Columbus East has climbed the state wrestling polls the past couple years, and coach Chris Cooper has gone looking for better competition.
So after last season, Cooper put together a dual meet with defending state champion Brownsburg. The Bulldogs, who won this year’s IHSWCA state duals and are ranked No. 1, visited the No. 8 Olympians Thursday on senior night.
East won five of the first six matches to take a 19-5 lead, but Brownsburg took seven of the final eight to claim a 43-22 victory.
“Our kids want to wrestle the very best kids in the state, and this is a team that provided that opportunity,” Cooper said. “Winning and (not) losing is nice, but it’s more important to put our kids in a tough, tight match where they’re going to have to go out and compete and perform.”
Several Olympians did that. Starting at 132 pounds, East’s No. 1-ranked Graham Rooks won a 6-3 decision against Brownsburg’s sixth-ranked Drew Kreitzer.
That set up a showdown at 138 between the Olympians’ fourth-ranked Dawson Combest and the Bulldogs’ No. 1 Blake Mulkey. Combest pulled out a 2-1 overtime decision, winning on an escape after they were tied after three two-minute periods, a one-minute sudden victory overtime and two 30-second periods of a second overtime.
“In my mind, rankings don’t really mean anything,” Combest said. “It’s just somebody’s opinion. I wrestle No. 1-ranked kids in practice all the time in Graham and Cayden (Rooks), and I have tremendous partners like Nick South, Corban Pollitt, Jake Schoenegge and Andy Davidson, so wrestling someone of that caliber is nothing new.”
Combest is a two-time state place-winner. Mulkey was a state runner-up last season.
“In that weight class, there’s like four or five kids that you could slide a paper between how good they are,” Cooper said. “They’re really close, so it was nice to get that win.”
East took a 10-0 lead after a major decision by Schoenegge at 145. Pollitt fell to No. 1-ranked and two-time state champion Brayton Lee by technical fall at 152, but South came through with a third-period pin at 160 and Davidson won by decision at 170 to give the Olympians a 19-10 advantage.
After that, Brownsburg’s depth took over. The Bulldogs won by technical fall at 182, by pin at 195, by forfeit at 220, by pin at 285 and by technical fall at 106 to go ahead 33-19.
East’s Jeremy Clark pulled out a decision at 113, but Brownsburg won by major decision at 120 and by pin at 126. The Olympians’s Cayden Rooks, the defending state champion at 120 and the No. 2-ranked 126-pounder, was sick and did not compete in hopes of being healthy for tonight’s Hoosier Hills Conference Tournament.
Ten of the Bulldogs’ 14 wrestlers are ranked, including three who are No. 1 in their respective classes.
“They have top-level kids like we do, and their (other) kids are far above average,” Cooper said. “They bring out 14 really solid kids. They’re state champs for a reason.”