Hampton’s Zach Wright celebrates 100-win milestone

Thursday, February 6, 2020 | 7:23 PM

Zach Wright was certain he would win his 100th match Jan. 25 at the Buckeye Local Panther Classic in Medina, Ohio.

“I knew I was going to get it,” he said. “My mom was exited about it and telling me all week and I said, ‘Don’t jinx it.’ ”

Sure enough, the Hampton senior notched a technical fall against Jehlani Alston of Obama Academy, and the celebration was on.

“It was a big milestone for me,” said Wright, who improved to 21-5 on the season. “One of my goals I wrote down in ninth grade was to get 100 wins, and it’ll be nice to get my name on the wall. It’s tough to get 100 wins in Pennsylvania.”

Wright has wrestled at 126 pounds the past three years, which has worked for and against him. While he’s stronger and more experienced, the lower weight classes continue to remain among the most competitive. It’s a reason why one of his other big goals — making the PIAA tournament — has remained elusive.

“It’s great to kind of start the last part of his high school career as we get started on the individual side,” said Chris Hart, who saw his team bow out of the WPIAL tournament in the first round to Chartiers Valley. “We’re really hoping for some big things and seeing his growth — not just on the mat but off the mat — has been awesome. He’s in a tough weight class. There’s some really talented kids there.”

Wright’s hard work has been his most reliable asset since he started wrestling in fifth grade. While that’s a late start compared to many, he credits his coaches at Hampton and Jody Strittmatter at Young Guns Wrestling Club with teaching him about work ethic on and off the mat.

“I wasn’t the greatest,” Wright said of his early days. “Once I got to seventh grade, I started going to clubs and things picked up. In ninth grade is when I really realized I can do big things in the sport, get my name out there and go to college for it.”

After initially leaning toward a commitment to San Francisco State — Wright’s mother lives in San Luis Obispo, and his brother attends college at UCLA — Wright is looking at other schools such as Ashland, Clarion, Seton Hill, Pitt-Johnstown and Gannon.

“Something in my mind told me I should keep my options open until after the season or until it feels right,” he said. “I like San Francisco and love the coaches and the team, but it didn’t feel 100% in my mind or heart.”

Personally, his coach wouldn’t mind him staying close.

“Selfishly I hope he sticks close to here,” Hart said. “Because I’ll be able to see him wrestle if he’s close to home.”

One of Wright’s biggest tests came early in his career. As a freshman, he came into the section tournament 24-6 and was virtually a lock for WPIALs, but he stepped on the scale one-tenth of a pound overweight. That’s how his season ended.

“That was pretty heartbreaking,” he said. “But after the season, I was like, “All right, I better work my butt off to make my goals happen.’ That pushed me to work harder a little bit.”

Hart saw Wright learn from his mistake and turn it into positivity.

“We always say in the room you can’t fight the scale. You’ve got to worry about your opponent,” Hart said. “So when it comes to cutting weight, it’s got to be the right way. I think the last three years, Zach has used it as motivation. He’s wiser and smarter now.”


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