HERSHEY - Ty Herzog saved his best for last.
After losing two straight matches on Friday night and leaving the arena with one banged up twisted and bloody nose, the Northern Lehigh wrestler was as focused as he could be when he entered the Giant Center on Saturday afternoon for his fifth place consolation match in the PIAA Class AA Wrestling Championships. he wanted to make sure that when he walked off the mat for the last time in his high school career, he was a winner.
And he was.
Herzog's opponent was Boe Bonzo (29-5) of Freedom out of District 12, who decisioned Palmerton's Zach Graver 9-4 in Thursday's preliminary round.
The Bulldog senior took control right from the first whistle and decisioned Bonzo 11-6 for the fifth place medal, his second in two trips to Chocolatetown. Last year, Herzog battled a bad cold and still managed an eighth place medal.
""This was my last match," Herzog said after coming off the medal stand. "I didn't want to hold back at all. I just wanted to go out and have fun, scramble around out there and wrestle the style I have been all year without changing anything."
Herzog took Bonzo down with eight seconds gone in the first period. Bonzo escaped 20 seconds later, but Herzog took him down with 16 seconds remaining for a 4-1 lead heading into the second period.
"It's a short first period being only a minute so any lead you can get in these wrestle-back matches," he said. "Going into the second period with a 4-1 lead, I had a little bit of an advantage that I could hold on to and I could wrestle comfortable, not being on the ropes the whole time."
Bonzo chose defense to start the middle period and got an escape 29 seconds in. Herzog continued to wrestle well on his feet and took Bonzo down again with 52 seconds left. Bonzo managed one more escape and trailed 6-3 with two minutes remaining.
A reversal by Herzog right at the start of the third period gave him a 8-3 advantage. Bonzo escape and took Herzog down with 29 seconds left, but the Bulldog escaped and took Bonzo down one more time to salt away the win and finish 31-6 on the year.
"For any wrestler winning a medal out here is definitely an accomplishment, but I think it'll take a couple of days to sink in," Ty said. "You can realize how much work it takes to get here and look at how many other people wish they could be in the shoes of the medalists."
Having to wrestle for his dad Todd, is something that he'll cherish also.
""People say he probably gets on your case a lot, but definitely having him there and getting the support just helps me go out and wrestle more comfortable by my side," he added. "It just makes every match more sentimental."
And Todd, who has quite a successful run as Northern Lehigh's head coach, wore a smile that would have needed a crowbar to remove from his face after congratulating his son.
"I was just so hoping he would come out and wrestle for himself and he did," Todd exclaimed. "He and I talked about winning that last match and winning it for him and he really wanted that. That's a nice gift, finishing on a positive note and finishing with a win.
"It's just amazing to watch him develop the way he did and the mental toughness he had and to see him put into it what he did. It's that whole journey. The end result and the success he had is zero surprise to me because I watched him on that journey as a coach and as a dad to be that close to it and see the fruits of his labor produce for him and see what he's put in to it I can't describe it. I can't put it into words.
"I'm even prouder after seeing how tough he was Friday night, no doubt in my mind he'll be a successful person the rest of his life. He's a tougher kid than most people realize because he's a tougher kid and definitely a warrior."
It was a great run for a couple of other District 11 wrestlers, with three of them coming away with state gold.
The big winner was Pen Argyl's Mikey Racciato, who came away with a 8-2 decision over Benton's Colt Colten at 145 pounds, earning him the Most Valuable Wrester Award. It was also Racciato's third straight state championship making him the 39th wrestler to accomplish that feat since the PIAA began holding the tournament 76 years ago.
Bethlehem Catholic's Darien Cruz won his second straight gold medal, this time at 120 pounds and Saucon Valley's Ray O'Donnell took home the gold at 220.
Other district medalists were Becahi's Luke Karam (106) and Zeke Moisey (126), both taking home silver; Jacob Wasser of Palisades finishing fourth at 106; Michael Comunale (132) and Josh Alpha (195) of Becahi grabbing fifth place; Pen Argyl's Matt Williams (120) and Becahi's Andrew Dunn (285) finishing sixth; Saucon Valley's Bryan Israel (120) and Becahi's Ryan Todora (138) getting seventh place and Tri-Valley's Hunter Harner (138) and Notre Dame's Dennis Atiyeh (22) grabbing eighth place medals.
Bethlehem Catholic won the team title once again with 94.5 points with Benton finishing second with 70.