HERSHEY – A physical football player.
An accomplished lacrosse goalie.
A dabbler in track and field.
T.J. Moore hasn’t always been one. But sometime last year, the Cedar Crest senior became a wrestler.
Now, Moore is a very good wrestler. It’s the moniker that comes from owning a state medal
On Friday evening at Hershey’s Giant Center, Moore earned a medal at the 83rd annual PIAA Individual Wrestling Championships, with a pair of victories in the consolation bracket of the Class AAA 220-pound weight class. First, Moore overwhelmed Canon-McMillan senior Evan Miller 11-5, then he outlasted Marques Colton of Central Dauphin 4-2 in the third overtime of their match in the third round of consolations.
As one of eight Class AAA 220-pound wrestlers in the state of Pennsylvania still standing, the luster of Moore’s medal will be determined during Saturday’s final day of the PIAA tournament. Thus far, he has gone 3-1 at the state championships to push his overall record to 39-4.
Going from a novice to a state medal winner in three short years, Moore’s rise in wrestling has been nothing short of meteoric – and remarkable. In August, Moore will matriculate to Division One Lehigh University to further pursue his wrestling and academic careers.
“When I came out for wrestling in my sophomore year, I really liked it,” said Moore. “I was really big into lacrosse at the time and I also did track. I called myself a lacrosse player. In my junior year, I didn’t expect anything from wrestling, just to get better for football. I didn’t do good here (at states) last year. But it’s safe to say that now I think I’m a wrestler.
“I visited Lehigh over the summer, and I guess I impressed their coaches,” continued Moore. “I wanted to play lacrosse there. I talked to the (wrestling) coaches, went for an official visit and they offered me a spot on the team. It came out of nowhere. But I really love it (wrestling). You’ve got to be engaged. But now I can’t want to get better at Lehigh.”
“In his sophomore year, he was going to qualify for districts, but he didn’t want to wrestle in the postseason,” said Cedar Crest head coach Chris Voshell of Moore. “He didn’t want to risk it for lacrosse season. He just got a taste for it (wrestling). Last year he was here (at Giant Center) and he wasn’t satisfied with his performance.
“He decided at the beginning of the summer that he might want to wrestle (in college),” added Voshell. “He’s a smart kid with a great future. Lehigh was on his list academically. They liked the way T.J. worked. They said he really works hard. Don’t be surprised if you see him at Division One nationals one day.”
But for as much as he’s developed his skills, Moore’s win over Holton was about heart.
Moore’s reversal with 13 seconds left in the third overtime was the difference, after the two competitors had traded escapes in the first extra session and the second extra session. Holton’s early third-period escape had tied the bout at one and forced overtime.
The result also avenged Moore’s 3-1 loss to Holton in the semifinals at the District Three Class AAA tournament at Spring Grove two weeks prior.
“That’s a good one. It feels good,” said Moore. “When I was waiting, I saw guys coming off the mat upset. I told myself I didn’t want to feel that way. A lot of it is mental. You can’t allow yourself to be tired.
“I’ve got a medal,” Moore continued. “That feels great. Three years ago, when I started wrestling, I never thought I’d have a state medal. It’s going to feel great stepping onto the podium. I can’t wait for it.”
“It always starts when the bracket is posted,” said Voshell. “You play the win-loss game. It’s always could’ve-would’ve-should’ve. But we didn’t play that game.
“T.J.’s a special kid,” Voshell added. “For a kid like him who’s a third-year wrestler placing at states, it’s amazing. I think we’re four seconds away from possibly being in the semifinals.”
Moore began his Friday by notching three straight second-period points to open a 5-1 lead and take control of his bout with Miller. He registered three takedowns in the third period to win it going away.
“That match was do-or-die,” said Moore. “I tried to be mentally perfect. I told myself I wasn’t going to lose.
“I really wish I had gotten into wrestling earlier,” continued Moore. “I definitely don’t have the lifestyle some of the guys here do. But I feel what I do works. I think I could’ve done a little better. But everything happens for a reason. I think in a way, coming in late helped me out.”
“He’s definitely a wrestler. It’s his sport now,” said Voshell. “Mentally, you do go in dark places. It’s the nature of the sport. We’ve had to be honest about that. You’ve got to get a hold of it. Forget about it, move on and start all over at 0-0. He’s done a really good job with that.
“A lot of these kids have been doing it since they were young,” added Voshell. “They’re always getting beat up, and they’re done. You see it here in the blood round. They’re done and they want to go home. That’s not T.J..”