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Cory exacts some revenge, helps Montoursville take 2nd at NE Regional

A week after a caution point decided his fate at the District 4 tournament, Montoursville’s Isaac Cory admitted Saturday he wants to open up his offense more to take matches out of the officials’ hands. He also admitted he’s still figuring out just how to accomplish that.

The junior 152-pounder found all the offense he needed at Saturday’s PIAA Class AA Northeast Regional tournament. He scored 27 points over three matches and exacted a little revenge on Montgomery’s Devon Deem by beating his newly-found rival, 7-2, in the final to claim his first regional title.

Cory played a key role in Montoursville finishing second in the team race for the second consecutive week to Southern Columbia. All four of the Warriors’ wrestlers entered in the tournament captured regional titles Saturday, giving the team 84 points. Southern Columbia won the team title with 111.5 points as six of its nine wrestlers qualified for next week’s East Super Regional with two – Mason Barvitskie and Gavin Garcia – winning championships.

Montoursville scoring so many points with so few wrestlers is nothing new. With just five wrestlers entered at last year’s state tournament, the Warriors finished second in the team race as it crowned two champions, had a runner-up, a third-place finisher and a seventh-place finisher.

Cory was that seventh-place finisher. But he’s become one of Montoursville’s go-to wrestlers counted on not only for wins, but for bonus points, too. He lived up to that role during the regular season as the Warriors went 10-2 in dual meets.

It’s his ability to win matches like he did against Deem in the finals Saturday which have helped him take his game to the next level. And with so few wrestlers still alive in the postseason, those wins are crucial to helping Montoursville make runs at team titles.

“I think even last year he was one of our main guys, but he was in a tough weight class where he was in tight matches wrestling good guys,” said Montoursville senior 215-pounder Dylan Bennett, who won his third regional title. “This year he’s finally taking that next step and he’s at the top of his weight class.”

After falling in the District 4 final to Deem a week ago on a caution point in ultimate tiebreaker, Cory knew he needed to find a way to open up his offense more. His style, which has been more predicated on staying in good position and preventing his opponents from scoring, has lent itself to more tight matches like the one he lost to Deem last week.

Cory is still trying to figure out just how to get more aggressive and score more points. But he found ways Saturday to build leads once he got them.

He scored a 16-0 technical fall in the quarterfinals against Mountain View’s Nathan Ofalt. He was in a 1-0 with Deem in the final as he tried to fight off a Deem shot with a shin wizzer. In the process, he was able to grab an ankle and spin behind Deem for a takedown. In three matches against Deem this season, that’s only the second takedown Cory has scored. But he added another takedown with a pair of near-fall points in the third period to expand on his lead before winning, 7-2.

“It’s different trying to be more aggressive and getting out of my comfort zone, but it has to happen,” Cory said. “I wanted to open up more because I don’t want to leave it up to the refs. I do that too much and it bites me in the butt sometimes.”

But there was nothing for the refs to decide Saturday at the Magic Dome. Cory was able to adjust from last week’s disappointing finish. The road to Hershey is only going to get harder from here on out, but he feels prepared because of the battles he and Deem have had over the last three weeks.

Part of the reason his hasn’t been able to find more offense against Deem is because the Montgomery junior is just as stingy with the points as Cory is. But they both know the battles are only going to prepare them for, hopefully, the next two weeks of wrestling.

“Even though he is letting things fly and he’s going, going, going, he doesn’t get out of position at all either,” Cory said. “There’s few openings to score on him. So being able to get that two points early was huge for me.”

Bennett continued his path of destruction through this postseason. The returning state runner-up is now 9-0 this postseason with seven of those wins coming by fall. The only ones which haven’t ended in a fall were a technical fall against Benton’s Zach Poust in the Central Section final, and a technical fall against Mount Carmel’s Damon Backes on Saturday in the regional semifinals.

But that’s how the senior wants it to be. He’s not interested in working on any particular part of his game during the course of a match. He wants to be on the mat and back off it as quickly as possible. For the second consecutive week he pinned Poust, ranked sixth in the state, in the 215-pound final.

“It’s not like a football game where you’re up 70-0 and there’s no chance you can lose,” Bennett said. “You can be up 12-0 in a wrestling match and get thrown to your back. So I’ve always gone out there and if I can pin the kid, I’m going to pin the kid.”

Returning state champion Branden Wentzel set quite the tone for the Warriors in the finals, opening up his offense like he wasn’t able to do last week against Jersey Shore’s Brock Weiss. He needed just seconds in their 106-pound final to take Weiss down and throw him to his back twice for a quick 6-0 lead.

A week ago, Wentzel needed overtime to beat Weiss. That wasn’t necessary Saturday as Wentzel continued to add on to the lead before eventually winning his second consecutive regional title, 14-5.

“I had no worries (Saturday). I went and wrestled and I felt really good all day,” Wentzel said. “Most of the time I’m first step forward, but I was first step back tonight because he was leaning so far into me. Most of the points I scored were from him taking bad shots and me countering.”

Cael Crebs was able to hide his frustration during a 3-1 win over Southern Columbia’s Wes Barnes in the 189-pound final, but it wasn’t easy. For the second week in a row, Barnes shut down Crebs’ offense by wrestling on the edge and not giving the top-ranked senior a ton of room to work.

But Crebs made his first period takedown stand up in a 3-1 win.

“When you have a lead, you have that cushion so I don’t get too worried about (Barnes wrestling the edge),” Crebs said. “You just have to wrestle and not let it get to you.”

All those results added up to a second-place finish behind Southern Columbia for the second consecutive season. And while challenging for a team title is not the main goal this time of year, doing shows just how well the Warriors are wrestling.

“I don’t want to sound arrogant about it, but I think that’s just how good we are,” Wentzel said.

“It’s really great to look around and see the whole team doing great,” Cory said. “It’s great to be able to succeed with them.”

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