NORTH VERNON — The Hoosier Hills Conference wrestling crown has returned to Columbus.
From top to bottom, the entire Columbus East lineup made their presence known on the mats of Jennings County on Saturday.
With four grapplers earning individual championships — and all 14 classes placing in the top five — the Olympians dominated the eight-team field with 244 points to earn their first HHC title since 2011.
Floyd Central came in second with 205 1/2 points, followed by; Jeffersonville (178), Jennings County (172 1/2), New Albany (167 1/2) Seymour (133), Madison (99) and Bedford North Lawrence (49).
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“I think the biggest thing was that the guys who weren’t seeded or who were young and new in our lineup, learned from some of the losses from earlier and the season and got better,” East coach Chris Cooper said. “Our entire team went top five, and that’s really exciting for me. Just to get those young guys to buy n and win those extra matches means a lot to me.”
Following a third place finish by 106-pounder Jeremy Clark, and fifth place effort by Joey Gordon (113), the Olympians took a trio of championships in a row.
Cayden Rooks (120) made quick of his two matches after earning a first-round bye. Rooks pinned Floyd Central’s Elijah Combs in 50 seconds before winning another by pin in the championship in 1:29 over Justin Ruddick of Seymour.
Graham Rooks (126) continued his undefeated campaign by pinning Bedford North Lawrence’s Jaren Abel (1:43), winning by technical fall against Seymour’s John Shuffit, and gutting out a 7-4 decision for the title against Jennings’ Dalton Craig.
Winning by technical fall against Jeff’s Noah Morrison and Seymour’s David Shuffit, Dawson Combest (132) emerged as an HHC champ.
East’s Austin Schekles (220) bested Jennings’ Shon Warner by technical fall and beat Seymour’s Dalton Miller by decision 4-2 to face off against New Albany’s Chad McClanahan in the final. Winning by a pin (4:46), Scheckles raised both arms and let out a yell of excitement to the crowd.
“It means absolutely everything to me,” the senior said. “Last year, I came in fourth, and I wasn’t about to come in here and get upset again. I was going to go out a champ. We’ve been thinking about (HHC) since day one during our workouts. We take every meet one goal at a time. This was a big goal for us. We’re going into the postseason on the right note.”
Jake Schoenegge (138) and Andy Davidson (152) both finished as runners-up in their divisions.
The Panthers’ Brooks Wathen (145) won a tiebreaker, marathon match against East’s Corban Pollitt 5-3. East’s Austin Wilson (160) and Lane Goode (182) both claimed third, while Hunter Dickmeyer (170) and Dalton Anderson (285) each were fourth and Jacob Bolte (195) placed fifth for the Olympians.
“There are just so many good teams here,” East coach Chris Cooper said. One of the Jeffersonville coaches made a comment during one of our seed meetings that this conference has improved so much over the last six-to-eight years. There are so many kids and coaches working hard to improve teams. It means a lot, it’s a tough tournament. I thought our kids came out and battled and I’m excited for them.”
Wathen, Victor Antunez (113) and Brendan Sutton (285) paced Jennings with first-place finishes. The Panthers saw five wrestlers make it to a finals matchup.
“I think we wrestled well,” Jennings coach Howard Jones said. “I don’t know of any position where we didn’t wrestle as well as we should have. A couple positions did better than they were supposed to. The big thing that hurt us was having a weight class empty (132). You take that away, and we would have finished third.”