It came by the narrowest of margins, but Leo Higgins couldn't care less.
The Palmyra senior earned a trip to the PIAA State Tournament on Friday night by working his way into the third-place match at 182 pounds in the District 3 Class 3A wrestling tournament at Giant Center. The top four finishers earn a berth in the state tournament, which is March 9-11 back at Giant Center.
"This was my third time to districts and I hadn't placed yet," Higgins said. "I always wanted a state gold medal, but you have to get there first, and now I have my shot."
The evening didn't start out all that well. In the semifinals, Higgins was paired with Governor Mifflin's Ben Maack and Maack was able to take Higgins down four times to secure an 8-4 win.
That dropped Higgins into the consolation semifinals against Connor Brinton of Conestoga Valley. Higgins was coming off a loss and Brinton was coming off a win, but his motivation was still very much alive.
Higgins scored first, with a takedown in the first period. He nearly rode Brinton out for the entire second period, but gave up an escape with 0:05 left. Brinton escaped again in the third to tie the bout 2-2 with 51 seconds left.
With 39 seconds remaining, both wrestlers shot and banged heads, but Higgins was able to shoot lower and clamp Brinton's legs for a takedown and a 4-2 lead.
"I knew when I was taking shots I could get in on him," Higgins said. "But he was playing the edge, so I had to get him in the middle of the mat. We've been practicing hard from neutral because that's where you win, and it helped tonight."
Higgins wasn't quite finished yet, however. Brinton escaped with 28 seconds to draw within a point at 4-3, but Higgins held him off the rest of way for a satisfying victory.
In Saturday morning's round, which begins at 9:45, Higgins (25-4) will take on Cedar Cliff's Emorson Wentz (30-5) for third place.