FAUCETT, Mo. — Parker Rotterman spent time in his youth wrestling for North Platte and Platte County.
Never did he expect to enter high school and wrestle for Mid-Buchanan. Yet for each of the past four years, the senior trades out his purple and gold football uniform for the green and white of Mid-Buchanan for wrestling season, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Rotterman exudes a positive demeanor indicative of an athlete happy to have the chance to compete after a debilitating broken leg he suffered in the summer ahead of his sophomore year. Even if that means being a North Platte student competing for Mid-Buchanan.
“I am very, very grateful that we did come to Mid-Buch because I love my coaches,” Rotterman said Saturday after winning his “home” Mid-Buchanan Invitational at 160 pounds. “They’re all very, very good wrestlers, awesome people and even better coaches, in my opinion.”
Part of a program used to high-level individual success, Rotterman inherited the role of top wrestler for Mid-Buchanan, a school he’s never attended but a place where he spends his winters.
Rotterman is the only returning Class 1 Missouri State Wrestling Championships qualifier for the Dragons and a team leader despite being one of only two wrestlers from North Platte participating at Mid-Buchanan as part of the schools’ cooperative agreement. In fact, North Platte accounted for two of Mid-Buchanan’s three qualifiers a year ago.
“Even if it’s just a couple kids, which it is this year — just two kids — that can make a big difference in Class 1,” Mid-Buchanan coach Daniel Kountz said. “Just to fill a lineup or even at the state tournament score points for us, so we welcome it for sure and enjoy those guys come up.”
Mid-Buchanan welcomed in Rotterman for his freshman season, hoping to mold a kid seemingly always on the cusp of youth success into a high school state medalist.
In his first season, Rotterman went 29-18 and came up just one win shy of qualifying for the Class 1 Missouri State Wrestling Championships at 132 pounds, losing 7-6 o O’Hara’s Cayden Cooper after reaching the District 3 semifinals. That turned out to be Rotterman’s last time on the high school mat for a while.
Over the following summer while riding four wheelers with a friend on his grandfather’s farm, Rotterman crested a hill going too fast and found himself thrown off the ATV and over the handlebars. He landed on his left leg and skidded across the hay field on his face.
Rotterman remembers coming back to consciousness while still a bit groggy before realizing the severity of his injury.
“There for a second, before it all hit me, I thought, ‘You know? I think I’m all right, but I don’t know how,’” he said. “Then it all kind of hit me that something was definitely wrong.”
Rotterman suffered a broken left femur — snapped clean in half with no internal or external bleeding. Surgeons inserted an 8-inch rod and three screws to help heal the break, a permanent reminder of the injury he will likely always carry inside of his body.
The rehab went from the injury in June of 2014 until May of 2015, costing him all of his sophomore football season with North Platte and wrestling season at Mid-Buchanan.
“I was really devastated when I found out I couldn’t wrestle or play football because obviously that takes up so much of my time and has for so long,” Rotterman said. “It was gut-wrenching to have to just watch my teammates and not be a part of it.”
Rotterman felt the effects of being away from the mat when he returned for his junior year.
“I just can’t wrap my mind around what I could have been if that hadn’t happened,” he said. “When I came back, I obviously saw drastic changes in my performance and not only that. I felt like I was slower. I felt like I had lost a lot of muscle mass.
“I felt like I kind of let myself down, even though it was an accident.”
Having been on the cusp of state as a freshman, Kountz wanted Rotterman to find a way to qualify, and he ended up blowing past those expectations. He sprung an upset in the semifinal of the District 3 145 bracket and became North Platte’s first wrestling district champion since 2009 with a 3-2 win over Justin Wright of Lathrop.
Rotterman finally found the success he desired after a career of disappointments dating back to when he started the sport in the second grade. At state, Rotterman went 1-2 after upsetting state-ranked Rylan Chrisman of Marceline in the opening round. His tournament ended with a loss to Wright, a week after beating him.
“It probably started out just getting to state,” Kountz said, “We thought we were going to be dealing with that hump last year and ended up leaping over it and winning the district tournament. A medal was the goal last year, and it still is this year, winning a medal and getting on the podium.”
Last year’s state tournament left Rotterman with another lesson to use in his final season and his likely last go-round on the mat.
Rotterman started his senior season slow but rallied at the Battle of Lexington over Christmas break, reaching the 152 final before losing to Father Tolton Catholic junior Jarrett Jacques, a two-time Class 3 state champion at Kirksville and Owensville who is in the top 20 nationally according to InterMat Wrestling.
The runner-up finish vaulted him into the top six in missouriwrestling.com’s Class 1 rankings, and Rotterman remains No. 4 at 152 pounds behind Jacques, Seneca’s Trey Smith and Centralia’s Carter Kinkead, who beat Rotterman in the 145 state quarterfinals a year ago.
More than anything, Rotterman wants to be a state champion, but he also knows he has a chance to earn a state medal and add to North Platte’s wrestling history, which took a detour when the program merged with Mid-Buchanan for the 2012-13 season.
“I constantly think about it,” he said. “It never leaves my mind. I’m always thinking about being at the top. I want nothing more than to be a state champion, just to be in the finals, something. I want to leave my mark here so that I can show the kids at North Platte wrestling is something they can do.”
Rotterman improved to 13-7 with his championship at the Mid-Buchanan Invitational over the weekend, although he didn’t face the best competition he will see this season. The process still remains in developing and making up for the lost time his sophomore year in an effort to achieve the biggest of his state goals.
Along the way, Rotterman picked up fans, and although most remain loyal to the North Platte side of his career, there’s plenty of Mid-Buchanan supporters rooting for him to succeed, too.
“Great kid, I don’t know if you get much better than Parker as far as a good kid doing the right things, always there, supportive as a teammate,” Kountz said. “He’s just a likable kid. You have to root for him.”