INDIANAPOLIS — Sean Galligar’s third-place finish at the State Wrestling Finals on Saturday night has some pretty humble origins.
Instead of quitting the sport after failing to win a single match as a freshman, Columbus East’s 285-pound wrestler stuck with it, improved and ultimately occupied an impressive level of the awards podium at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Defeating South Bend Washington’s Isaiah McWilliams 3-2 in the consolation match, Galligar finished his senior season with a 43-4 record.
“This is the last match of my senior year, so it was definitely an emotional match for me. I wanted to end my year on a good note,” said Galligar, who was making his first Finals appearance. “I’m not happy with third. I should’ve gotten second here, at least. I had a tough match against (Lawrence North junior) Robert Samuels in the semifinals, and really that was my fault.
“Everything I did there was on me. I wasn’t aggressive enough in that match. If I would have been more aggressive and taken a lot more shots then I definitely would’ve had that match in the bag.”
Samuels defeated Galligar 7-6.
Another Olympian, sophomore Graham Rooks, advanced to the semifinals at 120 pounds by defeating Warren Central’s Dylan Culp 1-0 in his quarterfinal. But with a berth at in the final on the line he came up short against Penn senior Drew Hildebrandt, 9-6.
“I think age on his part was the difference. That certainly helped him,” said Rooks (42-5), who placed third at state at 106 pounds as a freshman. “Last year it was like we’re going to work until we get here and see what we get. This year it’s more of an expectation. I came here to win this time.
“I don’t think I’ve had a bad season. The two losses I’ve had in-state have been to Hildebrandt. The first one was 12-2 or 12-3, so we definitely improved from there.”
Rooks finished fourth overall, losing a 3-1 decision to Brownsburg sophomore Blake Mulkey, in the consolation match.
Columbus North coach Chris Cooper, who envisions Rooks moving up at least one weight class next season, knows wrestlers aren’t satisfied with anything other than top spot of the award’s podium.
Rooks is no different.
“He certainly was here to win. Outside of being the champ … that was his goal. Moving up two weights is very difficult, especially going from 106. He’s done a great job with it, but Graham wants to be a state champion, and he’s close. Really close,” Cooper said.
“He’s a kid that is willing to go wrestle anybody at any time. It doesn’t matter how good they are. We talk about how losses point out where we need to improve, and Graham really takes that stuff to heart. He’ll look at this loss and he’ll figure out what we need to do to get better for next year.”
Jennings County senior Andrew Herrin concluded his outstanding career with a fourth-place finish at 152 pounds.
He began the day scoring a 9-1 decision against Denzyl Prentice of Penn, but lost by a 4-2 count in the semifinal against Warren Central junior Trent Pruitt.
Herrin, an eighth-place finisher at 145 pounds at the 2015 State Finals, fell behind early against Pruitt in his attempt to make the championship match.
“I just couldn’t get to his legs like I was supposed to. If I would’ve taken him down in the first period and rode it out I probably would’ve had a lot better chance,” Herrin said. “I’ve faced him at team state and took him down in the first period, but just wasn’t able to this time.
“I’m not satisfied, but you have to be happy to come this far.”
Jennings County head coach Howard Jones, who started as an assistant coach with the Panthers program the 1979-80 season, marveled at what Herrin has accomplished.
“Andrew has dedicated a lot of years, hours, blood, sweat and tears. He’s an atypical person in the fact that he has so much dedication. Obviously, we would’ve loved to have won (semifinal), but we didn’t do what we needed to do,” Jones said.
“We needed to score first. That was where we needed to go because the Pruitt kid is a great eater of time. (Herrin) was down 4-0, but the deficit was not the amount of points. It was the amount of time that was eaten up. We take a lot of pride in being a well-conditioned team, and in that situation we were not able to use our conditioning.”
Columbus East 126-pounder Dawson Combest’s day started with a 9-1 loss to Portage senior Gaige Torres.
Combest would go on to place eighth overall, falling short of his goal of being a state champion.
“(Torres) is really, really good. I felt like I kind of got out of my position, but I stuck to my gameplan. Just came up short,” said Combest, a sophomore who finished the season with a 40-7 record.
“Being here is pretty cool, but I want to win state. I didn’t come here to place, and I’m upset about it.”