While East is among state’s best, other local teams hope to keep improving

Expectations abound at Columbus East, where the Olympians have state championship aspirations.

Meanwhile, the Jennings County wrestlers will try to keep pace with the Olympians. Columbus North and Brown County look to continue to build with bigger teams.

The Eagles will be the first area team to compete this season when they travel to the Batesville Super Six on Saturday. Jennings will open Tuesday at Batesville, and North and East will begin after Thanksgiving.

Columbus East

The Olympians, who finished seventh at state last year, are ranked No. 7 in the preseason by indianamat.com.

All five state qualifiers — three of which finished in the top four — return. Thirteen of the 14 wrestlers from the school’s first regional championship team are back.

“We’re trying to win a state title,” East coach Chris Cooper said. “With all the guys we have returning and as much time as we’ve put in, our expectation is to be the best team in the state.”

Junior Cayden Rooks was the state champion at 120 pounds and will bump up to 126, where he is ranked No. 2. Senior Graham Rooks, a three-time state medalist, was fourth at 126, and is now ranked No. 1 at 132. Both Rooks brothers committed earlier this month to Indiana University.

Senior Dawson Combest, who finished third at state at 132, is ranked No. 4 at 138. Junior Jake Schoenegge a state qualifier at 138, is ranked No. 8 at 145; and senior Corban Pollitt, a state qualifier at 145, is ranked No. 12 at 152.

Sophomore Joey Gordon, a semistate qualifier at 113, bumps up to 120. Senior Andy Davidson a semistate qualifier at 152, will be at 170, where he is ranked No. 16.

The Olympians should receive a big boost from the addition of junior Nick South, who sat out last season after qualifying for semistate as a freshman at Jennings. South is ranked No. 11 at 160.

Junior Jeremy Clark, a regional qualifier at 106, bumps up to 113. Junior Hunter Dickmeyer, a regional qualifier at 170, will be at 182.

Senior Lane Goode and junior Jacob Bolte were regional qualifiers at 182 and 195, respectively, and one will be at 195 and the other a 220. junior Jacob Bolte was regional at 195, will be 195 or 220. Junior Dalton Anderson was a regional qualifer at 285 and will remain there.

Junior Brendan Stadtmiller also was a regional qualifier at 152 and will provided depth this season. East also figures to have about a dozen kids who are still with the football team that is playing in the semistate on Friday.

“The kids we have now just buy in year-round,” Chris Cooper said. “They put in tons and tons of time in the offseason. The guys that we have have been wrestling together all summer long.”

Columbus North

After finishing last season with only nine wrestlers, the Bull Dogs have 20 to begin this season.

Only four return from last year, but North has a big freshman class.

“We’re just trying to build up the program,” North coach Justin Cooper said. “It’s a process. We’ve had 55 elementary kids in our program two years in a row, so once they get up there, we’ll be all right.”

The Bull Dogs return three semistate qualifiers. Junior Morgan Smith remains at 106, sophomore Keandre Watson was at 113 and could be at 113 or 120 and senior Brigham Kleinhenz was at 182 and will be at 170 or 182.

The only other holdover is junior Bradley Gutierrez at 220.

Freshman Tyler Williams will step in at 113 or 120, and freshman Ashton Clark could be at 113, 120 or 126. Junior Dallin Anderson, who wrestled varsity as freshman but sat out last year, or Kyrgyzstani exchange student Yntamak Kurglov will be at 145.

Freshman Royce Lofton will take over at 152. Junior Dylan England, who wrestled at East as a freshman before sitting out last year, will be at 160. Senior Matt Hartman will fill in at 170 or 182 — whichever one Kleinhenz doesn’t take.

Senior Nick Tungett, who wrestled varsity two years ago but sat out last year, and junior Tay Wells are battling at 195. Sophomore Ethan Rogers and freshman Caleb Dooley are vying for the 285 spot.

North likely will not have a 132-pounder.

“We should be better this year for sure,” Justin Cooper said. “We just want to try to get better every day and have some fun.”

Jennings County

Nine regulars return from a Panther team that finished second behind East in the Hoosier Hills Conference, Jennings Sectional and Jeffersonville Regional.

Eight of those returners were regional qualifiers last season. Four made it to semistate, and one qualified for state.

“We’re practicing real hard,” Jennings coach Howard Jones said. “We have good numbers, so it could turn out to be a pretty good year for us.”

Junior Brooks Wathen, a two-time state qualifier, will move up from 138 to 145 or 152. Senior Dalton Craig, a  state qualifier as a sophomore, lost in the ticket round at semistate at 126 last season, and will be at 132 or 138.

