BETHLEHEM - Tamaqua's Colin Mashack came into the PIAA District 11 wrestling tournament on a mission to avenge last season's loss in the finals at 106-pounds.
He entered this year's tournament as the second seed at 113-pounds, behind Tri-Valley's Caleb Bordner. The two breezed through the opening rounds to setup a much-anticipated showdown in the finals.
Mashack got off to a quick start, gaining a 2-0 advantage on Bordner in the first period. He increased his lead to 4-0 after scoring a reversal 45 seconds into the second period.
That would be all the offense Mashack needed in this contest, as he held on in the third period and stifled Bordner's attacks.
Still, Mashack knew he couldn't let up and needed to be prepared to wrestle for the duration of the match.
"I kinda went into my other two matches just to kind of win the first period and get the match over with quick," Mashack said. "But this match I knew was going to go all three periods.
"So I just went out there and tried to wrestle smart and go point-by-point."
The victory takes Mashack one step closer to helping him establish his own legacy at tradition-rich Tamaqua.
"We have district champ names on our wall and state place winners,' said Mashack. "So I just want to get my name in every spot that I can."
Another TN area wrestler earned redemption at this year's tournament, as Northern Lehigh's Ty Herzog claimed the gold at 152-pounds. Herzog was second last year at 145-pounds.
Much like Mashack's match, Herzog, the number one seed at 152-pounds, jumped out to an early lead over his opponent, second seed Travis Buddock of Saucon Valley.
Herzog opened up a 5-3 lead after the first period and held the same advantage through the second. He gained an escape in the third to increase his advantage to 6-3, which proved to be the final tally.
"I know Travis' (Buddock) style and he likes to score a lot of points at the beginning of the match," Herzog said. "So I knew if I could hold my own and score my own points I would be in pretty good shape.
"I felt pretty comfortable through the whole match; I didn't feel like I was in too much trouble."
While Herzog is proud of his victory, he knows his work isn't done yet, with Regionals and states on the horizon.
"First and second place, bottom line is you're both going to regionals," Herzog said. "But first place definitely feels a lot better going in, especially since last year I ended up with a second place, so it was really good to avenge that.
"Even though I got success here, I'm not going to be satisfied with it. I'm going to keep pushing hard through Regionals and through states."
In another matchup of the top two seeds, Northwestern's Mike Ortiz earned a 1-0 decision over Bethlehem Catholic's Nick Cortopassi to capture the final gold for TN area wrestlers at 170-pounds. Ortiz also captured gold last year at 152-pounds.
Unlike Herzog and Mashack, Ortiz went down-to-the-wire against Cortopassi, working until the final buzzer to hang on to the victory. The close contest was something Ortiz expected.
"Both of us have been scouting each other for at least this weekend, definitely for this past season," Ortiz said. "We know each other, and from neutral we just knew each other so it was tough to score for both of us.
"On top, I think it was just a dog fight."
Ortiz now sets his sights on regionals, where his season ended last year due to a knee injury.
"It's just about getting to states and that's about winning," Ortiz said. "I definitely want to win at Regionals but getting to states is my main goal right now.
"This is a step towards where I want to be."
Two other TN area wrestlers advanced to the finals, with Panther Valley's Richard Nase and Rian Shubeck earning trips at 195 and 285, respectively.
Nase came in as the three seed and knocked off second seed Justin Blobe of Saucon Valley in the semis to advance to the finals. Nase ran into top seed Josh Alpha of Bethlehem Catholic in the finals, who proved to be too much on this night, as Alpha earned an 8-4 decision win.
Panthers' coach Tim Robb felt the experience Nase gained wrestling on this stage would serve him well moving forward.
"He got tired in the finals but I think he wrestled well," Robb said. "I think he had a little bit of anxiety.
"But he got there and it's an advancement-thing. We're trying to get to the state tournament."
Shubeck would also come up short for the Panthers at 285, falling to Bethlehem Catholic's Andrew Dunn by a 6-1 decision.
In Shubeck's match, Robb felt Dunn controlled the tempo and ultimately the pace of the bout.
"He didn't wrestle his match," Robb said. "He let Dunn control the pace of the match.
"It's still a learning experience," said Robb. "He's only a sophomore and he's come a long way in one offseason. We'd love to get him out to states and get him a medal."
Still, Robb looks forward to having another opportunity next week at regionals to learn from this past weekend.
"Hopefully we have an opportunity next week to wrestle for an important spot," said Robb.
Along with Mashack, Herzog, Ortiz, Nase and Shubeck, the other TN area wrestlers headed to Regionals are: Northwestern's Jarrett White (106), Palmerton's Zack Christman (132), Joe Bubble (138), Zach Graver (152) and Lehighton's Connor Frey (160.)
Prior to the finals, Northwestern received the Lehigh Valley Chapter of Wrestling Officials Sportsmanship Award.