By Betsy Veysman
If you’re looking for Tony Lock, there are many places to search.
He could be at the Middle School, helping a young student with homework and goal setting in a mentorship program.
Or he could be at a local church, assisting elderly attendees and helping to serve dinner and wash dishes.
Or if it’s 5:30 a.m. and a weekday, you can find him in the weight room at his school, where he religiously appears to get some early morning strength and conditioning work completed.
This past Sunday night, however, he wasn’t in any of those locations. Instead, the Pioneer High senior was on top of the podium in Virginia Beach as he received his award as the 182-pound NHSCA National Champion.
In a field that boasted six wrestlers ranked in the top 20 nationally, the unranked Lock earned gold with a 5-4 victory in the tiebreakers over Oklahoma’s Nolan Boyd.
“It felt great,” Lock said. “I wasn’t really expecting it when I first got there. It was such a tough tournament. Every match was a fight right up to the end. I had to keep battling in every match.”
“It was probably one of the best feelings ever,” added Pioneer head coach Chris Edwards. “He’s such a great young man and I couldn’t be happier for him. I’m so proud of him. His hard work paid off.”
In the semifinals, Lock faced Reece Wright-Conklin of Kansas. The New York wrestler trailed 3-2 late in the bout but was in his best position — on top. Lock went to work and was able to turn his opponent twice for a 6-3 decision.
“We felt Tony was the best conditioned 182 pounder there,” Edwards said. “Later in the matches, he could be more physical and we liked his chances. You could see the surprise on his opponent’s face when he got tilted by Tony late in the match in the semis. [Wright-Conklin] told us afterward that he hadn’t been tilted in two years.”
The victory sent Lock into the championship match against Boyd, ranked #16 in the country by WIN Magazine.
After both grapplers earned a reversal and an escape during regulation, the title bout went into overtime. There was no scoring in sudden victory and Lock chose bottom in the first tiebreaker.
“When it came down to overtime, I felt pretty confident,” Lock said. “I knew I conditioned really well and was prepared. Getting a takedown would have been nice, but once it went to the mat, I felt great. I thought I could escape and since I scored first in the match, I would get choice if it went to the ultimate tiebreaker.”
It didn’t get to that juncture as Lock picked up an escape and a locked hands call on his opponent to move ahead 5-3. When it was Boyd’s turn in the down position, Lock started with a strong ride and then locked up a cradle. However, as time ticked off the clock, Boyd began to break the grip and Lock cut him for the 5-4 final.
“We felt that Tony could wear [Boyd] down and Tony executed perfectly,” Edwards said. “He pushed the pace and made it happen in the third overtime. He had that cradle locked up for about 15 seconds, which actually felt like three hours to me. He did the right thing to let him go and not risk a reversal or a scramble. It was amazing.”
In winning the championship, Lock exceeded his goal of simply earning All-American status in Virginia Beach. He also ended his high school career with his winning streak intact, having registered a 51-0 record in the Empire State this season on his way to his first state title.
However, if not for a very persistent coach, none of it would have happened. Because Tony Lock was far more interested in playing a different sport.
“When I was in seventh grade, the modified coach begged me to try wrestling every single day,” he said. “He saw that I was an athlete who didn’t play any sports at the time. I really wanted to play basketball. I finally said I would do a year of wrestling and then switch to basketball, but he persuaded me to stay.”
It’s easy to see why the coach pushed so hard. In seventh grade, his first-ever year as a wrestler, Lock went undefeated at 145 pounds. He jumped to the varsity level the following campaign.
Despite his late start in the sport, he rapidly improved, taking fourth in New York as a sophomore at 171 pounds, and he followed that up with a runner up finish a year ago. This season, he was completely dominant, not allowing a single takedown and breezing through the state tournament without yielding any points.
“Tony works harder than any other kid I’ve been around and I have coached three different sports in 15 years,” said Edwards, who is also Lock’s football coach. “His drive and focus are just unbelievable.”
This is one of the reasons Edwards believes Lock will make a smooth transition to college wrestling, where he will compete for the University at Buffalo, likely at 184 pounds.
“He hasn’t been wrestling for that long and he’s just taken off,” Edwards said. “He has such a high ceiling. Coach [Jim] Beichner got quite a steal with Tony. He’s going to be great.”
Lock believes that the Bulls program will provide him with all that he needs to be successful at the next level.
“When I went on my visit there, I saw the new room and all the new technology,” he said. “I think all of the new things they have will help me excel. I also was really excited about working out with Coach [Matt] Lackey.”
Before he moves on to college, Lock will spend the summer working on his strength training and competing in some folkstyle dual meet tournaments. He’ll also continue with his various community service activities.
“I’m so proud of Tony,” Edwards said. “I have three daughters, but if I had a son, I would want him to be like Tony. On or off the football field or the wrestling mat, he’s just an awesome kid to be around.”
Except, according to Lock, when he starts to talk about one of his other passions.
“I love fishing,” Lock said. “When I get into my fishing stories, [coaches and teammates] try to end them fast. They tune me out.”
After this weekend, the wrestling world and the national rankers are unlikely to tune out national champion Tony Lock.