3 For 3: 2 Bull Dogs, Olympian win 1st-round matches, secure spots on medals stand

Columbus North’s Justice Thornton, left, and Asher Ratliff celebrate their first-round wins Friday at the Wrestling State Finals at Ford Center in Evansville.

Submitted photo

EVANSVILLE — Asher Ratliff was steady, Talon Jessup was dominant and Justice Thornton pulled out a dramatic upset on Friday at the Ford Center.

Columbus sent three wrestlers to the state finals with hopes of winning medals, and all three have been assured of accomplishing that feat after posting first-round wins on Friday. They’ll compete in the quarterfinals that begin at 10 a.m. EST/9 a.m. CST today and are assured of three more matches and top-eight finishes.

Columbus East’s Talon Jessup, center, poses for a photo with assistant coach Eric Ousley, left, and head coach Chris Cooper prior to Friday’s first round of the Wrestling State Finals at Ford Center in Evansville.

Submitted photo

Jessup, a Columbus East sophomore making his state debut, had the easiest match of the three locals. Ranked No. 8 at 106 pounds, Jessup was leading 9-2 when he pinned 15th-ranked John Bissmeyer of Cathedral in 5 minutes, 12 seconds.

“I did what we planned to do — just put it on him,” Jessup said. “I asserted my will.”

Ratliff, a Columbus North sophomore also making his debut at state, ranked No. 9 at 157, edged No. 19 Javon Frost of Delphi 5-4. Ratliff scored a pair of first-period takedowns and held on for the victory.

“We were expecting a tough match,” Ratliff said. “Everybody is tough at the state tournament. Everyone here is good at wrestling, so we were coming in expecting a fight.”

Thornton, a North junior making his second state appearance, ranked No. 13 at 138, upset fifth-ranked Wesley Smith of Plymouth 7-6. Smith led 5-2 with less than 30 seconds left in the match before Thornton scored a 2-point reversal and three nearfall points to claim the victory.

“It came down the wire,” Thornton said. “I was down by a few points and was able to pick up the win. I put him in a cradle and got a reversal and nearfall.”

Thornton (35-2) will face fourth-ranked Tony Wood (45-0) of Jay County in the quarterfinals.

“I feel good about it,” Thornton said. “We wrestled before in the offseason, and he beat me by a few points, but there’s things that I did wrong and I went back and I corrected it.”

Jessup (36-3) will face a tough test against second-ranked Mason Jones (37-0) of Lake Central. Jones handed Jessup a 10-4 setback during the regular season.

“It’s time to get paybacks,” Jessup said. “It was a close match until I gave up back (points), so that won’t happen again.”

Ratliff (40-2) will meet 12th-ranked Aidan Kincaide (36-2) of Noblesville in the quarterfinals.

“I have some things to clean up on top, but we can work on those,” Ratliff said. “Either way, whether it was going to be the Bellmont kid or the Noblesville kid, we were happy with what it looked like. I plan on going out there and executing and winning and making it on to the semis.”

Semifinals will start following the completion of the quarterfinal round. Third-, fifth- and seventh-place matches begin at 5:30 p.m. EST/4:30 p.m. CST, and championship matches will start at 8:30 p.m. EST/7:30 p.m. CST.