Rotgers, Willems to represent Cougars at state

AGWSR’s Trinity Rotgers points to supporters in her corner after securing the Region 8 title at 155 pounds with a pinfall victory on Friday in Decorah. (Jake Ryder photo)
Jake Ryder
The Grundy Register

DECORAH – As a freshman, Trinity Rotgers was ahead of the curve of the girls wrestling boom in Iowa.

In her senior season, she heralds a second wave of AGWSR girls wrestling history as a state qualifier for the first-ever IGHSAU girls state wrestling tournament, winning the 155-pound Region 8 title on Friday at Luther College in Decorah.

Rotgers pinned her way to the region championship in her three matches on Friday, with only one match lasting longer than the first period. A pin of Crestwood’s Saydey Scholbrock in the finals sealed the first-place finish.

“I took it one match at a time and just kept wrestling,” Rotgers said. “I kept reminding myself that I believe in myself and that’s what matters.”

Rotgers is seeded ninth in the state bracket and will wrestle Mackenzie Sizemore of Dallas Center-Grimes in the first round on Thursday morning at the Xtream Arena in Coralville. 

Kylie Willems finished third at 190 pounds and will also be making her first state appearance as a senior.

Rotgers was an eighth-place finisher as a freshman in the second IWCOA girls state tournament at Waverly-Shell Rock High School alongside teammate Ali Gerbracht who finished her high school career with one state title as a junior and a runner-up finish as a senior.

But Rotgers said her biggest transformation was from junior to senior year.

“Junior year was rough,” Rotgers said.

Disappointed in her performance as a junior, and knowing that this would be her last shot, she said she worked on strengthening her shoulders and becoming a physically-stronger wrestler overall.

That physical strength made her mentally stronger, too.

“I was like, ‘This is where I need to be,’” Rotgers said. “I was always down on myself before, I didn’t have confidence, and then when I made that commitment, I knew I could do it.”

Being part of the humble beginnings of girls wrestling in the state, and seeing where it’s gone to as a sanctioned sport this year, has been another incredible transformation.

“There’s more generations looking up and seeing us and wanting to be in that same position and maybe even higher than we were in our positions,” Rotgers said.

Rotgers hopes to make it to Friday’s final rounds, and if she can step on the mat on Friday, the Ellsworth commit is gunning for one more state medal.

Willems was inspired by Gerbracht and Rotgers’ trailblazing and adds that she too, has grown much from her early days.

After a loss to South Winneshiek’s Isabelle Kipp in the semifinals, Willems pinned Osage’s Addison Schenker to set up a third-place match with Lydia Hefel of Dubuque Hempstead.

“Coming down to that match, I knew that it was make or break for my season,” Willems said. “I needed to show my coach, my teammates and all the girls coming up in wrestling that hard work pays off and you can’t ever give up.”

Willems pinned Hefel in the first period to leave no doubt about it.

She was influenced by Gerbracht’s and Rotgers’ impression on the AGWSR girls wrestling program to join up as a sophomore. It started with an invitation from Rotgers to try out wrestling.

“Then [AGWSR head coach Chad] Gerbracht came up to me at a football game and said, ‘See you in the room,’” Willems recalled. “I showed up for practice and that was that.”

Gaining a wrestler’s mentality was the biggest difference between the girl that showed up in the wrestling room that day after the football game, and the one that will represent the Cougars in another chapter of their girls wrestling history.

“You have to be strong through it all,” Willems said, “you have to have a good mindset. … The goal is to come out on top [this weekend], hopefully end it on the podium, and just leave it all on the mat.”

The next ones up for AGWSR girls wrestling also got some valuable experience on Friday in Decorah despite 0-2 records; freshman Melanie Searcy (100 pounds), sophomore Nevada Buchheit (125) and junior Nova McStockard (145) all had their seasons come to an end.



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