Senior Victor Antunez was a regional champion at 113 last year, but sustained a concussion in the closing seconds of the regional final and was unable to wrestle at semistate. He could be at 120. Senior Zane Beineke, who lost in the ticket round at 160, will be at 170 or 182.

Sophomore regional qualifier Teagan Johnson will remain at 106. Junior Xavier Barberis, a regional qualifier, moves from 132 to 126.

Junior regional qualifier Shon Warner will stay at 220. Sophomore Rusty Vaughn, another regional qualifier, moves from 138 to 145.

Sophomore Michael Pemberton was at 120 last season and will be at 120 or 126. Senior Brady Shepherd was undefeated at 285 last year until eventual state-qualifer and then-senior Brendan Sutton came back from injury and took that spot.

Freshman Joey Moran and junior Blake Skinner are battling at 132, and sophomore Blake Hardisty at could fill in at 138 if Craig isn’t there. Senior Hunter Salsman is battling Vaughn at 145.

Sophomore Cameron Woodard, who missed last year with an injury, could be at 160. Junior Paul Alba and sophomores Adam Stillinger and Sam Bennett are battling at 182. Senior Jaylan Kirchner, who wrestled varsity as a sophomore before sitting out last season, will be at 195.

“We’re in the 50s, almost 60 kids,” Jones said. “We should have another good group to choose from. The sophomore class is one that we’re looking to do real well in the next couple of years.

Brown County

The Eagles have doubled their numbers from the end of last season and hope that results in an improvement on an eighth-place sectional finish.

Sophomore David Tucker, a semistate qualifier at 106, will be at 113 or 120. Junior Bryce Denton, a regional qualifier at 126, likely will be at 132.

Senior Justin Burns was regional qualifier as a sophomore, but did not wrestle last year. He has returned and will be at 160.

Sophomore Kenny Eason moves from 113 to 120 or 126. Senior Cody Hobson, a move-in from Mooresville, will be at 126, 132 or 138.

Senior Ben Rygiel moves from 138 to 152. Christian Fouts moves from 152 to 170. Senior Levi Mullins returns at 182, and senior Matthew Duncan is back at 285

Senior Katelyn Butcher, who has had some success in club wrestling, will be at 106. Freshman Joey Romick likely will be at 113 when he becomes eligible at the semester break.

Junior Josh Parry will step in at 145. One of the four wrestlers battling at 170 could bump up to 195. Brown County won’t have a 220-pounder.

“Last year at one point, we had nine or 10 guys on our team,” Brown County coach Josh Sparks said. “This year, we have 20. I think most of those guys are going to stick with it. We have seven freshmen, and a lot of them have not wrestled before, so that’s not the most encouraging thing, but they’re willing to learn.”

If you go

The 2017-18 wrestling schedules for Columbus East and Columbus North:

Columbus East

Nov. 30;at Seymour;6:30 p.m.

Dec. 2;at Jeffersonville Super 6;9 a.m.

Dec. 7;at Franklin;6:30 p.m.

Dec. 9 at Perry Meridian Tournament;9 a.m.

Dec. 16;Columbus East 8-way;9 a.m.

Dec. 23;IWCA State Duals at Fort Wayne;9 a.m.

Dec. 29;at Mishawaka Tournament;10 a.m.

Dec. 30;at Mishawaka Tournament;9:30 a.m.

Jan. 6;Columbus East 6-way;9 a.m.

Jan. 10;at Columbus North;7 p.m.

Jan. 13;HHC at Jeffersonville;9 a.m.

Jan. 19;Brownsburg, 7 p.m.

Columbus North

Nov. 25;at Triton Central Invitational;9 a.m.

Dec. 2;at Bloomington South Invitational;9 a.m.

Dec. 6;at Edgewood;7 p.m.

Dec. 9;Columbus North Invitational;9 a.m.

Dec. 12;at Jennings County;7 p.m.

Dec. 16;at East Central Super 8;9 a.m.

Dec. 21;Madison;6 p.m.

Dec. 29;at North Montgomery Holiday Duals;9 a.m.

Dec. 30;at North Montgomery Holiday Duals;8:30 a.m.

Jan. 4;Seymour;7 p.m.

Jan. 10;Columbus East;6 p.m.

Jan. 13;Conference Indiana at Perry Meridian;9 a.m.

Jan. 16;at Bedford North Lawrence;6:15 p.m.

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Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.