A dream no longer deferred

BREMEN — The best things are worth waiting for.
With 1:08 left in regulation, Abraham Hall scored a takedown against Elkhart Central’s Dominique Stauffer, then held on for a 3-1 decision and the state championship in the heavyweight title match of the 74th annual IHSAA individual state wrestling finals at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse Saturday.
And while Hall’s state championship dreams may have finally culminated when he stepped atop the heavyweight podium Saturday, the origins of the Bremen senior’s title run can really be seen in the 2010-11 season.
Last year’s heavyweight champ was another Marshall County wrestler and a friend of Hall’s in Culver Community’s Jeremiah Harvey. In fact, when Harvey finished his career with the state title, his only four losses that season had come at the hands of Hall.
And although the Bremen grappler earned his first ticket out to the state finals last year, he lost his first-round match-up and fell short of even placing at the state tournament.
“Last year watching Harvey win state I had mixed feelings,” said Hall. “I felt good for him because I know how hard he works, and he’s a great guy. But I was also very upset because I knew I could have been a state finalist. I lost in overtime on Friday night, and I looked at the road to state that I was in, and I was upset with myself that I wasn’t able to win, and that’s really what motivated me this year. I wasn’t going to have that feeling this year of anything less than first. It just wasn’t going to cut it for me.”
He hasn’t been beaten in IHSAA wrestling since last year’s state finals opener, scratching off 50 straight wins with no losses to become the undisputed, unblemished heavyweight champ.
“Every match was a stepping stone towards the ultimate goal, but they were each individual pieces of the complete puzzle,” he said.
In an interesting bit of foreshadowing, Saturday’s state finals closed Hall’s senior season much the same way it began as he opened the 2011-12 season with a 3-2 overtime victory over Stauffer at the Elkhart Turkey Duals last November.
Those overtime matches are something of a specialty of Hall’s, who at 240 pounds regularly gives up more than 40 pounds to opponents on the mat. All of his wins over Harvey last year came either in overtime or went right down to the wire. And before his last-minute victory over Stauffer in the championship Saturday, Hall had already ground out a pair of overtime wins at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse, handing then-Indianamat.com No. 1-ranked Kaden Suter his first loss of the year in the semifinals with a 3-2 triple overtime decision after knocking off No. 4-rated Wesley Bernard of Indianapolis Cathedral in overtime in the quarters.
“I love overtime. I love when things come down to the wire because I’ve been there so many times,” said Hall. “I’ve probably been in overtime — the past four years, including offseason — 25 to 30 times, so I feel very comfortable there. I have about a 90 percent win percentage in overtime. It’s my forte. I have better conditioning than most heavyweights. I love it at crunch time.”
After winning the state championship Saturday, Hall was treated to another prize as he was selected for the Ward E. Brown Mental Attitude Award, a distinction named in honor of the IHSAA’s fourth commissioner which includes a $1,000 scholarship to Bremen High School in Hall’s name.
The award is given based on the merits not only of a wrestler’s athletic ability but also on scholarship and leadership as well as a positive mental attitude. The articulate heavyweight who is ranked eighth in his class with goals to pursue a degree in political science before attending law school is certainly a deserving recipient.
And Hall’s wrestling decorations are just the latest for the senior, who was nominated to the 2011 Indiana All-State football team in the fall after helping guide the Lions to an impressive 13-1 finish and their first regional championship since 1997 as a two-way lineman.
“It’s an awesome year. I was All-State in football, and that felt awesome. Then coming out and being state heavyweight champ, it’s all culminating,” he said. “My past four years of hard work and dedication that it’s taken me to get to this point is finally coming to fruition and finally manifesting itself with the best success I could have in both sports.”