KISSIMEE, Fla. — Perry standout wrestlers Zach Stewart and Zachary Thompson returned Friday from a seven-day, six-night stay at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, located in the heart of the expansive Disney theme parks.[wpedon id=”85410″ align=”left”]
The duo were part of the 14-man Team Iowa Black 7 one of two teams from the state competing in the AAU Scholastic National Duals. The multi-day event featured all-star wrestlers from around the country.
Coe College grads Jared Creason and Clayton Roush helped coach the team, which finished 10th overall in the 14-team Gold Bracket. A total of 14 teams competed in the Silver Bracket as well.
Thompson earned a medal for finishing 10-2 overall, with Stewart turning in a fine 8-4 record. The former competed at 126 pounds and Stewart at 138.
“It was a different atmosphere, and we were wrestling some guys that had a little bit of a different style,” Stewart said in a phone interview from Florida. “All the guys down here are good, you can’t take anything for granted.”
Stewart said he was grateful for the experience and noted the pressure of the competition was also a bit different.
“Of course you want to go out and wrestle your best and win every match, but I didn’t feel like it was real high-pressure,” he said. “There was a lot more pressure (at the Iowa State Tournament), so this was just ‘go out and do your best’ but more relaxed, I guess.”[wpedon id=”85410″ align=”left”]
Thompson agreed. Also speaking from Florida, he noted most summer tournaments are focused on individual improvement.
“It is more of a fun atmosphere, I guess you would say,” he explained. “Everyone here wrestled their best, but the feeling was different. It was a nice change.”
The pair spoke with ThePerryNews.com from their hotel Wednesday evening. Competition had finished that afternoon, and all the grapplers were looking forward to having a free day at their disposal Thursday.
The end of wrestling also meant no further weigh-ins, and the pair had already taken advantage of the situation.
“We have already had some ice cream,” Stewart laughed. “We will having fun eating tomorrow, I am sure.”
While it was mat prowess that sent the pair to the event, the week was not solely devoted to wrestling, and all the grapplers were given ample opportunity to do some sight-seeing and explore the many parks surrounding them.
“There were buses that would take you where ever you wanted to go, so we went all over the place,” Thompson said. “It was really up to each person what they wanted to do with their free time, and we saw as much as we could. It has been a great time.”
The duo capped spectacular prep careers in fine fashion this season.
Stewart (55-5) won the state championship at 138, becoming just the fifth Perry wrestler to finish atop the state tourney podium. He finished with a career mark of 124-36 and will continue his mat career at Wartburg College.
Thompson (44-7) was fourth at 120. He was sixth at 120 as both a junior and a sophomore and was sixth at 106 as a freshman, becoming the only wrestler in Perry history to earn a state placing in all four of his years. He departs as the all-time PHS win leader at 174-30 and will wrestle for Loras College.