Ethan Rotondo fell short of his lofty goal of qualifying for the CIF State Championships during his first season with Central Valley High School's varsity wrestling team.
Rotondo earned a measure of redemption when he captured the 100-pound title at the California USA High School Folkstyle State Tournament on March 14 at Fresno's Selland Arena.
"Going into the tournament, I didn't know how good the competition would be," Ethan said. "I just tried to stay aggressive and not give up anything. I was just excited to be back on the mat."
Ethan posted a 4-0 record in the freshman division.
Rotondo finished ahead of 26 other grapplers.
"I followed him on trackwrestling.com," said Hawks head coach Rob Beckhart, who was unable to attend the meet because he had to work. "I called him afterwards and congratulated him."
Ethan won by technical fall (18-2) over Lancer Youth Wrestling Club's Branden Rullan in the finals.
He also collected wins against Rancho Buena Vista's Oscar Nellis (decision, 7-4), Will C. Wood's Ryan Fisher (pin, 2:14) and Scottsmen's Emmett Kuntz (pin, 3:54).
"He put his head down and worked hard," said Brent Rotondo, Ethan's father and coach.
Ethan will represent Team California at the USA Wrestling Folkstyle National Championships this week in Iowa.
He'll fly from San Francisco to Des Moines on Thursday.
Upon arrival, Rotondo and his Northern California teammates will be transported in a charter bus to Cedar Falls.
Matches will be staged, April 4-6, at the University of Iowa.
"I'm nervous and excited," he said. "It will be fun. I'll use it as a learning experience."
"He's going to be competing against kids from all over the country," Brent added.
"It's a good opportunity for him," Beckhart stated.
Ethan didn't perform like a freshman against varsity opposition. He qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Tournament, finished second at Divisionals and captured a first-place medal at the Western Athletic Conference Championships while competing at 108 pounds.
Rotondo compiled a 32-11 overall record. Ethan and Central Valley senior Rick Brown tied for first on the team with most wins.
"I'm really happy with how I did," Ethan said. "I knew it would be tough. I learned a lot."
"I thought if he went .500 for the season, it would be a good year," Brent said. "He surprised me."