Tony Lock is a standout senior wrestler at Pioneer, who, when he's not training or lifting weights, or volunteering to mentor younger students, or help out at his church, will do odd jobs and chores for an older neighbor in town, Lois Yauchzy.
The two have become good friends, with Lock referring to her as his "fifth grandma." The relationship has evolved from him mowing the lawn, to toting 12 bins of Christmas ornaments in and out of storage, to where sometimes he will just stop by to check in on her. That might mean he'll watch a little of the Hallmark Channel with her -- "It's pretty bad, but I'll go through it just for her," he says with a smile -- and often they'll talk about Lock's wrestling.
He certainly has had quite the tales to tell about the final tournament of his high school career.
Two weekends ago, at the National High School Coaches Association's 23rd annual National High School Wrestling Championships in Virginia Beach, Va., the 182-pounder became just the second wrestler from Western New York to win a senior national championship.
"We've been fortunate to have three state champions in the last four years at Pioneer," coach Chris Edwards said, referring to Kyle Colling's titles in 2009 and 2010. "But nothing compares [to a national title]. I think I aged 10 years -- it literally was amazing."
Lock, who finished this year 51-0 and will wrestle at the University at Buffalo next year, won a state championship in Albany in February. That would have earned him a berth in the nationals -- if he hadn't already earned one by virtue of his All-America (top eight) finish as a freshman when he finished second. The last two years, he finished one round short of All-America status.
"The nationals weren't even close to what states was," said Lock, who had only four of his pre-nationals matches not end in him winning by pin or technical fall. "I was just really hoping to be an All-American, and senior nationals are a major step above junior nationals."
Lock was right. The tournament was so tough that he thought his tournament was going to end with a loss several times. While there were multiple state champions from across the country in the tournament, he was unranked. He trailed in his quarterfinal and semifinal before coming back to win, and the championship bout went to three overtimes.
Three times he was thrown off the mat -- once right into a scoreboard and onto the concrete floor. He finishing the championship bout despite not being able to see clearly -- he had used up all of his contact lenses because they had been gouged right out of his eyes.
"I faced tough kids all throughout the tournament -- halfway through matches I felt I was about to lose," Lock said. "I thought that I was done, but somehow I just kept fighting to get to the end."
Lock's road to joining Jacob Shauss of Falconer (145 pounds, 1994) as Western New York's only senior national champions began on Friday, March 30 with a bye in the 49-wrestler bracket. He then cruised to a 15-1 victory over two-time Connecticut state finalist Aaron Wing.
Saturday would be a much longer day.
Lock defeated two-time Georgia state champion Gray Jones, 3-2, thanks to a third-period takedown. In the quarterfinals, he beat New Jersey state finalist Brian Loughlin, 3-2, on another third-period takedown -- on a move Lock had never executed all season, but one he was very familiar with.
"I barely got to semis -- the kid got a shot on me, and I had a leg up in the air, and the only way I won was the takedown got it for me. My wrestling partner [Pioneer's Corey Vail] is always trying that move on me but it never works," Lock said of the defensive sit-back move in which he turned Jones' takedown attempt into his own takedown. "It was just one of those things. It just happened. When I got it, I was like 'Wow, I just hit his move to win at nationals.'
"When you wrestle, you do what you think is right -- you just do it. You have like 10 moves going through your mind every second, and that was the first one that popped up."
Lock came from being down, 3-2, in the semifinals to beating three-time Kansas state champion Reese Wright-Conklin, 6-3.
"That kid was jacked -- he launched me on my head, and halfway through I'm thinking 'I'm done,' " said Lock, who said he was slammed three times in the bout. "[In the third] he chose down, I got on his wrist and I heard him squeal a little bit -- I rolled through it to tilt him."
That two-point near-fall gave Lock the lead before he scored two more on another near-fall.
"That was an intense match," Lock said. "I couldn't lift my arm up all the way, my hip was killing me, it felt like a butt cheek had been ripped off. I was in rough shape, but I just iced up -- I made it to the final and exceeded my goal."
Driving to the convention center early Sunday morning, Lock's thoughts turned to his late cousin, Mark Reukauf, who died in a car accident in Elma three years ago. The accident occurred on April 1, and Lock found out on this same trip -- right after his first match of the freshman nationals.
"I just hate April 1. It was the worst, thinking about that all day," said Lock. "I had gone on the Facebook memorial page for him and written that I had dedicated myself and the tournament to him."
Lock's opponent in the final was three-time Oklahoma state champion Nolan Boyd. The bout went to overtime tied at 3-3. After a scoreless first sudden-death OT period, there would be two more. Lock scored one point for an escape in the second OT, and Boyd did the same in the third. What Lock didn't realize that Boyd was called for an illegal move. That call resulted in a deciding point for Lock and a 5-4 victory.
"At the end, I got pretty emotional," said Lock. "I walked to the center. I did it for Marky."
This past weekend, Lock invited Yauchzy to join his family for Easter Dinner at the local fire hall. When he went to pick her up, he purposely drove out of the way, past Pioneer High, so she could see what the electronic board in front of the school reads:
"Home of Tony Lock, NHSCA national champion."
"That sounds pretty cool, you hear it so many times, and it feels good every time," said Lock. "But you're the same person. It's just another victory. It's a big victory, but in all you're the same person."
Live video chat tonight
Lauren Mariacher and I will hold a live video chat at 9 tonight, when we'll take questions on the selection of the All-Western New York basketball teams and other topics.