Two wrestlers head to the State Finals

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Jacob Kleimola (12) grabs his opponent’s leg in an attempt to take him down. Kleimola beat Hanover’s Evan Larsen with a major decision of 13-4, receiving first place in the tournament and a one-seed for the State Finals.

Maddie Hirschfield

Central High School’s main gym was packed with fans, wrestlers, excitement and tension as the Semi-State tournament began in East Chicago on Saturday, Feb. 13. The boys varsity wrestling team sent seven wrestlers to the event, and two of them qualified for the 2016 IHSAA State Finals.

“We saw a lot of things go a lot better this year. We had seven guys advance to Semi-State, which is always good to see. That’s definitely a huge improvement from last year,” Jacob Kleimola (12) said.

If a wrestler lost his first match, he did not continue on in the tournament. If a wrestler lost his second match after winning his first match, he also did not continue on. However, after winning the second match, a wrestler was guaranteed a spot at State. Due to these circumstances, the second round is referred to as the “ticket round.” Jacob Kleimola (12) and Russell Gibbs (12) advanced to the ticket round, and they both won those matches to qualify for State.

“After I won my ticket round match, it was the craziest feeling I’ve ever had out of all four years of wrestling. It didn’t even hit me until 10 minutes later when Jake [Kleimola] won his match and just gave me a huge hug. We just screamed that we’re going to State,” Gibbs said.

Kleimola qualified for State the previous season, but did not advance to Saturday’s part of the finals. For Gibbs, it is the first time that he has qualified for State. Both wrestlers have goals going into the tournament.

“It’s nice knowing what to expect and how it’s all going to go. It’s definitely nice to be set up as a one-seed this year. I plan on getting through on Friday night, and then just taking it one match at a time on Saturday. My goals going into the weekend are just to wrestle smart and to keep doing what I’ve been doing. I’m not going to change anything up too much as far as my wrestling goes, but I just want to wrestle tough and wrestle smart and definitely win a State Championship this weekend,” Kleimola said.

The 2016 IHSAA Wrestling State Finals will take place on Friday, Feb. 19 and Saturday, Feb. 20 in Indianapolis at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.