Game Summaries & Headlines.
Article courtesy of The Republic- Columbus, IN newspaper. Article by Ted Schultz
Cayden Rooks and Nick South took different paths to win their first state wrestling championships, but last month, the Columbus East seniors ended their high school careers the same way — with their second state titles.
Rooks captured the 138-pound state title at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. About an hour later, South claimed the 170-pound crown.
The pair are The Republic Co-Wrestlers of the Year.
"It’s really incredible," East coach Chris Cooper said. "Winning one state title is one of the hardest things to do. It’s really tough. The fact that they’ve each won two, they’ve put themselves in the elite company of Indiana not just this year, but all-time. Just to see them grow over the years and see the results of two-time state champs, it’s a reward for all the work they put in to get to where they are."
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After falling in the "ticket round" at semistate to three-time state champion Asa Garcia of Avon as a freshman, Rooks came back to win the 120-pound state title as a sophomore and earn the The Republic Wrestler of the Year honors.
Last year, Rooks finished second at 126 pounds, falling to Garcia in the state final.
"(Winning this year) was what I planned on the whole season, so the disappointment last year of getting second really fueled me for this year to go out and be as dominant as possible and win again," Rooks said. "Cooper and (assistant) coach (Tony) McGinley always tell me I’m the best that’s going to go out there. Then, I just go out and do what I do."
Rooks was dominant in his first two matches at state, winning by technical fall in the first round and by major decision in the quarterfinals. He pulled out a 3-1 decision against Jimtown’s Connor Gimson in the semifinals before scoring a 9-2 decision against Wawasee’s Braxton Alexander in the final.
Rooks finished 43-1 this season, with his only loss coming when he wrestled up a weight class. He fell 3-1 to Perry Meridian’s Aiden Warren, who went on to finish third at state at 145.
"I think everybody hopes to go undefeated," Rooks said. "You don’t want to lose at all during your season. But I think the loss really helped me because I wasn’t working on hand-fighting during that time, and then after that, coach Cooper was like, ‘We need to focus on this,’ and that’s when I started wrestling matches against better competitors where I was getting a lot of points."
Meanwhile, South did go undefeated for the season, finishing 44-0.
"That was a goal of mine," South said. "I didn’t really think about it until Graham (Rooks) did it last year, and then I saw that I only had one loss. I was like, ‘I was really close. I want to do that this year — have an untarnished record.’"
South went 49-1 last season and won the 160-pound title. He joined Graham Rooks, Cayden’s older brother, who had won the 132-pound crown, as The Republic co-Wrestlers of the Year.
Last year was South’s first wrestling varsity at East. He was limited to JV matches as a sophomore after transferring from Jennings County, where he had competed as a freshman.
"I want to say (this year’s title is nicer) because last year was such a shock after being JV sophomore year," South said. "It was an amazing feeling. It really didn’t kick in this year until a little bit later. Last year, right when it happened, it was a crazy feeling. Last year was definitely more emotional."
This year’s state tournament was anything but easy for South. His toughest match came in the quarterfinals, where he edged Mishawaka’s Joseph Walker 1-0.
"He might have been the toughest kid I faced," South said. "Coming into the tournament, I expected him to possibly be my toughest match, which he pretty much did end up being because he shut down my offense well. He came extremely close to taking me down. It was a scrappy match."
South then beat Roncalli’s Elijah Mahan 10-6 in the semifinal before rolling to an 11-0 major decision against Garrett’s Clayton Fielden in the final.
"I feel really good going out in the final wearing the white singlet," South said. "I did expect it to be closer than that, but I did expect to kind of whip up on the kid."
The pair do have one more high school event. Cayden Rooks and South, along with senior teammates Jacob Bolte and Jake Schoenegge will compete in this weekend’s Indiana vs. Illinois All-Star Dual at Culver.
This fall, Cayden Rooks and South both will head to Indiana University to continue their wrestling careers. They will join Graham Rooks, who redshirted as a freshman this year.
"I think it’s going to be awesome," Cayden Rooks said. "I honestly can’t wait to get back in the practice room with my brother and keep practicing with Nick. The team is going to be really good. We have awesome recruits coming in. I just can’t wait to get there and practice with a bunch of guys that want to work super hard."
Hoosiers coach Angel Escobedo’s recruiting class includes a couple other state champions, including Garcia.
"It’s great," South said. "Obviously, the recruiting class is insane. Angel is really changing the program. From this year, compared to last year, they’ve had a way more successful season already. We just hope to keep that going and get a few national champs at IU. That’s the goal and I think we can do it with the (wrestling) room we have."
Cooper is excited to see them wrestle at the collegiate level.
"I can be a fan now and watch them compete," Cooper said. "They’ll both stay involved with our program. For our guys to see what they’ve done in becoming two-time state champs, it kind of gives them a blueprint to follow."
South finished 93-1 in his two years at East. Cayden Rooks went 167-6 in his four years to rank second Cayden is second all-time in wins behind his brother.
"I’m so thankful for my career here," Cayden Rooks said. "I couldn’t have been blessed with better coaches and teammates. My freshman year was a bit of a letdown, but I think it really got me going for the rest of my career. I wouldn’t want it any other way."
Columbus East wrestlers on The Republic All-Area Wrestling team:
Cayden Rooks, Columbus East: The senior went 43-1 and won sectional, regional, semistate and state titles at 138 pounds.
Nick South, Columbus East: The senior went 44-0 and won sectional, regional, semistate and state titles at 170 pounds.
Jacob Bolte, Columbus East: The senior won sectional and regional titles and finished third at state at 220 pounds.
Jake Schoenegge, Columbus East: The senior won sectional and regional titles and finished fifth at state at 152 pounds.
Kade Law, Columbus East: The freshman won sectional and regional titles and was a state qualifier at 145 pounds.
Jeremy Clark, Columbus East: The senior was a sectional and regional champion and a semistate quaterfinalist at 126 pounds.
Jeremy Clark, Columbus East: The junior was a sectional and regional champion and a semistate quaterfinalist at 132 pounds.
Nate John, Columbus East: The junior was a sectional champion, regional runner-up and semistate quarterfinalist at 120 pounds.
Noah White, Columbus East: The junior was a sectional champion, regional runner-up and semistate quarterfinalist at 182 pounds.
Noah Lykins, Columbus East: The freshman was a sectional champion and finished third in the regional at 106 pounds.