Columbus East wrestler Nick South was reunited with his close friends and old teammates when he joined the Olympians last season.

The junior, who transferred from Jennings County, always has been close to many of the East wrestlers after growing up participating in the Olympians’ youth program. He spent his freshman year at Jennings before coming back to the East program as a sophomore.

South, who was limited to junior varsity action last season because of the IHSAA transfer rule, said being back with his close friends has helped raise his level of competition.

“It just feels really good because I’m just really close to them,” South said. “We get along really well. All our goals are obviously to win a state title. We help push each other and better each other, so that’s good.”

South is ranked No. 5 in the state at 160 pounds, and East coach Chris Cooper believes he is capable of winning a state title this season.

South proved on numerous occasions this year that he is capable of wrestling with the best in the state. His only loss came against top-ranked Gleason Mappes of Center Grove in a close match. South was a takedown away from beating Mappes, up 3-2 late in the third period before Mappes scored two points at the end to win 4-3.

South made it to semistate as a freshman. He is eager to see how far he can go this year, but said it took some time getting back to competing at the varsity level again.

“It was good because I just could focus on my technique and stuff because I wasn’t really ever worried about winning because I kind of shouldn’t have been JV,” South said. “I feel like it might have kind of hurt me a little bit just because the experience of being varsity helps better you a lot.”

The hardest thing for South getting back into the varsity level was getting his conditioning and technique to tip-top shape since his competitors had an edge on him by wrestling over the summer. He is feeling much more comfortable now, but said there still is a lot of work he needs to do with his technique if he wants to win state.

“For the past two weeks, that’s his mindset now — to win a state title, so I’m excited” Cooper said. “If you’re adding a potential state champ to your lineup, that’s big time.”

If you go

Columbus East at Columbus North wrestling

When: 7 p.m. today

Where: Columbus North High School

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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.