HERSHEY – Like every wrestler who qualifies for the PIAA State Championships, Northwestern's Dylan Long hoped to leave the Giant Center this weekend with a medal to show for his hard work and dedication.
There are 16 wrestlers in the bracket at each weight class, and only half of them return home with PIAA medals.
Long was fortunate enough to do so as a junior, placing seventh at 112 pounds in Class AA last year.
Now a senior, Long came up one win short of the two victories he needed to latch onto another piece of State hardware, but it wasn't for lack of effort.
Long does conclude his scholastic wrestling career as a member of a special group of Tiger grapplers.
Long pinned Zach MacGregor of Springfield Township in 1:41 in the consolation round of last weekend's Southeast Class AA Regional at Wilson West Lawn High School to capture his 100th career victory.
The Northwestern wrestlers who have achieved the milestone are among District 11's elite.
The Tigers' Century Club includes Evan Yenolevich (168), Scott Clymer (152), Victor Konno (139), Ben Clymer (128), Scott Derr (125), Dan Konno (121), Ben Marich (115), Brandon Williams (107), Ben Beitler (105), Zach Wehr (104) and Justin Shorts (102).
When he first started wrestling on the varsity level at Northwestern, Long felt like a long shot to hit the magic mark,
"I'm really happy I got it," said Long. "I didn't start out real good as a freshman. I only had eight wins."
Long began adding to his win total more rapidly as a sophomore, posting a 32-13 record and placing fifth at the District 11 Championships.
That progress continued as a junior, when he went 31-14, placing fourth at Districts, third at Regionals and capturing his seventh place medal at States.
For a time this season, however, it appeared 100 wins might be out of his reach, as he had to serve a disciplinary suspension that kept him out of the Tigers' line-up.
While sitting out, Long wasn't sitting around.
"Dylan kept working hard at practice, and he continued to do the morning runs before school," said Northwestern coach James Moll. "He was always busting his butt in the wrestling room.
"During the season, he really worked on getting better on his feet. He was already pretty good on top and on bottom, but he wanted to be stronger on his feet. He would do 50 shots a day at practice to work on it."
Long returned in time for Districts and placed third to advance to Regionals. He needed to win the fifth place bout to return to States, which he did, beating Northern Lehigh's Ty Herzog for the third time this season, this time by a 13-4 major decision.
At States, Long ran into a difficult AA 112 bracket. He was pinned in the preliminary round by Athens' David White, a fifth place State medalist from last year and a finalist this year.
He bounced back and got revenge on Milton Hershey's Nick Lamoreaux, who defeated him at Regionals, by scoring a 6-4 overtime win in the consolation bracket, but another familiar foe, Pen Argyl's Jamie Welsh, ended Long's season with a 6-3 defeat in the following bout. Welsh had defeated Long in the District semifinals by a 12-5 count.
"That weight class (112) is very tough," said Moll. "There were seven returning State medal winners. That's half the weight class right there."
"My goal was to get a medal, but it was tough," added Long. "White was ranked number one in the state and was up 10-3 when he caught me. I had lost to Lamoreaux the first time I had a shot at 100, and I knew it would be tight again, but coach told me he had confidence in me that I could beat that kid."
Long finishes with 103 wins. That total includes two victories against non-Pennsylvania wrestlers that were not posted to his PIAA total. For the season, he ended at 30-7, the third time he reached the 30-victory plateau.
"At least I finished in the top 12 in the State," noted Long.