So far, so good

INDIANAPOLIS — Half of the 224 wrestlers who competed in Friday’s opening round of the IHSAA state championships won’t be coming back to Bankers Life Fieldhouse today.

All three of Columbus Eas’s participants, however, will.

Graham Rooks, Dawson Combest and Sean Galligar all emerged victorious from their first-round bouts, advancing to this morning’s quarterfinals and keeping their title dreams alive.

Rooks, a sophomore 120-pounder, opened the third period of his match against Yorktown’s Christian Hunt with an escape and held on for a 3-2 decision.

“I got to my positions we worked on all week, just getting to that underhook and then hitting singles from it,” Rooks said. “Just all week working that, and then I did what I needed to on bottom, getting out quick.”

Rooks, who improved to 41-3 on the season, will take on Dylan Culp of Warren Central this morning. He’s hoping to improve upon his third-place showing at 106 pounds a year ago.

“The mindset’s to win, one match at a time,” he said of the day ahead.

Following Rooks’ victory, East classmate Combest scored a takedown midway through the third period and followed with a near pin to defeat Bellmont’s Jon Becker, 6-1. Becker had defeated Combest by decision earlier in the season.

“We planned all week for it,” said Combest, who improved to 40-4 and will try to avenge another early-season defeat against Portage’s Gaige Torres in the quarterfinals. “We improved our conditioning and we watched a lot of film just paying attention to what he was going to do.

“All the coaches had confidence in me to win, and that gave me confidence in myself to win.”

Galligar, ranked fifth at 285 and coming off of a semistate championship, pinned Austin Dollens of Westfield (25-13).

Grabbing a quick lead on a first-period takedown, Galligar started the second in the down position and quickly escaped for a 3-0 advantage. He scored two more takedowns, appearing to injure Dollens’ leg on the first, before finishing off the match with 55 seconds remaining in the final period.

Columbus North sophomore Isaiah Peetz was eliminated by the state’s fourth-ranked 120-pounder, Hunter Langeloh of Columbia City, by technical fall with 32 seconds remaining in their match.

“It’s hard to lose, but you’ve got to learn from it,” Peetz said. “At least now I know I can somewhat compete at this level, and I’ll be here next year.”

Jennings County brought three wrestlers Friday, but just one survived the evening — Andrew Herrin, who earned a 5-2 victory in his 152-pound showdown with Jacob Ferris of Hamilton Southeastern.

Herrin, ranked seventh statewide at 152, will be up against No. 9 Denzyl Prentice of Penn in the next round.

The other two Panthers didn’t fare quite as well. Dalton Craig lost his first-round match at 113 against Skylour Turner of Warren Central, 10-4, and at 138 pounds, freshman Brooks Wathen was pinned by state No. 3 Evan Eldred of Westfield after 49 seconds.

Jennings County coach Howard Jones is hopeful that Herrin can improve upon his showing from a year ago, when he finished eighth at 145 pounds.

“The thing about it, which is so great about wrestling, is it has to be done on the mat,” Jones said. “He’s got some kids that are beatable, but they’re also ones that can beat him, too.”

Brown County senior Bristen Dial fought to the bitter end against No. 8 Joey Blakeley of Prairie Heights at 182 pounds before suffering a 6-3 loss. Dial was down by just one point late in the third, but his last-second scoring attempt was thwarted.

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Ryan O'Leary is sports editor for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at roleary@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2715.