The “ticket round” was not kind to area wrestlers in 2016.
Seven locals made it through to the state finals, but another 10 lost in the semistate quarterfinals. That round is known as the “ticket round” because the top four in each weight class qualify for state.
Six of those 10 area wrestlers who lost in the ticket round last year are back in this year’s Evansville Reitz Semistate and will try to make amends Saturday at the Ford Center. The first round begins at 10 a.m. EST and will be followed by the ticket round at around noon EST.
“It definitely fueled the fire, especially getting so close and seeing the kid that beat me place (eighth at state),” Columbus East sophomore Jake Schoenegge said. “I know that could have been me because it was such a close match, and it could have gone either way. It really pushed me, especially in the offseason, to get past here.”
The biggest heartbreak, however, for the Olympians last season came from another then-freshman. Cayden Rooks was ranked No. 1 in the state at 106 pounds, but was called for stalling in overtime against Avon’s Asa Garcia in their ticket round match.
Garcia went on to win the state title. Rooks went back to work.
“Since I lost in the ticket round, it was a little bit crushing,” Rooks said. “So over the summer, it was just like, ‘Train and train and train.’ We went to a lot of practices and worked on the stuff that got me beat and opening up my offense more. Since we worked on that, it’s helped me open up matches more against guys that are better competitors.”
Rooks is 38-1 this year and ranked No. 3 at 120. Schoenegge moved all the way up from 113 to 138 and is ranked No. 8 with a 35-6 record.
Another East wrestler, junior Corban Pollitt, lost in the ticket round at 132. He is 31-10 at 145 this season.
“It made me set my goals a lot higher to try to place at state this year,” Pollitt said. “I think I have a pretty good shot a making it.”
Pollitt has a tough match in the opener, facing 16th-ranked Tony Mosconi (33-7) of Indian Creek. But if he can get past that match, he’ll face one of two competitors, both of which are 32-9 and unranked.
Rooks wound not face another ranked wrestler until the semifinals, where No. 1 Ty Mills (31-1) of Brownsburg looms. Schoenegge could see No. 14 Derek Blubaugh (35-6) of Bloomington South in the ticket round.
“I’m not focusing so much on the draw, rather just how I perform,” Schoenegge said. “If I excel there, the wins will come.”
Jennings County junior Victor Antunez and senior Brendan Sutton were ticket round victims at 106 and 285 respectively. Antunez is 37-4 this year and ranked No. 19 at 113.
Sutton, a state qualifier as a sophomore, is 24-4 and ranked No. 12 at 285. Neither Antunez nor Sutton would have to face another ranked wrestler until the semifinals.
Meanwhile, Columbus North junior Andrew Chapman is back after dropping a 13-1 major decision to Martinsville’s Cayden Whitaker in the ticket round at 160. Whitaker went on to place third at state.
“It showed me how hard you have to actually work to make it that far,” Chapman said. “It’s been motivation for me all year, and it’s been my goal just to win that one match.”
Chapman has moved up to 170 this year and is 32-7. He will face Terre Haute North’s Ike Murrrell (26-12) in the opening round.
In the ticket round, Chapman could face No. 16 Anthony Cicciarelli of Brownsburg.
“I think I have the best draw I could have had,” Chapman said. “The first round, I have a kid I’ve already beat, and the second round, I have a kid from Brownsburg that I feel I can beat.”
What: Evansville Reitz Semistate
When: 10 a.m. EST (9 a.m. CST) Saturday
Where: Ford Center, 1 SE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Evansville
Admission: $10 for all day or $8 for final session only
Who: 16 wrestlers in each weight class (top four from each of four regionals). Columbus East has eight entries, while Columbus North and Jennings County each have five and Brown County has two.
Advancement: Top four in each weight class qualify for state