EVANSVILLE — Multiple Columbus East wrestlers were able to avenge some key losses in Saturday’s Evansville Reitz Semistate and helped the Olympians earn second-place as a team with three semistate champions.

Fourth-ranked East’s 144 1/2 points were just six points behind top-ranked Brownsburg’s 150 1/2, and the Olympians qualified eight wrestlers to next weekend’s state competition with top-four finishes.

East’s Cayden Rooks and Nick South each have only one loss this season, and both wrestlers had to face that same opponent in their final rounds.

The No. 1-ranked 126-pound Asa Garcia of Avon handed Rooks the only postseason loss of his career by knocking him out of the semistate quarterfinals — the ticket round — two years ago. Garcia also beat Rooks 3-1 earlier this season, but this time, the second-ranked Rooks won his second consecutive semistate title with a 3-1 win.

Story continues below gallery

“It feels good, especially to come back and get revenge on him. I’ve been wanting to for such a long time,” Rooks said. “Coach (Chris) Cooper is really good at taking apart guys after we’ve watched them after they beat us.”

No. 5-ranked South got the better half of his rematch at 160 against No. 1 Gleason Mappes of Avon. South had a one-point lead in the earlier match before Mappes scored a late takedown to steal the win. South was in the same position during the semistate final, but held off Mappes in the final seconds for the 3-2 victory.

“Last time, I took a shot and just laid down on it and let him score off my own shot,” South said. “This time, I just wrestled smart and, I was ready to go.”

The Olympians earned another individual title from three-time semistate champion Graham Rooks at 132. The top-ranked wrestler beat No. 6 Drew Kreitzer of Brownsburg earlier this season, but that was a much closer match than his 17-5 major decision in Saturday’s final.

Andy Davidson found himself in a close third-place match against Columbus North’s Brigham Kleinhenz, who already had beat Davidson a couple of times this season. Kleinhenz was leading 3-2 before a two-point takedown right before the buzzer gave Davidson the 4-3 win.

“I’ve been wrestling so hard all day, and I think it really showed in that match,” Davidson said. “Today has really been my day, I think, as far as wrestling goes … Not only am I making it to state, but to get that redemption match feels amazing.”

Kleinhenz is the lone state qualifier for the Bull Dogs. Although he and Davidson have been rivals on the mat, he is happy to share his first state berth with his childhood friend.

Kleinhenz and Davidson have been friends since third grade, and they have been talking about qualifying for state together all season. This also is Davidson’s first year qualifying for state.

“I’ve been working my way up to this since my freshman year when I started wreslting,” Kleinhenz said. “I’m really happy and proud of myself, but also for my family and all of the people that have been supporting me throughout high school.”

The other state qualifiers for East were Dawson Combest, who placed second at 138 after losing to No. 2 Blake Mulkey of Brownsburg. No. 3-ranked Combest beat Mulkey earlier this year when Mulkey was the top-ranked in the state, but fell two points short this time.

Jake Schoenegge placed third at 145, and Jacob Bolte placed third at 220 for the Olympians. Corban Polliltt placed fourth at 152.

East’s Jeremy Clark (113) and Dalton Anderson (285) lost in the ticket round. Nate John (106), Joey Gordon (120) and Noah White (182) fell in the first round.

“We’ve had a great year all year,” Cooper said. “Kids buy into the idea of getting better everyday. This is just a result of the work they put in. They are a great group of kids. They’re all friends, they get along, care about one another and they are engaged in each other’s success.”

North’s Morgan Smith (106), Keandre Watson (126) and Bradley Gutierrez (220) all fell in the first round.

Jennings County’s Dalton Craig (132), Brooks Wathen and Zane Beineke all made it to the ticket round, but none of them were able to make it through to state. Craig ran into Kreitzer in the second round, and Wathen faced No. 1-ranked Brayton Lee of Brownsburg. Beineke was stopped by No. 3 Carson Brewer of Avon.

“They knew that the odds were stacked against them” Jennings coach Howard Jones said. “We said going into it that it was probably the hardest draw they could have had.”

Also for the Panthers, Teagan Johnson (106), Victor Antunez (120) and Xavier Barberis (126) lost in the first round.

Brown County’s two semistate qualifiers — David Tucker (113) and Levi Mullins (195) — both fell in the first round.

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