A big challenge

In any other semistate, Sean Galligar would be almost a lock to make it through to the state finals.

But when the Columbus East senior heavyweight wrestler takes the mat in Saturday’s Evansville Semistate, he’ll be in for a huge battle just to land a coveted spot in next week’s state meet.

Six of the top eight 285-pounders in the state are in the Evansville Semistate, which begins at 9 a.m. Saturday at Ford Center. Only the top four qualify for state, which means wrestlers need to win their first two matches in the loaded 16-man bracket to secure a berth.

Galligar is ranked fifth in Indiana.

“He’s there to win the tournament,” East coach Chris Cooper said of Galligar. “There’s some very good kids there, but I do believe Sean is as good as any of those guys. It’s just a matter of him wrestling the way he is capable and staying in his positions.”

To get to the semifinals, Galligar (36-3) likely would have to beat third-ranked Wade Ripple (38-2) of Mt. Vernon (Posey) in the quarterfinals, known as the “ticket round.”

Those two did not meet in the regular season, but Ripple edged Galligar 1-0 in an early summer match. Cooper thinks if they had wrestled again, that match would have gone differently.

“The mindset is going to be the same that it’s been all year, which is kind of a nice thing — come out and wrestle my match and my positions and hopefully win the whole thing,” Galligar said. “Rankings are just another thing for people to get seeds, and really, rankings don’t mean anything.”

If Galligar makes it to the semifinals, he could face No. 7 Brett Henson of Avon (30-5). No. 2 Cory Klem of Gibson Southern (35-2), No. 4 Quinn York of Franklin (38-1) and No. 8 Brendan Sutton of Jennings County (30-6) are all on the other side of the bracket.

In the first round, Galligar will meet Bloomington South’s Harley Hillenburg (22-23).

“I think I have a pretty good draw,” Galligar said. “I have somebody I’ve never wrestled before in the first round, but it’s definitely looking like it will be a good match. Then that second round is something I’m going to have to overcome.”

Having lost in the ticket round last year, Galligar has waited 52 weeks for another chance to qualify for state for the first time.

Galligar admitted feeling a little overwhelmed last year in front of the massive Ford Center crowd. He said learned from that experience not to let that big-time wrestling atmosphere get to him this year.

“That was one thing that got me,” Galligar said. “When I first walked in there, just seeing all the people there in the big stadium was something that shocked me a little bit at first.”

A three-sport athlete his first three years of high school, Galligar has an academic scholarship offer to attend Trine University, where he would likely play football and wrestle as a freshman, then pick one after the first year. He was a two-year starter on the offensive line for East football, which won a regional title his junior year and a Hoosier Hills Conference crown last fall.

Galligar, who carries a 3.49 GPA and is planning to major in mechanical engineering and business, also has a wrestling scholarship offer from Indiana Tech. Olivet Nazarene is looking at him for football, and Wabash is looking at him for wrestling.

Since football season, Galligar has lost about 25 pounds. Now weighing 260, he’s 10 to 20 pounds lighter than during last wrestling season.

“He took some losses early on, and I think it pointed out some of the things he needed to work on and get better with, and he’s really worked to improve,” Cooper said. “He did a lot of work in the offseason and lost a little weight. He’s a lot faster, and he’s starting to use his athletic ability more against big guys, and it’s showing in the results.”

If you go

What: Evansville Semistate wrestling

When: 9 a.m. Saturday

Where: Ford Center, Evansville

Local competitors: Columbus East — Cayden Rooks (106 pounds), Jake Schoenegge (113), Graham Rooks (120), Dawson Combest (126), Corban Pollitt (132), Ben Wilkerson (152), Austin Wilson (160), Coy Park (170), Sean Galligar (285); Columbus North — Isaiah Peetz (120), Alex Davidson (145), Brigham Kleinhenz (152), Andrew Chapman (160); Jennings County — Victor Antunez (106), Dalton Craig (113), Nick South (126), Zane Beineke (145), Andrew Herrin (152), Cole Chandler (160), Christian Redmond (195), Brendan Sutton (285); Brown County — Bristen Dial (182).

Admission: $7 (final session only) or $10 (all day)

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Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.