In January, Apex coach Erik Norgaard traveled to the Tulsa Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He made the journey to coach eight wrestlers at the competition coined “The toughest kids tournament in the world.” All eight wrestlers represented in fine fashion. Seven wrestlers made All-American status with five making the finals.
Nick Suriano and Zack Hertling claimed national titles at 73 and 84 pounds respectively. Shane Griffith (73) and Sal Profacci (96) both placed second, losing in the final two seconds of the third period. Ivan Garcia also placed second at 49lbs in the six-and-under division. After pinning his first four opponents, Ivan held a safe lead well into his final match before being pinned. Joe Trovato (84) lost 3-2 in the first round to a stud from California. He then went on a roll winning five straight before losing in overtime. He then showed tremendous heart in a come from behind win to avenge his first round loss over the boy from California. Trovato finished 5th. Danny Boychuk (80) went 6-2 in perhaps the most stacked weight class before injury defaulting with a knee injury in his 5th place match. Danny finished 6th. Tyler Loughlin wrestled to a 3-2 record at 97 pounds. Worn down from an extreme weight drop, Tyler stuck out two tough 1-0 wins.
Zack Hertling used his versatile and unorthodox never-say-die style enroot to his first national title at “The toughest tournament in the world.” After destroying his first four opponents, Zack registered perhaps the best upset win in the entire competition. It took seven intense periods for Hertling to outlast Keshawn Hayes of Kansas City, Missouri. Hayes in a multiple time national champion who has gone unbeaten winning every major event for the last few years. Hertling proved to be his kryptonite when he scored 2 near fall points in the seventh period ride out. That is heart! In what many would consider an extreme upset, Zack’s finals win was actually more of a likelihood. Just a few weeks before the Tulsa Nationals, Hertling lost to Hayes 4-2 in the finals match at the Kickoff Classic (considered either the second or third toughest tournament for kids). After trailing 4-0, Zack won the final two minutes of the match before time ran out on him. When Hayes came off the mat crying and Zack came off fired up, we knew he was beatable. Zack stayed low, kept shooting, and didn’t give up the early first period points this time around. The strategy change worked perfectly! Next, Zack will travel to Reno, Nevada for the Reno World Championships. This is the final leg in his quest to be the overall wrestler of the year. Good luck Zack.