The quest for greatness never ends.
Despite a strong 2015-16 season that ranked as one of the best in school history, the Columbus East wrestling team is intent on getting better — so the Olympians have been on the go, taking on the best the rest of the nation has to offer.
The most recent stop was ESPN’s Wide World of Sports in Kissimmee, Florida, where a contingent primarily made up of East wrestlers competed under the name Team Balboa at the AAU Scholastic Duals from June 14 to 17.
The group competed in the Community 1 Division, reserved for larger high schools, and finished in a tie for ninth place in the 39-team field.
Six wrestlers from Team Balboa, including four returning Olympians, earned All-America honors at the event.
Heading up the East group was Graham Rooks, who was a perfect 11-0 over the course of the week at 126 pounds. Rooks, who will be entering his junior year, had three pins, two technical falls and three major decisions. His closest match was a 4-3 victory over Lamonte Chapman of Oregon Clay Gold.
Rooks credited a camp the team attended the previous weekend in Bradenton, Florida, for helping give him an extra edge.
“I picked up on some moves from the coach,” he explained, “and I just tried to apply it to what I was doing already on the mat. … I tried it, and it worked.”
Cayden Rooks, Graham’s younger brother, fared nearly as well, posting a 10-1 record at 113 pounds and picking up most of his wins in comfortable fashion. His lone setback was to Brakan Mead of the Liberty Patriots, an Ohio team which won the overall championship.
Two other Olympians finished the week with 9-2 records: Dawson Combest at 132 pounds and Austin Wilson at 160.
The Florida trip marked the midpoint of a busy offseason for the East wrestlers, who are competing at Mount Vernon this weekend and plan to travel to Michigan for another tournament in July.
“It gives our team more mat time to figure out what they like to do,” Graham Rooks said of the extra summer work, “so we don’t have to figure that out during the season. We’ll have a head start on some of the teams we’ll face.”