A Great Eight: East wins 8th straight sectional, combines with North for 8 individual champs

NORTH VERNON — While Columbus East won its eighth consecutive sectional wrestling title Saturday afternoon, their crosstown rivals appear to be closing the gap.

Columbus North finished second for the second year in a row. The Olympians outscored the Bull Dogs 258-224, with host Jennings County coming in third with 153.

“It’s getting closer and closer every year,” North coach Matt Joyce said. “Our kids are working hard toward their goals of winning sectional and regional. It’s one of those where it’s a little bit of motivation for the offseason. But we’re not done yet. We have a couple more weeks in tournament wrestling.”

East advanced 13 wrestlers, and North qualified 12 in the 14 weight classes to Saturday’s Jeffersonville regional with top-four finishes. Jennings had seven regional qualifiers

Five Olympians won sectional championships — Talon Jessup (106 pounds), Liam Krueger (126), Jackson Fox (182), Tommy Morrill (220) and Patrick McMahon (285). In their finals matches, Jessup scored a 9-1 major decision against Southwestern (Hanover’s) Ethan Rose, Fox blanked Madison’s Van Skinner 5-0, Morrill pinned Jennings’ Xavior Gindhart and McMahon pinned Scottsburg’s Ben Craig.

“The guys that won today I thought wrestled outstanding,” East coach Chris Cooper said. “Tommy Morrill and Liam, Jackson, Talon and Pat — all five of those guys looked really good today.”

Krueger’s sectional title was his fourth in four years. He scored first-period pins in all three of his matches, including a pin of Seymour’s Ricky Bogard in just 36 seconds in the 126-pound final.

“I went out there and did what I was supposed to do and got three pins,” Krueger said. “It’s a great feeling, but I hope to do better at regional.”

East’s Gage Rutan (120), Nate Anderson (145) and Tyler Lake (170) all finished second. Aidan Miller (113), Caleb Cooper (132) and Mitchell Williams (160) all took third and Bo Wagner (138) and Caleb Kirkpatrick (152) were fourth.

“I think we wrestled real well in some spots,” Chris Cooper said. “There’s some other spots that it wasn’t our best day. But I think it shows the grit of our team to still come out and get a team championship, despite not being completely at our best today.”

North was led by champions Justice Thornton (132), Asher Ratliff (145) and Liam Phillips (160). In the finals, Thornton earned an 8-4 decision against Jennings County’s Lane Kirchner, Ratliff edged Anderson 2-1 and Phillips pinned Jennings’ Chris Hernandez.

Jason Shuey (138), Josiah Green (152) and Jose Ramirez (195) all finished second for the Bull Dogs. Nolan Riley (106), Liam Curfman (113) and Keller DeSpain (182) all took third and Bryce Hawkins (126), Evan Saevre (170) and Cody Thurnall (285) all were fourth.

“The kids wrestled to their potential, and that’s what we want to see this time of year,” Joyce said. “It was a lot of fun.”

The host Panthers had one champion in Teagan Trotter. Trotter scored a 5-1 decision against Lake in the 170-pound final.

Kirchner (132), Hernandez (160) and Gindhart (220) all finished runner-up for Jennings. Evan Sochacki (138) and Jonah Mathews (145) each took second, and Vincent Pittman (195) was fourth.

“My goal was to get nine through, so we were a little bit shy of that,” Jennings coach Jeff Morrison said. “But overall, it was a pretty good effort for the boys. I felt like we had a pretty solid third-place finish there as a team. I was hoping to get maybe one more champ, but overall, it was a good day.”

Brown County had one regional qualifier. Jackson Reed finished third at 195.