Olympians teammates share another milestone together

Columbus East wrestlers Graham Rooks and Dawson Combest have shared just about every major wrestling memory together since they were 5 years old.

From winning the elementary wrestling state title to watching each other claim third- and fourth-place finishes in last year’s state finals, Rooks and Combest have been side by side for every milestone in their wrestling careers.

On Friday, they shared another memory that will shape their lives for at least the next four years. Rooks signed his national letter-of-intent to Indiana University, while Combest signed with University of Indianapolis.

The Hoosiers will be getting a wrestler who placed third in the state at 106 pounds as a freshman and fourth at 120 and 126 the following two years. Combest is a two-time state medalist, placing eighth at 126 pounds as a sophomore and third at 132 last season.

“They have a passion for wrestling, both of those two,” East coach Chris Cooper said. “They love to wrestle. Seeing that they get to compete after high school at the collegiate level, I’m just excited for them. I’m proud that they went through our program from kindergarten up.”

Cooper shared with the audience how Combest made it his goal to be a collegiate athlete early in his career and began seeking out college coaches as soon as he could. He established a strong relationship with the UIndy coaching staff as a freshman and continued that throughout high school. He has attended the Greyhounds’ summer camp for the past two summers and said those experience helped make his decision.

“Since my freshman year, I’ve been interested in the University of Indianapolis,” Combest said. “I think the biggest thing I would take away is the relationship with the coaches.”

Rooks said he was unsure if IU would be the right fit for him when he first started his recruiting process. He was sold on IU after talking with the coaches, watching some practices and taking his unofficial visit to see the campus.

Rooks’ younger brother, junior Cayden Rooks, also was impressed with Graham’s visit and verbally committed to the Hoosiers for 2019.

“(IU assistant coach) Angel Escobedo is one of the best Indiana wrestlers of all-time,” Graham Rooks said. “He’ll be one of my coaches there. Being able to go into practice with him every day is something that I’m going to enjoy.”

Graham Rooks and Combest have wrestled against each other many times during practice over the years, but they might get the opportunity to clash on the mat at the collegiate level. IU and UIndy are set to wrestle in a dual match this season and could possibly meet again once Rooks and Combest get to their respective colleges.

Rooks said he likely will be redshirted his freshman year, but both wrestlers said there is a possibility that they could be competing in the same weight class.

“It’d be a great match, “Combest said. “It could definitely happen. I’d love to wrestle Graham. It’ll be a lot of fun. We’ll wrestle during the offseason, train and stuff like that, hopefully.”

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Frank Bonner is a sports writer for The Republic. He can be reached at fbonner@therepublic.com or 812-379-5632.