Columbus East wrestler Cayden Rooks shared a long embrace and a few tears with his older brother Graham after becoming the Olympians’ first-ever individual state champion.

Cayden Rooks was the first East wrestler to step foot on a state championship mat since his grandfather, Lester Perkinson Jr., placed second in the state tournament more than 40 years ago.

Rooks said he has been working toward this goal his entire life. “I feels really good to get it done,” he said.

Rooks, wrestling in the 120-pound weight class, trailed almost the entire match after giving up a two-point takedown by No. 1 Ty Mills of Brownsburg. Rooks stayed down for a while after injuring his ankle, but Rooks said he just focused on how much he wanted to win, blocking out the pain.

While Rooks continued to fight, Mills looked as if he had total control, up 3-1 in the final round. But Rooks scored two points to pull even with just over a minute left. After Mills earned another point, Rooks stayed poised despite being down 4-3 with 36 seconds left.

He scored two more points in the final seconds to win the championship with his grandfather and great-grandfather, Lester Perkinson Sr. in the stands.

Pull Quote

“I feels really good to get it done.”

— State wrestling champion Cayden Rooks, Columbus East

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