Five years ago, five childhood friends won the team wrestling elementary state title together.

Now, they have the opportunity to top that with five high school individual state championships at Columbus East.

Sophomore Cayden Rooks, juniors Graham Rooks and Dawson Combest, sophomore Jake Schoenegge and junior Corban Pollitt all have qualified for the IHSAA state competition, which starts at tonight at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

The Rooks brothers and Combest all were crowned semistate champions, while Schoenegge placed second and Pollitt earned a third-place finish. Combest said this accomplishment did not just magically happen for these five Olympians, who have been friends for more than 10 years.

“It was always in the back of our minds,” Combest said. “But for it to be altogether at the same time, that’s pretty cool … It’s like a dream almost.”

The road to the state meet started when these boys were 5 and 6 years old, wrestling in East’s elementary program. The program gave kids from kindergarten through sixth grade a chance to practice a couple of days a week and participate in wrestling competitions on Sundays.

East coach Chris Cooper said the five state qualifiers took advantage of everything the program had to offer, and that makes it easier to coach them today because they have much more experience, he said.

The quintet committed themselves from the beginning, traveling as far as Atlanta and Las Vegas to compete in national tournaments starting at 7 and 8 years old. As much time as they spend with each other practicing and going on road trips to tournaments like West Virginia’s Gladiator Duals, where they placed first overall, they have established an unbreakable bond with one another over the years. Their relationship is much deeper than typical teammates.

“These guys are like my brothers,” Cayden Rooks said. “Just as close as you can get.”

If someone is looking for Schoenegge, who wrestles at 138 pounds, Pollitt (145) or the Rooks brothers on any day during the summer, chances are they are at Combest’s place getting beat in NBA 2K or relaxing in the swimming pool. They gave up participating in other sports around the seventh grade in order to focus solely on wrestling, but have not given up competing with each other in sports like football and basketball on the side. Combest, who prides himself on being the best in NBA 2K out of the group, said they will eat up anything that is competitive between one another.

This competitive nature, coupled with their top-notch wrestling talent, makes for some intense practicing. Pollitt confessed that the practices can be harder than some of their wrestling meets at times.

Even Combest (132) credited much of his success after winning his semistate championship match on Saturday to the fact that he gets to practice everyday with four other state qualifiers. One thing Cooper noticed about these five guys and the rest of the Olympians team is how involved they are in each others’ individual matches.

Cayden Rooks (120) could not help but look a few mats over whenever he got a takedown during his semifinal ticket round match to catch a glimpse of his older brother, who was wrestling the same time he was. Combest cut his finger in his semifinal match, but instead of focusing on getting that taped up during the break, he was more concerned with cheering on Graham Rooks (126), who was in a tight battle with the No. 1 ranked Blake Mulkey of Brownsburg.

“Everyone is involved in everyone’s matches on our team,” Pollitt said. “But when I’m wrestling personally, and I see these four guys in my corner watching me and cheering me on, it really makes a difference.”

They will all be behind each other starting at 6 p.m. on today when the first round of the state finals begins. Winners are guaranteed top-eight finishes and three more matches on Saturday, beginning with the quarterfinals at 9:30 a.m. Third-, fifth- and seventh-place matches are at 5 p.m., followed by championship bouts at 7:30 p.m.

The East wrestlers all are going into Friday’s match cool, calm and collected and said nerves are not a big issue for them.

“It’s going to be a blast, Combest said. “Especially after we all five win, go back to the hotel, and get a good night’s sleep for Saturday. Saturday, it’s just going to be awesome.”


Cayden Rooks

Year: Sophomore

Weight class: 120

State ranking: No. 3

Semistate placing: First

Graham Rooks

Year: Junior

Weight class: 126

State ranking: No. 2

Semistate placing: First

Dawson Combest

Year: Junior

Weight Class: 132

State ranking: No. 7

Semistate placing: First

Jake Schoenegge

Year: Sophomore

Weight class: 138

State ranking: No. 8

Semistate placing: Second

Corban Pollitt

Year: Junior

Weight class: 145

Semistate placing: Third

Author photo
Frank Bonner is a sports writer for The Republic. He can be reached at or 812-379-5632.