WEST LAWN - Northern Lehigh's Ty Herzog redeemed himself by earning gold last week at 152 pounds, atoning for his loss in the district final a season ago.
His quest for redemption continued in the Class AA Southeast Regional finals on Saturday, as he captured the title with a convincing win over Halifax's Robbie Moretz, who came into the match with a 39-0 record.
Herzog will now look to continue his success at the PIAA Wrestling Championships this weekend in Hershey. Joining Herzog will be Northwestern Lehigh's Michael Ortiz (regional silver medalist) and Palmerton's Zachary Graver (fourth place finisher).
Lehighton's Connor Frey just missed the cutoff, falling to Bethlehem Catholic's Connor Hedash in the fifth-place match.
Herzog opened up a commanding 4-1 lead in the first period of his match against Moretz and consistently stifled his attacks throughout the contest. Herzog scored a takedown with 1:40 left in the third to increase his advantage to 7-2 and put the match out of reach.
With two consecutive titles under his belt, Herzog has momentum on his side heading to Hershey.
"It's definitely a good feeling to move on to states on a win rather than a loss," said Herzog, who was a Regional runner-up last year. "It just keeps your spirits up.
"There's only four regional champs in the brackets at states, so hopefully that will give me good placement."
While Herzog admitted a regional title was his goal, he made sure he didn't lose sight of the bigger picture.
"Well first of all, when I come into a tournament, I don't look right away to the finals and say 'oh, who am I going to have in the finals?'
"I just try to stay comfortable and keep my eye on what's right in front of me. I just try to take every match one at a time."
Bulldogs' coach Todd Herzog knows Ty, his son, has worked hard all season and feels he deserves the success he has achieved.
"Obviously, we're really excited," Herzog said. "To win a district title in our own backyard, to me, is a huge accomplishment, and to win a regional title is even better.
"I know he's not finished yet. We've got one more weekend to go and by no means is he going to rest on this one. I know he wants to go there (states) and collect some better hardware."
For now, Herzog is happy to enjoy the ride with his son as his high school career comes to a close.
"It's kind of been a journey all year long," said Herzog. "It's great to win, but I'm trying to enjoy the journey, not only as a coach, but as a dad along with him and keep moving ahead.
"I see what he puts into it and it makes that journey all the more rewarding for me to see the fruits of his labor. What dad wouldn't be proud of that? I'm extremely happy."
Herzog hopes there is one act left for Ty in what has been a storybook senior season so far.
"We're scripting it pretty nice so let's hope we have one more chapter left to write next weekend," coach Herzog said.
Northwestern Lehigh's Michael Ortiz earned redemption of his own in finishing second at 170 pounds. Ortiz was forced to withdraw from regionals without wrestling a match last year due to a torn ACL.
Ortiz came up just short of his goal of a regional title after running into Brandywine Height's Pete Renda (38-0) in the finals. Renda controlled Ortiz for much of the bout en route to an 11-1 major decision victory. Still Ortiz, knows he gained valuable experience against Renda and feels the outcome will be different if they meet again in Hershey.
"I did what I came here to do," said Ortiz. "Obviously, I wanted to win, but I only need one day next week I only need one day to wrestle better than him (Renda)."
Ortiz felt his 6-5 decision win over Bermudian Springs' Tristan Sponseller, who came into Regionals 41-2, in the semis was a confidence boost heading into the finals.
"It definitely gave me confidence wrestling on my feet and getting those three takedowns in the third period," Ortiz said. "And it definitely gave me confidence considering just about every area has him (Sponseller) ranked above me.
"It felt good and now I just have to focus on beating kids as strong as Pete (Renda)."
Ortiz had some apprehension earlier in the season wrestling with a brace on his previously injured knee. But after winning a district title last week and placing second at Regionals, Ortiz has no doubts that his knee is ready to go heading into Hershey.
"It definitely said to not only me, but everyone here, that it doesn't affect how I'm going to do and that I can wrestle with it," Ortiz said.
Northwestern Lehigh coach Jim Moll knew Renda was going to be a difficult matchup for Ortiz, but felt he wrestled well in what was their first ever meeting.
"He ran into a really tough kid (Renda) in the finals, a kid we haven't seen before and a kid that was a state runner-up last year" Moll said. "We knew we had our hands full and we tried to game plan for him but some kids are really hard to game plan for."
Much like Ortiz, Moll is looking forward to having another chance at Renda in Hershey, when it really counts.
"We saw him once and hopefully we'll see him again in the finals next week," Moll said. "You only have to be better at the state tournament, right?
"You don't have to be better at Districts or Regionals, but at the state tournament because that's the ultimate goal. If he wrestles like he's capable of, he should do real well next week."
Palmerton sophomore Zachary Graver will also be headed to Hershey after his fourth-place finish at 152-pounds. Graver hopes to use the experience he gained at regionals next weekend at states.
"I'm just looking forward to getting out to states and and learning from the matches that I lost this weekend," Graver said. "Hopefully I can bring home a medal."
Palmerton coach David Lavin feels Graver the chance to excel in Hershey after his solid performance this past weekend.
"Anything can happen and he showed that," Lavin said. "You can't look too much into predictions, you just have to stay focused.
"He was focused through some really close matches and that's why he got out there (Hershey)."
While Lavin is excited for Graver to be making the trip to Hershey, he knows the sophomore is capable achieving even more success this season.
"I'm just looking forward to seeing what he can do at states," Lavin said. "We preach that, you get there and that's great, and it's great that he got there as a sophomore.
"But you don't want to just get there; you want to take home some hardware, too."