All six of the Columbus East wrestlers who placed at this year’s IHSAA Wrestling State Finals started their wrestling journeys well before they reached the high school level.
Many of them have competed in state and national tournaments in elementary school that helped prepare them for high level high school matches like the state finals. Columbus East youth coach Rashaad Trapp said competing at major tournaments at a young age is a big part of a wrestler’s development as they get older.
“I think it’s huge because it’s the stage, it’s the atmosphere, and they get used to it,” Trapp said. “…One thing it does it gives them a taste, it gives them a goal to be like, ‘Man, cool, this is what I want to shoot for. These are the tournaments I want to win.’ I think it also gives them a sense of confidence. ‘Did I win? Maybe not, but I belong at at a national tournament. I can hang with these guys.'”
Some of Columbus’ up-and-coming talent got to show how well they match up against the nation’s best youth wrestlers like Trapp mentioned. Three Columbus youth wrestlers placed in in the Indy Nationals that featured about 800 youth wrestlers.
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Columbus North youth wrestler Asher Ratliff placed the highest of the three by earning a third-place finish in the novice 80-pound weight class. Columbus East youth wrestler Talon Jessup placed fourth in the 55 intermediate division, while the other East youth wrestler, Gabriel Kennett placed seventh in the 55 bantam division.
Asher has competed at the Indy Nationals for five years, having two previous fourth-place finishes. This year was the fourth-grader’s first year wrestling in the novice division.
“It felt really good. I never placed that high, and I did it as a first year (in a new division), which made it even better,” Ratliff said. “I’m always nervous, but I just wanted to keep wrestling hard and do well.”
Ratliff was behind in points and came back to win in all four of the matches he won. Columbus North youth wrestling coach and Ratliff’s dad Justin Ratliff said he was proud of the way he battled back after starting the matches from behind.
Jessup has made it to the podium three out of the four times he’s competed in the Indy Nationals. Jessup’s first time placing was a fifth-place finish, and the fourth-grader now has finished fourth for two consecutive years.
“It was mostly fun,” Jessup said. “It was a little disappointing because I placed the same last year, but overall it was fun … I want to give a big shout out to Rashaad Trapp for getting me here and coaching me all the way.”
Kennett is a first-grader, and this is his second year competing at the Indy Nationals. His favorite part of the competition was getting a chance to wrestle a few kids that beat him earlier this year. He was able to avenge those losses by beating them in the rematch.
“It was exciting, and it was fun because last year I didn’t place, and this year I finally placed,” Kennett said.
All three wrestlers are looking to stay on their track of success and carry that into the high school level and aspire to get top eight finishes in other major competitions like East sophomore Noah White did over the weekend.
White competed in the high school Freshman-Sophomore Championships and placed seventh at 160 pounds. He will also be looking to use his performance as a steppingstone to get even better for years to come, as are the youth athletes under him.
“Seventh is nice, but I always want to do better,” White said. “If anything, this motivates me to get on the real podium at the real state and get better than seventh there.”
Name: Asher Ratliff
Weight class: 60 pounds, novice
Program: Columbus North youth wrestling
Name: Talon Jessup
Weight class: 55 pounds, intermediate
Program: Columbus East youth wrestling
Name: Gabriel Kennett
Weight class: 55 pounds, bantam
Program: Columbus East youth wrestling