State champion verbally commits to Hoosiers

A good number of Columbus East wrestling fans will be wearing in crimson and cream in the coming years after junior Nick South became the third Olympian to verbally commit to the Indiana University wrestling program Wednesday.

A lot has happened for South in the past five days. He became one of only three individual state champions in Columbus East history after winning the 160-pound title, visited the IU campus and committed to the Hoosiers all in less than a week.

South finished the season with just one loss, posting a 48-1 record on his way to earning his hardware. Now, he’s being rewarded with a chance to compete in the Big Ten Conference, one of the most competitive conferences in Division I wrestling.

“It’s awesome, and it feels good to have all of the work pay off,” South said.

South got to get a feel for IU when he participated in his campus visit the day before he committed. The coaches gave him a tour around the campus and the athletic facility while letting him meet all some of his future teammates before their practice.

The coaches made sure to discuss with South some of his academic options, also. South already knows that he wants to major in business when he gets to campus, and then move on to law.

“It’s a great school academically, for wrestling and then Graham and Cayden (Rooks) are both there,” South said. “… I really wanted to go there, and then I went and visited and just loved everything about it. They’re really good at taking care of the athletes. They want you to succeed, not only with sports, but also academically. I really like that.”

The Rooks brothers committed to IU earlier this season. This year’s 132-pound state champion, senior Graham Rooks is headed to Bloomington next year, while his younger brother Cayden, last year’s 120-pound state champion and this year’s 126-pound runner-up, will be joining the Hoosiers the same year as South.

South will be sharing the locker room with a number of new faces when he gets to IU, but he is excited to know that at least two of them will be athletes with whom he’s spent most of his life wrestling.

“It’s awesome for us all to be Division I at the same school,” South said. “It’s going to be fun.”

East coach Chris Cooper is excited to see all three of them wrestling at the next level and said he believes they all would have done well no matter where they ended up, but having all three of them staying together is tremendous, he said.

Cooper has a lot of respect for IU assistant coach Angel Escobedo, and said he believes him being there played a major role in the Hoosiers being able to recruit the all three East wrestlers. Escobedo is a four-time Indiana high school state champion out of Griffith and earned an NCAA title while wrestling for IU.

“I’m not surprised he’s grabbed several of our guys,” Cooper said. “He’s just a good dude and very likable. He had a ton of success in the state of Indiana when these guys were growing up. He’s just somebody they can look up to, so wrestling for him is a pretty easy choice for our guys.”

College Bound

Name: Nick South

High School: Columbus East

Year: Junior

Sport: Wrestling

Weight Class: 160 pounds

Season record: 48-1

Season highlight: 2018 Individual state champion

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