Twice As Nice / East senior duo celebrates repeat state titles

INDIANAPOLIS — Following Columbus East’s senior Cayden Rooks’ state championship match, he performed a backflip in celebration.

Rooks captured his second state title by defeating Wawasee’s Braxton Alexander by a 9-2 decision at 138 pounds.

Rooks’ state title this year comes two years after winning the title as a sophomore at 120. He said that he’s enjoyed his time wrestling as an Olympian.

“There’s no better coach than coach (Chris) Cooper,” Rooks said. “He knows what your strengths are and then in practice you just keep working on it until it’s polished. There’s no better teammates in the world than those guys (at East).”

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Rooks, who was top ranked at 138, defeated Carmel’s Kyle Holman by a 12-2 decision in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, he defeated Jimtown’s Connor Gimson by a 3-1 decision.

Rooks will continue his wrestling career at Indiana University, where he will be join his brother Graham, who won the 132-pound state title last season.

“I can’t wait to get into the room with Graham,” Cayden Rooks said. “It feels like forever, so I’m excited.”

East senior Nick South also is a champion for the Olympians. The top-ranked wrestler at 170 finishes the season with a 44-0 record after defeating Garrett’s Clayton Fielden in the title match.

After the match South also performed a back flip in celebration of winning back-to-back state championships. He won at 160 last year.

“It feels amazing. I can’t describe the feeling right now, especially to do it with Cayden, who is one of my best friends,” South said. “I’ve grown up with him. He and the guys and the coaches are the reason why I’ve been so successful in wrestling. I owe a lot to them, so I really appreciated it and it means so much to do it with (Rooks).”

In the quarterfinals, South defeated Mishawaka’s Joseph Walker by a 1-0 decision. He defeated Elijah Mahan of Roncalli by a 10-6 decision in the semifinals.

South will be teammates with Rooks at IU next year.

“It’s by far the best time of my life. There’s so much emotions going on, you just really can’t describe it,” South said. “It’s changed my life being with the (East) program.”

In the consolation matches, senior Jake Schoenegge took fifth place at 152 by defeating Isiah Levitz of Prairie Heights by pin in 1 minute, 12 seconds.

Schoenegge lost his quarterfinal match to Chesterton’s Brock Ellis by a 6-4 sudden victory, but came back to win against Ethan Hicks of Carroll by an 8-3 decision, setting up his fifth-place win against Levitz.

“We all were grinding hard and working hard at practice,” Schoenegge said. “All of the state titles we’ve won and us performing well in the state tournament, I wouldn’t trade my time here for anything in the world.”

At 220, senior and top-ranked Jacob Bolte won a 5-4 decision against third-ranked Andrew Irick of Hamilton Southeastern.

Bolte won his quarterfinal match against North Montgomery’s Drew Webster by a 2-1 decision, but fell to Calumet’s Arthur Fowler by a 5-3 sudden victory in the semifinals. Bolte would have liked to have wrestled for a state championship, but said he was still glad he got to win the final match of his high school career.

Bolte, who will continue his wrestling career at Purdue University, was a little emotional when he reflected on his time with the Olympians.

“I’m definitely going to miss all these guys,” Bolte said. “I’m finally seeing all of my hard work pay off, but now I won’t be able to stick around. I’m a product of East, and I put in all of my success towards East.”

The Olympians finished fifth as a team with 61 points. Cathedral won the title with 78 points, followed by Avon with 72 and both Brownsburg and Evansville Mater Dei with 65.

Cooper has appreciated the opportunity to coach the four seniors who wrestled on Saturday.

“It’s so incredible. Winning a state title is so unbelievably hard and have two in one year, especially with (Rooks and South) winning their second title is just tremendous,” Cooper said. “It’s been a great senior class. Jacob has wrestled the entire podium of players, and the only two kids that beat him were in the finals. I don’t think I’ve ever had a more coachable kid that is willing to learn, and the sky is the limit for him. Jake would be the first to tell you that he didn’t come here to get fifth place. He came here to win. It’s hard to come back after losing a quarterfinal match with your dreams dashed, but he did an amazing job coming back and dominating the final two matches.”

East had a fifth state qualifier, freshman Kade Law, who lost in the first round on Friday night.

Cooper now has the tough task of filling those vacancies left by his four senior state place-winners.

“You can’t replace those guys. It’s impossible,” Cooper said. “It will just be a matter of the new guys stepping in. These four seniors didn’t start out by winning state. They’ve grown into that. We’re at the point in our program that we’ll reload and go with the new guys and take off.”