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Bender to wrestle Saturday for possible state title

Feb. 16—Heartbreak came for two Terre Haute South seniors Friday afternoon at Evansville's Ford Center, but South junior Coy Bender kept his high school wrestling season alive.

Bender defeated Zach Huckaby of Perry Meridian 4-2 in the 165-pound weight class to become one of eight wrestlers in that class still competing for a state championship Saturday.

"I think he's our first underclassman to medal since P.J. [Montgomery, who was fifth as a junior and state runner-up as a senior] in 2010," South coach Gabe Cook said.

Cooper McCloy and Collin Casad were defeated, McCloy — wearing a wrap on an injured shoulder that's been a factor for him all season — pinned by Penn's Zymarion Hollyfield in a 175-pound battle during which both wrestlers were on their backs and Casad losing a 190-pound match to Elias Cressell of Wabash.

Bender was the first Brave to compete and took the lead with a takedown late in the first period. An escape in the final seconds of the second period made it 3-0 heading into the last two minutes.

Huckaby elected to begin that period in a neutral position and got a takedown in the last 40 seconds, then allowed Bender an escape trying to get a second takedown that would have tied the score. But it never came.

"He built a little lead and held onto it," Cook said. "He didn't take any unnecessary chances ... Coy is really good [in the top position]."

"It feels good," Bender said as he looked toward Saturday's competition, where his first opponent is Crown Point's Anthony Rinehart. "This has been the expectation all year, and I'm glad to have the opportunity to compete for a championship."

McCloy gave up a takedown — after nearly getting one himself — late in the first period, then got put on his back while trying for an escape in the second period.

Trailing 5-0, he rallied with a reversal and a near-fall to make it 5-4 going into the third period. Hollyfield came up with a reversal, then pinned McCloy 27 seconds into the period.

"That was a really exciting match, back and forth," Cook said. "If it goes a little longer, [McCloy] might have gotten the fall."

"I thought I wrestled hard," said the tearful senior.

Casad found himself facing a wrestler several inches taller than he was, and with a leverage advantage that goes with that.

The final score was 9-0, but that's deceiving. Cressell proved adept at fighting off some strong shots by Casad and turned those to his advantage.

"He was tough," Cook said of Cressell. "It's hard to beat a [semistate] champion on Friday night.

"[Casad] battled hard and had a great career and there were some close scrambles [Friday] that he came close to finishing, but they just went the other way."

"A pretty tough battle," Casad agreed. "I thought I could turn the tables on him at any point."

Casad finished his senior season with a 37-5 record, while McCloy — a Kansas state finalist a year ago — was 35-6.