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Cressell, Moore advance to state finals

BY JACOB RUDE - sports@wabashplaindealer.com

FORT WAYNE — One year removed from falling one win short of the state finals, both Wabash’s Noah Cressell and Manchester’s Delton Moore returned to the semi-state at Allen County War Memorial Coliseum looking to punch their ticket to Indianapolis.

This time around, it was mission accomplished.

Cressell placed second at 182 pounds and Moore third at 170 pounds as both earned a trip to the state finals at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse next weekend.

In total, six wrestlers from Wabash County, four from Wabash and two from Manchester, competed at the semi-state meet.

The Apaches’ Anthony Long stepped in as an alternate at 126 pounds where he fell in the opening round. The other three wrestlers, Ethan Higgins at 113 pounds, Braden Brooks at 120 pounds and Cressell, won their opening matches of the day to advance to the ticket round.

“That was fun. That first round having three winners, three wrestlers in the ticket round, that’s a good time,” Wabash head coach Jake O’Neill said. “That’s what these boys earned, that’s what they deserve, that’s what they worked for are those opportunities. I’m glad you reminded me of that first round after that (final loss). It was a good first round. We were in the top 10 in team standings. It was good start of the day.”

Both Higgins and Brooks would bow out in the second round, one victory short of a state berth. The former would lose to Joe Just of Carroll by decision, 12-7. Brooks, meanwhile, fell by technical fall in the third round, 19-4, to eventual semi-state champion Hunter Watts of Jimtown.

Cressell’s day was far from over, however. After earning a 13-1 decision win in round one, Cressell followed with a 19-3 technical fall in round two to earn a spot at state.

“Just confidence,” O’Neill said of the difference in Cressell from last year to this. “His ability to wrestle through adversity. That confidence shined through. He’s a better wrestler, but emotionally he handled himself better.”

The senior continued chugging along with a 6-0 decision win in the semi-final to move into the final where he met Conner Graber of Northridge. Graber, the lone wrestler to beat Cressell the last two seasons, would do so again on Saturday, earning a 7-3 decision win to relegate Cressell to a runner-up finish.

Manchester’s duo of Moore and Wade France at 152 pounds also competed on Saturday. France fell in his opening match by pinfall 43 seconds into the contest.

Moore, meanwhile, opened the day with back-to-back pinfall wins. In his opening round match, Moore pinned Brandon Kocks of Snider in 2:50 before following it with a third-period pin over Clayton Lundy of Elkhart Memorial.

“I thought we wrestled pretty well today,” Manchester head coach Byron Sweet said. “We came in with a strategy and a game plan for how we were going to wrestle guys and I thought, for the most part, we executed that. Just a couple times on our finishes, I think we just want to try to see if we can move the guy a little bit more.”

In the semi-final round against Jake Lone of Northwood, Moore would drop a narrow 9-6 decision to fall to the consolation match. Moore would rebound, though, with a convincing majority decision win over Brady Wyro of Homestead to earn third on the day.

“In the…semi-final match, he showed us a couple things we need to work on as far as finishing our shots,” Sweet said. “Obviously, you want to finish the day as champions or win it, but sometimes having that one loss can kind of keep you hungry coming into next week and help prepare us a little bit more for what we’ll see on Friday night.”

For Moore, after falling last year in the ticket round, a year of hard work and dedication made the difference this season.

“I think that Delton works extremely hard and that’s a big part of it,” Sweet said. “He’s one of those guys, anytime you have a morning lifting session, he’s one of the first guys in there leading it, pushing everybody. I think the work that he puts in day in and day out is really very important. He really just hones in on his craft.

“He’s the kind of guy that wants to watch, who wants to do all the extra little things and I think just think that he’s been very receptive this year to the things we told him and showed him. Usually if he has match where there’s something that we see that we tell him to work on, we’ll see that even in that same day in the next match. I think that’s a big thing.

“When you have a kid that works hard, is coachable and obviously has quite a bit of natural talent as well, you put all that together and you can be a pretty good wrestler,” he added. “We’re really excited that, as a junior, he’s going to get the experience of going down to state and getting a shot at it.”

The loss by Cressell in the final, meanwhile, was the first blemish on his record on the season as he now sits at 40-1 on the year. Despite that, Cressell and O’Neill will head into the state final refocused and re-energized.

“Just like today, anything can happen. That’s why we go out and we wrestle,” O’Neill said of the upcoming state meet. “Next week is a difference week, it’s a different day, it’s a different tournament. We’ve beat (Graber) before, we can come back and beat him next week no problem. It might even work out for him in the draws. You never know how that works out.”

The state meet is slated to start on Friday, Feb. 16 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse with first round action starting at 6 p.m. If either fighter wins on Friday, they will advance to Saturday where they’ll be guaranteed at least three matches starting at 9:30 a.m.