It means a lot,” Kicherer said when asked about finally making it to state. “I’ve had a lot of people talking to me and looking forward to my match. I have a lot of people looking out for me. My whole family’s down here. My dad has wanted me to come down here since I was 2 years old.”
Although he came to Madison without any state tournament experience on the mat, Kicherer knew what to expect.
“You just have to keep your mind focused on the match, don’t think about the crowd too much and you’ll do fine,” he said.
Unlike Rotta, Kicherer has watched his Weyauwega-Fremont teammates wrestle at past state tournaments.
“You can see everybody wrestling and how they’re focused on their match and not looking at the crowd,” he said.
Kicherer’s win over Sandstrom came after teammates Cian Fischer and Justin Kempf also won their preliminary round matches at 106 and 120, respectively.
“It definitely sparked my plug and got me going,” he said. “When Easton (Groskreutz) lost (at 113), that angered me a little bit.”
Running, conditioning and lifting weights during the offseason made a difference this season, according to Rotta.
“At 195, everyone’s strong,” he said. “I weighed in today at 182.4, so I need every bit of my strength. I’m glad I worked hard in the offseason. I think I’ve come a long way since the beginning of the season.”
Rotta started wrestling as a sixth-grader at Waupaca Middle School with his older brother, Mitchell.
Mitchell Rotta never qualified for state in wrestling, but he did compete at the WIAA State Cross Country Meet as a senior in 2015.
“He’s a great wrestler and a great brother,” Derrick Rotta said. “I think he’s another major contributor to why I’m here. He always pushed me every time. When we were in the wrestling room, he was always the one who worked the hardest and he always pushed me to be my best.
“No one works harder than my brother at anything,” he added. “He definitely deserved to go to state in cross country. I also want to thank my dad for always pushing both of his kids really hard.”
Another sectional qualifier for Waupaca, Mark Kilcoyne, helped Rotta prepare during the week leading up to state.
“I owe a lot to him because he didn’t have to show up, but he did and he helped me out,” he said. “He’s a great wrestling partner.”
Rotta didn’t mind being Waupaca’s only wrestler at state.
“It would have been great to have Logan down here for his senior year and my senior year,” he said. “I dreamed of both of us coming down here, but it is what it is. He had two really tough matches at sectionals, but hey, that’s wrestling. It happens to the best of us.”
Although Rotta competed on his own, Kicherer had Fischer, Groskreutz and Kempf on his side.
“It makes the experience a lot more fun, a lot more memorable with friends who come down here and watch you,” he said. “The season’s been amazing for me and I accomplished a lot. I’m very happy with the way it’s going to end.”