INDIANAPOLIS — Six Columbus East wrestlers are guaranteed to finish top eight in the state after they won their first-round matches in the Wrestling State Finals on Friday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Olympians advanced six of their eight qualifiers, which is double the amount of athletes who made it to second day a year ago. The quarterfinal rounds will start at 9 a.m. today, followed by the placement matches at 5 p.m. and the championship rounds at 7:30 p.m.
“We set ourselves up to do well (today),” East coach Chris Cooper said. “Six state placers is unbelievable. It’s incredibly, incredibly difficult to place here, and to have six of them is huge.”
No. 2-ranked Cayden Rooks started the day off for East at 126 pounds by beating No. 19 Kaellin Kelly of Crown Point with a 16-1 technical fall. That was followed by a 15-4 win at 132 pounds by top-ranked Graham Rooks over No. 10 West Lafayette Harrison’s Cody Betourne.
No. 3 Dawson Combest (138) then advanced with a 5-3 win against Beech Grove’s Bailey Moore.
“It wasn’t my best, but at this point, it’s just, ‘Win so I can move on,’” Combest said. “I’m excited I get to wrestle my last high school tournament and I’m ready for (today).”
All three wrestlers were in the same situation last year, but this time, they are joined by juniors Jake Schoenegge (145), Nick South (160) and senior Corban Pollitt (152). No. 5 South beat No. 14 Ethan Hicks 12-0 at 160, and No. 6 Schoenegge won his 145-pound match in a 18-3 technical fall against Jorden Douglass of Attica.
Pollitt won at 152 against No. 18 Eric Hiestand of Yorktown. Both Schoenegge and Pollitt have advanced after being eliminated in the first round of last year’s state finals.
“It’s crazy coming in here, it’s an awesome crowd. It’s just insane winning that and making sure I place here in the state tournament,” Pollitt said. “It’s just amazing. I’ve been working my whole life for this. To finally get the chance to achieve my dream is pretty awesome.”
The two East wrestlers who did not advance to the quarterfinal round were Andy Davidson at 170 and Jacob Bolte at 220. Davidson fell 3-0 to No. 7 Bradley Lowe of Greenfield-Central, and Bolte lost 9-2 to No. 4 Kyle Cornwell of Elwood.
“It would have been nice to get all eight of them,” Cooper said. “The two guys that got beat wrestled really well close matches.”
Columbus North’s lone qualifier at 170 in No. 14 Brigham Kleinhenz got a tough draw and had to wrestle the top-ranked wrestler in Noah Warren of Perry Meridian losing 7-3.
“He’s had an amazing career,” North coach Justin Cooper said of Kleinhenz. “He’s somebody that started wrestling late, and making it to the state tournament is a big deal … He had a tough kid tonight. He wrestled good, he wrestled hard and we’re proud of him.”