The PIAA Class 3A Championships did not start the way A.J. Tamburrino envisioned. But the Hatboro-Horsham senior was going to make sure he did everything he could to leave Hershey with a medal around his neck.
After dropping a decision in his state tournament opener at 152 pounds, Tamburrino would not settle for a quick exit - instead he bounced back and won his next three matches to secure another medal at the Giant Center.
"Right there, it was a personal thing until I got into medal round," he said.
Tamburrino, the 2019-2020 Reporter/Times Herald/Montgomery Media Wrestling Athlete of the Year, added two more wins to his run of seven matches in three days at states to earn fifth place in the weight class, his second top-five PIAA finish to cap off a stellar season on the mats.
"If I don't get the first thing, I'm always meeting my goal with the second thing," he said.
Tamburrino took third at the PIAA Championships in 152 as a junior at William Tennent before transferring to Hatboro-Horsham for his senior year. He said the transition to the Hatters was a smooth one as he went 40-5 to complete his high school career with a 90 percent winning percentage at 126-14.
"It wasn't that hard," said Tamburrino of the move to HH. "The kids and the coaches made me feel right at home. Just really nice to have a full wrestling team, guys that are interested in the sport."
Wrestling since he was five years old, Tamburrino said this year he worked on improving the mental side of the sport, working on being more confident going into matches.
"I believed in myself I could win that match, win the grudge," he said. "And I felt like that helped me throughout the year."
On the technical side, Tamburrino put in work to better his chain wrestling
"I was trying to really wrestle like an NCAA wrestler," he said.
He'll be one next season - Tamburrino committed to Navy in October. The Midshipmen under head coach Joel Sharratt took fourth place at the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA) tournament March 7.
"Coaching staff is amazing," said Tamburrino of Navy. "Their vision for the team matched my personal goals. The kids are just one of a kind there."
Tamburrino began the season with five straight wins via pin then switched it up and won his next five by technical fall as he started the year with a 23-match win streak.
He took first at the Donegal Tournament Dec 21 with a first-period pin in the 152 final then won the weight's title at Hatboro-Horsham's Ralph Wetzel Classic with a 17-2 second-period tech fall Dec. 28.
Tamburrino then opened 2020 with five wins at the Octorara Duals Jan. 4, claiming his 100th career victory on his final win of the day - a pin in just 16 seconds.
After taking second at the Escape the Rock Jan. 19 Tamburrino ended the regular season with six straight wins including claiming the152-pound Suburban One League American Conference title Jan. 25 with two pins then a technical fall in the final.
Tamburrino opened the District 1-3A East Tournament with a pair of first-period pins to secure his third district top-three finish, eventually taking silver at the meet behind Council Rock North's Cameron Robinson for a second consecutive season.
"It always been a little bit of rivalry," said Tamburrino of facing Robinson, the Iowa State commit who also beat the Hatters senior at Escape the Rock. "He pulled the win out and I'll give him that. Maybe we'll see each other in college and renew that rivalry."
He began the South East Regional with a tech fall and major decision but the chance at regional gold ended with a 4-3 loss to Spring-Ford's Jack McGill in the semifinals. Tamburrino bounced back in consolations with back-to-back major decisions to capture bronze.
Taking third at regionals met a PIAA first-round match with North East champ Matt Lackman of Bethlehem Catholic, resulting in a 3-1 loss an no room for error to get on the medal stand. Tamburrino proceeded to stay alive by besting Council Rock South's Joel Martsinovsky for the third time this season, this time by 5-0 decision.
Tamburrino found his groove in the next two consolation rounds on Day 2 of states, picking up a 13-2 major decision over South Western's Ethan Barney then cemented his spot on the medal stand by pinning Nate Stefanik of Nazareth in 4:59.
The third and final day of states began with Tamburrino avenging his regional semifinal loss to McGill with a 6-3 victory to reach the consolation semifinals.
"Just had to get past him and move on," Tamburrino said.
Another match with Lackman didn't go Tamburrino's way - a 3-2 loss - but with the chance to finish his high school career - along with a seven-match journey through states - with a win, Tamburrino captured fifth place in 152 with a 5-2 decision over Cathedral Prep's Marques McClorin.
"I got to use all that energy - that last bit of energy you got," Tamburrino said.