Chabot College sophomore Anthony Cress has a chance to accomplish a rare feat at the CCCAA State Championships at Cerritos College in Norwalk this week.
The 26-year-old who served six years of active duty with the United States Army will vie to become Chabot's first two-time state wrestling champ in 37 years.
"I feel great. I feel really healthy and motivated and good to go," said Cress this week of his mindset.
With a 22-1 record this season, the former Antioch High star repeated as CCCAA North Region champ at Sierra College, beating Brian Horn of Sacramento City 5-1 in the 197-pound final. Chabot's last two-time state wrestling champ was David Woods, in 1981.
At the age of 18, Cress enlisted and served deployments in Afghanistan and Kuwait, each for nine months. He also did missions in Iraq during that time.
In an interview last season, Cress described his experience in Afghanistan: "It is what people think it is: It's war … It's a combat zone. We were there to help the people out."
Cress, who is in the Reserves, settled in well at Chabot after readjusting to civilian life. He also serves as a volunteer assistant wrestling coach at Antioch High, and has a close relationship with Panthers head coach Jesse Unpingco.
Cress won a North Coast Section title in high school and had 3-2 records at the state meet in his junior and senior seasons. He has just three total losses over the past two seasons at Chabot.
A key for him is to stay focused on the process.
"I concentrate on the very next challenge," he says. "Getting to practice early and then getting my weight ready, making weight, getting on the mat. Pretty much one step at a time. One tournament at a time, one goal at a time."
Cress competed at 174 pounds last year but wanted to test himself in the upper weight this season. To prepare, he bulked up in the weight room in the offseason.
If he repeats as champion Saturday at Cerritos, he will have reached the pinnacle in community college wrestling in the state.
"I'm really excited," he says. "I'm just as excited as I was last year and just as hungry."
Cress has received multiple offers to four-year programs, including his top pick San Francisco State, headed by coach Jason Welch, along with Menlo College, Pacific Life College (Los Angeles), Campbell University (North Carolina), American University (Washington, D.C.), and many more.
He says he planned to compete at San Francisco State this year, but something happened with his "credit transfers, so I wanted to do another year at Chabot because I know the program. It's a great program. I have a lot of faith in it."
Cress credits his solid teammates with "keeping him going."
"They push me in the greatest ways possible, and I do my best to return the favor and push them to be the best that they can be," he says. "My coaches, Coach George and Coach Steve Siroy … He's been doing it since the Seventies, so he knows all of this."
Addtionally, Cress also receives great support from his family.
"My mom, my dad, and my brothers, my cousins, everyone pushes me. They always send their love and support," Cress says. "My fiancé (Glys) especially, she's always been really strong; a good, solid rock foundation for our family. She always pushes me and motivates me. Those are my biggest motivators."
Here are Chabot's top North Region finishers:
157 - Ryan Petersen, 4th place
157 – Eric Murdoch, 6th
165 - Kevin Garcia, 6th (True 6th)
174 – Rafael Vega, 7th (Alternate)
174 – Michael Barajas, 8th
184 – Michael Carse 7th (Alternate)
197 – Anthony Cress, 1st place