EVANSVILLE — Columbus East seniors Cayden Rooks and Nick South came through in a big way during Saturday’s Evansville Reitz wrestling semistate at the Ford Center.
Rooks and South swept through the competition on their way to claiming semistate championships and leading the Olympians to a fourth-place team finish. Brownsburg won with 134.5 points to 121 for Evansville Mater Dei, 103 for Avon and 74.5 for East.
Rooks, the state’s top-ranked wrestler at 138 pounds, defeated Trey Mucker of Tell City in the championship match 7-4. Rooks’ final quest is to add another state title to his resume next weekend at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
“It feels good that I get to go back,” Rooks said. “I need to go back and win it this year after I came up short last year. I’m hungry to get back into the finals.”
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South won his championship bout 3-0 against Evansville Mater Dei’s Macartney Parkinson at 170.
“I’m used to the process more this year as opposed to last year, which was very nice,” South said.
South will now put his unbeaten record of 40-0 on the line and is also one of the favorites to bring home a state championship after winning the 160-pound title last season. He says that he doesn’t mind the pressure.
“Last year was nice because a lot of people didn’t expect me to win, and I didn’t have that pressure on me,” South said. “This year will be different. A lot of people are expecting me to win. It adds pressure, but I don’t mind. I like the high pressure situations and the state series. It’s weird, I know there are a lot of people watching me, but it makes me feel better.”
Jacob Bolte and Jake Schoenegge lost in the championship matches at 220 and 152, respectively. Bolte, who battled back from a 7-2 third-period deficit to pin his quarterfinal opponent, lost to a familiar opponent in Brownsburg’s Lawson Aiken by an 8-5 decision in the title match.
Bolte, who was undefeated going into the match, had beaten Aiken in a regular-season match. He was entertaining to the idea that he wants to have the grudge match against Aiken should they both reach the state championship match.
“It would definitely be interesting,” Bolte said. “There is a lot of things that I know that I’ll need to work on this week in practice.”
Kade Law finished fourth at 145. Law lost his semifinal to L.J. Bourdon of Plainfield by a 4-2 sudden-victory. In the third-place match, he fell to Jonathan Kervin of Floyd Central.
The top four finishers in each weight class advance to the state finals.
“It feels pretty good, but it wasn’t the results I wanted,” Law said. “It’s nice to be able to have the opportunity to potentially be a four-time state qualifier.”
East coach Chris Cooper is excited to see Law get through state in his freshman season.
“From where he was the first half of the season to where he is now is tremendous,” Cooper said. “For a ninth-grader to make it to state is amazing, but a ninth-grader at 145 making it to state is almost unheard of.”
Nate John at 120, Jeremy Clark at 126, Joey Gordon at 132 and Noah White at 182 all lost in the quarterfinals, or the “ticket round.” Noah Lykins at 106, Kenton Wilson at 113 and Sam Morrill at 160 fell in the first round.
“I wish we could have gotten a couple of other guys through, but it was not from lack of effort or lack of preparation,” Cooper said. “Of the six or seven top teams in the state, there’s like four or five that are here.”
For Columbus North, senior Morgan Smith came up just short of qualifying for state, but lost to Monrovia’s Ben Dalton by pin in 3 minutes, 33 seconds in the ticket round. Bradley Gutierrez lost his opening-round match at 285 by a 5-3 decision to Southridge’s Wyatt Kramer.
“They’re great kids, and they work hard. It’s always tough seeing these kids run out of time or get caught,” North coach Matt Joyce said. “I don’t know I can even describe how good these kids are. I enjoyed coaching both these kids. They’re great guys and it’s been a fun season.”
For Jennings County, Sam Bennett at 170, Cameron Woodard at 182 and Logan Askew at 195 all lost by pin in the first round. All three wrestlers finished fourth in their respective weight class in the Jeffersonville Regional and had to face off against the regional champions from other host sites.
“Whenever you’re fourth in a regional, you have to wrestle a No. 1,” Jennings coach Howard Jones said. “It’s a tough way to go. We’re proud of them and proud of the way they’ve worked. The good thing is that we have them all back next year.”
Brown County’s David Tucker at 126 and Bryce Denton at 132 lost in the ticket round. Brandon Leslie at 113 fell in the first round.
“Overall, it was a pretty good season. It was better than last year and better than the year before,” Brown County coach Josh Sparks said. “As long as we keep showing progress and improvement, these results will take care of themselves.”