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Warren heading to state tourney

Last Saturday, Whitehall’s Melquan Warren became the first Zephyr wrestler to qualify for states in back-to-back to years since P.J. DiStefano in 2005 and 2006.

Warren has a well-earned reputation for wrestling exciting matches and his path to the regional final was no exception. In round 1 he pinned Scott Jordan of Central High School in 2:46. His quarterfinal tilt against Jake Griffin was a high-scoring 14-8 decision setting up a rematch with Nazareth’s Marco Malerba.

For the second week in row, Melquan was down a point in the waning seconds of the match. Last week a reversal turned the tide. This week a takedown with 17 seconds left lifted him to the final on the strength of the 5-4 decision. “I just wanted it more than him and I went to an extra gear to get it,” Warren explained.

In the final, he went up against Parkland’s Adrian Gacek for the second week in a row. The Trojan took the 189-pound title 7-3 on the strength of 3 takedowns. Although Warren lost, he was in noticeably better spirits than after his match with Gacek at districts. “I got pinned last week. It was the first time I was pinned all season. I didn’t want to feel like that again, so I really just wanted make sure I gave it my all this week.”

An injured leg almost kept Warren out of the competition entirely. Head coach Tim Cunningham explained, “We dealt with that all week. We didn’t know if he’d be able to wrestle. I had to call Stroudsburg and tell them to have their guy ready. We have the best training staff you could possibly ask for. They work 24 hours a day if we need them. Morgan was here all tournament long dealing with that.”

Whitehall’s other regional qualifier, 107-pounder Wilmont Kai, acquitted himself quite well. He opened with a fall against Drew Leonori of Scranton and then pinned the District 12 runner up, Jackson Hersh, to reach the semifinals.

There he tangled with Bethlehem Catholic’s likely state champion, Keanu Dillard, for the second week in a row, losing this time by technical fall. An 11-1 major decision loss to Easton’s Nicholas Salamone dashed his hopes to qualify for states, but he rebounded to take 5th by beating Hunter Brown of Stroudsburg 12-5.

Cunningham praised his freshman, “Loves to wrestle. Just wants to get better. He comes in the room every day just trying to get better. That’s all you can ask for.”

Warren’s quest for a state medal begins Thursday evening in Hershey against the Southwest Region’s runner up, Tucker Teats of Selinsgrove. The junior is a first-time state qualifier and is 30-11 this season. A win would likely create a matchup with Tucker Hogan, a junior from Daniel Boone and the overall top seed at 189. Hogan is 40-0 this year and was 3rd in the state at 172 last year.

Press photo by Don Herb Melquan Warren came up just short in the Northeast Regional finals but will make the trip to states.