HERSHEY – He got what he came for. He could’ve been satisfied.
But T.J. Moore is not built that way. It exists nowhere within his DNA.
And it was because of that inner drive that the Cedar Crest senior went out a winner.
On Saturday at Hershey’s Giant Center, during the final day of the 83rd annual PIAA Individual Wrestling Championships, Moore was victorious in the final bout of his short, but productive scholastic career. In the seventh-place match of the Class AAA 220-pound weight class, Moore dominated Garden Spot junior Dustin Swanson 7-1.
Moore had entered the state tournament with the express intent of securing a medal, a feat he accomplished on Friday in the third round of consolations. Then on Saturday morning, the fighting Falcon was pinned at the 2:40 mark by Chase Mielnik of Downingtown West in the fourth-round of consolations.
But true to his character, the resilient Moore bounced back to swamp Swanson. With that triumph, Moore went 4-2 at states and 40-5 for his senior season.
Historically speaking, there haven’t been too many Cedar Crest wrestlers before Moore to garner a state medal.
“There was no pressure on me,” said Moore. “I knew I had already medaled. But just knowing it was going to be my last high school match I wanted to put it all out there. I’m just happy. It finally feels like all the hard work paid off. Now it’s on to the next chapter.
“I just wanted to come back today and end on a high note,” continued Moore. “I just kept telling myself, ‘Go out with no regrets.’ I’m happy to walk out of here that way.”
“I know T.J. wanted more,” said Cedar Crest head coach Chris Voshell. “He wanted to get third, but it didn’t work out that way. We talked about having short memories – win or lose – especially in a tournament like this.
“We talked about regret,” added Voshell. “You see it here every year, kids win a couple of matches and then they do the ‘semi slide’. We wanted to make sure it didn’t happen to us. He was able to take a loss (in the morning) and move on. He competes in everything he does. He’s just a gamer.”
Moore really took the fight to Swanson, a competitor he had become familiar with through past battles.
It began with an escape 12 seconds into the second period of their seventh-place bout. And it continued with a critical four-point move near the end of the middle period that gave Moore a commanding 5-0 advantage.
“He’s a great wrestler,” said Moore of Swanson. “He’s a great kid. He’ll do good next year. It definitely helped knowing what he would do. He didn’t do anything different, and I didn’t either.
“All the rankings throughout the season had me ninth or tenth (in the state),” Moore continued. “But I didn’t care about that. I just wanted to wrestle my best. Knowing I did everything I could do, I’m pretty happy with that.”
“I’m just so happy for him,” said Voshell. “He goes out with a win. Dustin Swanson’s level of competition made T.J. so much better. He’s (Moore) on to bigger and better things. I can’t wait to see him in brown and white (the colors of Lehigh University).”
With Swanson on the ropes, Moore put him away with a takedown at the midway point of the third period. It was 7-0, before Swanson recorded a late escape.
“I thought I had pressure coming into the season,” said Moore. “But after I got my first couple of matches out of the way, I realized I didn’t have to change what I was doing. My goal was to come here.”
Against Mielnik in the morning, Moore experienced difficulties getting anything going. Then 1:40 into the second period, Mielnik caught Moore and completed his pinning combination.
“He was quick,” said Moore of Mielnik. “He was strong. He caught me in a good move.
“I’m not really sure how I’m going to remember this,” added Moore. “Right now, I’m just taking it all in. When I look back, I’ll be up there with all the top guys.”
“It was a steady improvement,” said Voshell of Moore’s progress as a wrestler. “He understands stuff. He understands technique and strategy now. He even learned some things this weekend, in the course of 24 to 48 hours. You want to pick up every point you can.”