A loss in the ticket round in last year’s Evansville Semistate served as motivation for Dalton Craig.

Not only did the Jennings County sophomore win his ticket round match to clinch a spot in this weekend’s state tournament on Saturday, he posted a semifinal victory to reach the finals. A 5-3 loss to sixth-ranked Nick Weaver of Brownsburg left Craig with a runner-up finish at 113 pounds.

“(Getting to state has) always been the goal,” Craig said. “I’m really looking forward to (this) weekend.”

Craig will be one of seven area wrestlers, including three from Jennings, to compete in Friday’s opening round at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. He will be joined by teammates Brooks Wathen (138 pounds) and Andrew Herrin (152), along with Columbus East’s Graham Rooks (120), Dawson Combest (126) and Sean Galligar (285) and Brown County’s Bristen Dial (182).

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The 16th-ranked Craig was dominant in his first three matches Saturday in Evansville. He pinned Southridge’s Hunter Meyerholtz in 1 minute, 5 seconds in the opening round, then rolled to a 15-0 technical fall against No. 17 Seth Horty of Evansville Memorial in the ticket round.

Craig made it to the finals with a pin of No. 10 Alex Mosconi of Indian Creek in the semifinals.

“I was really not expected to win the ticket round, so it felt really good beating those kids and making it to the finals,” Craig said. “I’m pretty happy with myself.”

Jennings coach Howard Jones said he doesn’t have any preconceived ideas about who might qualify for state. He and his wrestlers set goals, and one of Craig’s goals was to make it to the state finals.

A former Greco-Roman state champion, Craig has traveled all over the country, including Hawaii, to compete in the offseason.

“He has wrestled well over the summers,” Jones said. “He’s a kid that has put in the time, and his parents put in the time and taken him places. It’s an accumulation of the hard work he’s put in, and he’s reaping the harvest of that.”

Craig, who comes in to school to train from 6:20 to 7:30 a.m. twice a week to supplement his after-school practices, isn’t just a wrestler. He played football as a freshman and was a starting defender for the Panthers’ soccer team this year.

In addition, Craig is in his school’s Swing Choir that sings the national anthem before basketball games. He is also drama club and the school musical.

“He just has a tremendous amount of talent, but it doesn’t come easy because it takes time,” Jones said. “He does a very good job of putting priorities where they need to be.”

Craig (33-10) certainly didn’t receive an easy draw for the state finals. He will face third-ranked Skylour Turner (41-3) of Warren Central in the first round.

If Craig can get past Turner, he would likely face top-ranked Colton Cummings (42-0) of Lowell, the defending 106-pound state champion, in the semifinals on Saturday.

“I think he’s going to look at that (draw) as a great challenge,” Jones said.

If you go

What: Wrestling State Finals

When: 6 p.m. Saturday (first round); 9:30 a.m. Saturday (quarterfinals, semifinals will follow); 5 p.m. Saturday (third-, fifth- and seventh-place matches); 7:30 p.m. Saturday: championship matches

Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis

Area wrestlers competing: Columbus East’s Graham Rooks (120 pounds), Dawson Combest (126) and Sean Galligar (285); Jennings County’s Dalton Craig (113), Brooks Wathen (138) and Andrew Herrin (152) and Brown County’s Bristen Dial (182)

Admission: $8 per session or $20 for both days

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