Coach Herzing a double medal winner

Bob Parana - Staff Writer

When he was ten years old Eric Herzing’s mother presented him with a set of golf clubs she picked up at a yard sale. That simple purchase led to a love for the sport and eventually to the position of Elkers golf coach.
“I used to go up to the football field before it was redone and figured out how to hit the ball. I would save $12 so I could go play nine and rent a pull cart. I think back to those clubs and how they helped me become a golf lifer,” said Herzing. His 2019 team won the District 9 Class AA golf championship. It would be the first of his two championship medals this school year. He picked up the second as an assistant for Anthony Allegretto’s basketball team which repeated as district 2-A champs. As a Ridgway student in the early 2000’s Herzing competed in golf, basketball, and baseball. While he said he was an average player he credits his former coaches for teaching not only sports but life lessons. “I was pretty lucky to grow up with the coaches I had. I had coach Zawatski for basketball, coach Gerber for golf, and Joe LaBenne, Jeff Stenta, Ryan LaBenne, Jerry Stenta, Shane Williamson, and coach Allegretto for baseball. I think about them a lot now that I’m coaching. They brought energy, positivity, and accountability which made us better players. I try to do the same,” he said. After high school, Herzing earned a degree in media and graphic arts from Edinboro. He became an assistant coach after graduating. He eventually became the head golf coach and his 2013 team captured Ridgway’s first-ever district title. Not only did they win but the team of seniors Jake Klawuhn and Mitchell Gilmore and juniors T.J. Schlimm and Josh Roselli finished 39 strokes ahead of second-place Elk County Catholic. Sophomore Mitchell Stark while not counted in the team score advanced to the second round of the individual tourney as well. Herzing’s 2013 team began a run of four straight district titles. It also began a run of seniors passing the love of the sport onto the underclassmen. “I take it pretty serious to pass it on. I can take someone that has an interest and show them I have that same interest. I can pass on the love of the game, the joy of the game and the excitement of the journey. Each year we’ve had seniors that have passed that on. Mitchell Gilmore and Jake Klawuhn passed it Josh Roselli and T.J. Schlimm. They passed it to Mitchell Stark and Corey Oknefski who passed it to Ben Ames and Nick Simon. They passed it to Zack Zameroski and Greg Simon, and now those two are passing it on to Eric Christoff and Collin Porter. It’s all part of the journey. The championships were all super satisfying and I’m proud of everyone that has been a part of them,” he said. As for basketball Herzing, a big fan of former NBA coach Phil Jackson his championship-winning Chicago Bulls, didn’t hesitate when coach Allegretto asked him to join the staff 10 years ago. He’s been directing the JV team while assisting the head coach and feels it’s an honor to be part of the Ridgway basketball program. “Coach Allegretto is a phenomenal basketball coach. During the many years he’s coached he’s not only teaching basketball he’s teaching kids how to work hard. He’s teaching how to be dedicated and that hard work and working together brings great results. We have the same goals of winning the three championships we compete for each season (Holiday Tournament, AML, Districts). After districts, our goal is to win a state championship. That may sound unrealistic but that’s one of the lessons – to keep striving for something great. Trying and learning to be great leads to great things. I’m happy for him and I’m happy for the kids it’s special every time we win,” Herzing said. Unfortunately, schools and spring sports have been closed for the remainder of the school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Herzing spoke about the shutdowns, and the hardships everyone is facing.
“It’s very unfortunate. It seems like a year ago when we played our last basketball game in Clarion (loss to Farrell in the second round of the state playoffs March 11). It just seems to get worse and worse every day for people. I feel so badly for those being impacted financially, mentally, or physically. I feel like the class of 2020 got robbed. There are bigger problems but at the same time, nothing can replace the high school experience. Hopefully, some kind of graduation ceremony or prom can be held even later in the summer. The only way we can get out of this is having hope. If you don’t have hope it gets harder each day to wake up. You just have to be hopeful that something good can happen,” he said. Herzing loves sports because it brings people together. The fact there are no current live sports leaves a void for many. While he has had to resort to watching Master’s and other sports replays and doing his best to exercise the coach knows that things like sports have to be given up for the greater good. “Everyone is facing fears and there’s nothing we can do other than try to make the best out of every situation. We need to understand that we’re fortunate to be alive and that maybe tomorrow will be better. People are dying and they have no chance at a tomorrow. Realizing that and helping where we can I think it helps us better cope with the situation.” Herzing is not the only coach in the house. His wife Frankie is the coach of the Elk County Catholic cheerleading and spirit squads. Due to the pandemic, she will not get a chance to run a fifth straight Pittsburgh Marathon. “She hates when Ridgway and Elk County Catholic play. Obviously, they’re one of the best teams around and so are we. She went to school there, her mother teaches there, she worked there and I went to school here. When the games are over we don’t take it home,” he said with a chuckle.
Hopefully, we get to see Herzing and the Elkers golf team back in action in August. As the coach said – “we have to have hope.”