EVANSVILLE — Columbus East’s third-ranked Cayden Rooks found himself back at the Evansville Semistate, where he suffered a disappointing loss last year in the ticket round to the future state champion despite being the top ranked wrestler in the 106-pound weight class.
This year the sophomore wrote a different story.
Rooks won the 120-pound class to start a run of three consecutive titlists for the Olympians. Second-ranked Graham Rooks (126) and No. 7 Dawson Combest (132) followed with victories.
The Rooks brothers had to wrestle against the No. 1 wrestlers in the state, both coming from Brownsburg, before reaching the semistate championship.
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East earned a third-place team finish with 99.5 points, behind Avon (100) and Brownsburg (148.5).
“We had a lot of big matches,” East coach Chris Cooper said. “The Rooks brothers beating those two Brownsburg kids, those are good high level wrestlers. To come out and beat them both in the same round is phenomenal.”
Graham Rooks survived No. 1 Blake Mulkey by scoring two points right before time ran out to get a 3-2 victory in the semifinal round to give Mulkey his first loss of the season. Graham Rooks moved on to beat Bloomington South’s Noah Hunt 8-3 in the championship.
Cayden Rooks defeated No. 8-ranked Alex Mosconi 4-2 to earn his semistate crown. Combest pinned Donald Campbell of Ben Davis to get earn his semistate championship. East had five state qualifiers all together.
“It just shows the hard work we put in the room and the guys we have in the room.” Combest said. “I have the best partners in the state no doubt. I have four other state qualifiers in my room that I can practice with every day and it just makes me so much better. I am blessed to be a part of what we’re building here.”
No. 8-ranked Jake Schoenegge (138), who did not practice until two days before because he was sick all week, earn a second-place finish after losing in the championship round to No. 4 Tristan Sellmer from Floyd Central. Corban Pollitt (145), who upset No. 16 Tony Mosconi from Indian Creek with a 4-1 first round win, beat out Jennings County’s Brooks Wathen for a third place finish.
Wathen had earlier beaten Evansville Mater Dei’s No. 20-ranked Joe Happe to punch his ticket to the state competition. Jennings senior and No. 12-ranked Brendan Sutton (285) tasted the state competition two years ago as a sophomore but could not make it out of the ticket round as a junior. He found his way back to the state finals this year after a 3-2 win against Cory Heinrichs from Center Grove in the ticket round.
Sutton said his conditioning is what allowed him come out on top in that match.
“I’m pretty comfortable in that situation,” Sutton said. “I knew because of Coach Jones putting us through all that work I could gas it out.”
Sutton fell 5-3 to No. 7 Rickie Clark from Brownsburg in the semifinals.
East had two other wrestlers, Joey Gordon (113) and Austin Sheckles (220), who made it to semistate. Sheckles lost in ticket round to No. 8-ranked Isaac McCormick from Brownsburg, and Gordon fell to Edgewood’s Jay Orman in the first round.
Jennings’ Sam Woolf lost in the first round, as well, while Zane Beineke (160) fell in the ticket round.
Columbus North coach Justin Cooper said he was pleased with the way his guys competed on Saturday. Morgan Smith (106), Keandre Watts (113) and Andrew Champman (170) all fell in the first round. Brigham Kleinhenz (182) made it through to the ticket round after beating Castle’s Will Nunn 17-12. Josh Larson (195) also wrestled his way into the ticket round by pinning Greg Brown of Mitchell. They both lost their next match but Justin Cooper is excited about the future of his program.
“We’ll be back,” Justin Cooper said. “It’s exciting … the only person who won’t be back is Josh Larson. We should have a pretty solid team next year. A lot of individual success for sure.”
Brown County brought freshman David Tucker (106) and senior Evan Bullock (145), a three-time state semistate qualifier. Tucker had to wrestle against the No. 11-ranked Owen Sego out of Indian Creek and did not match up well. Bullock had to square off against No. 8 Logan Coyle from Center Grove and lost his first match, also.
“Evan started off a little slow but he kept battling the entire six minutes,” Brown County coach said. “It’s unfortunate to see the score the way it was but I think he wrestled hard the entire time…getting beaten in quick in the first period was a good experience for David because he now realizes there is another level of competition that he needs to get to.”
The state competition will be at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Friday and Saturday.