One fragmented loss led to a whole lot of learning for Batavia’s Kaden Fetterolf.
Last February as a junior, Fetterolf reached the Class 3A state championship match at 138 pounds before losing 13-3 to Moline’s Kole Brower at the State Farm Center in Champaign.
How much has that helped?
“It was a great experience,” Fetterolf said. “Brought my confidence up but also gave me a lot of things to work on — exposed some weaknesses I had to work on over the summer.”
He dedicated the offseason to improving his balance, footwork and offensive explosion.
“I have always felt really confident with my mat wrestling,” Fetterolf said. “My focus has been about working on my feet.”
In perfecting his footwork, Fetterolf has been virtually untouchable so far this season, becoming one of the most dominant wrestlers in the state.
Call it lessons learned.
He improved his record to 21-0 by defeating Schaumburg’s Caden Kirchner 6-0 in Saturday’s 152-pound championship match of the Rus Erb Tournament at Glenbrook South.
Most impressively, Fetterolf has not surrendered an offensive point this season. He has not conceded a takedown, reversal or a near fall.
His only points allowed are voluntary escapes, and that has been a particular point of pride.
“He competes in everything and against everybody — coaches, wrestlers, or whoever he is up against,” Batavia coach Ryan Farwell said. “Right now, he is focused on the little things and trying to improve.
“He is a competitor who wants to win every time he steps on the mat.”
Fetterolf’s teammates, including sophomore 220-pounder Asher Sheldon, marvel at his dedication to the craft.
“He is a really hard worker,” Sheldon said. “What makes him so good is the amount of commitment he put in, especially during the offseason.
“In this sport, you really need to be committed, and he has done that.”
During his freshman season, Fetterolf competed at 106. Speed was his calling card.
Now, his opponents are bigger and stronger.
“I have been focusing on my shots,” Fetterolf said. “Not just going out there and trying to get it over with. I want to develop my skills and work on getting a takedown in a match setting.”
The improvement on his feet makes him more formidable.
“I know if I can get on top of a guy, I can turn him,” Fetterolf said. “I like to take that into account and stay solid on my feet.”
Fetterolf also has the ideal training partner in senior Cael Andrews, a state quarterfinalist last season at 145 who finished 40-10.
Like Fetterolf, Andrews is off to a perfect 21-0 start.
“We’re good buddies,” Andrews said. “We like to beat the heck out of each other. We bring out the best in each other.”
During his run to last season’s state finals, Fetterolf avenged two losses as a sophomore at state.
One of those victories came against Stevenson’s Cole Rhemrev in the state semifinals. Like Kirchner, Rhemrev was previously unbeaten.
Aidan Huck, a senior 126-pounder for Batavia, has been impressed.
“Even if he loses, he has the mentality of really pushing everybody in the room,” Huck said of Fetterolf.
At age 7, Fetterolf followed the direction of some friends and began his love affair with wrestling through the Bulldogs’ feeder program.
After a promising freshman season, Fetterolf developed further through the program of Israel Martinez, a three-time state champion at West Aurora.
Standing at the second-place spot on the podium, Fetterolf thought about what was necessary to move up one rung higher.
“One of my favorite parts about the sport is there’s not anyone else out there,” he said. “If you win, it’s all you, but if you lose, it’s also all you.
“Either way, it’s all you.”
Patrick Z. McGavin is a freelance reporter for The Beacon-News.