INDIANAPOLIS — Columbus East’s wrestling program produced its first individual state champion last season. On Saturday, East one-upped that accomplishment.
Senior Graham Rooks claimed the 132-pound title and junior Nick South won the 160-pound championship match.
Rooks has never missed the wrestling state finals in his high school career, but winning a state crown had eluded him entering this season.
That changed at the IHSAA State Wrestling Finals at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
After three years of coming close, Rooks finally earned a state championship by defeating Alex Mosconi of Cathedral 4-1 in the 132-pound final.
Rooks became the second Columbus East wrestler to win an individual state championship. His younger brother, Cayden Rooks, won the 120-pound title last year.
Olympians coach Chris Cooper said he hasn’t ever wanted an athlete to win a state title as much as he wanted for Graham Rooks.
“Graham does everything the way we ask it all the time,” Cooper said. “He’s an incredibly hard worker. He does all the little things off the mat, just a complete heart of a champion. To get so close so many times, to come up a little bit short. This time seeing him get all the way through is amazing.”
Rooks, who started wrestling when he was a toddler, has had his eyes on a state championship almost his entire life. He earned third place as a freshman before finishing fourth for two consecutive years.
Graham and Cayden Rooks shared a heartfelt celebration in last year’s state finals when Cayden won the school’s first wrestling state title.This year it was the older brother’s turn to get his hardware in front of about 10,000 fans. Cayden, who placed second this year at 126 pounds, was right there to celebrate with his older brother just like Graham did for him.
“I can’t thank him enough for all of the practices we’ve been through together,” Graham Rooks said. “They weren’t always the prettiest practices, but those are the ones where you make the most improvements. I love him to death.”
Graham Rooks is moving on to wrestle for Indiana University next year, but said he is glad that he got to win a title before he left.
“Everything I’ve worked so hard for in practice for the past 13 years has finally paid off,” he said. “I definitely had the hardest out of the brackets, but you can’t let that get to you. You have to beat them all anyways to be the champ.”
Graham continued to celebrate after watching his teammate South win the school’s third state title. He beat Center Grove’s Gleason Mappes 9-6 for the second time in two weeks to claim the 160-pound crown. Both Graham and Cayden Rooks greeted South with a group hug after leaving the mat.
South won the title in his first ever state finals appearance.
“It’s the best feeling in the world because I’m so happy,” South said. “I haven’t completely came to realization wit it. It just feels amazing.”