Black River junior Zach Lahood has unfinished business. As good as he was last season — he went 32-12 — the year ended on a sour note when he came up short on two chances to make state, losing in the 106-pound semifinals and consolation semifinals at the Division III district tournament.
“It was successful, but we didn’t reach the final goal,” Lahood said of last year. “I worked on a lot of top and bottom, and finishing shots. We just got tougher on top. I wasn’t too good on top so we’d always kick him (go neutral). We tried getting tougher on top, that’s what we did this offseason.”
Lahood took a big step forward a year ago, improving by four wins from his 28-20 freshman season in which he qualified to districts as a No. 4 seed. Though he lost in the first round, he won two consolation matches before being eliminated in the third round.
Last year he finished second at the Independence sectional then knocked out a No. 1 seed — Mapleton’s Hunter Frederick — in the district quarterfinals by an 11-8 decision. On Day 2, however, he lost 12-2 in the semifinals to Tuslaw’s Jacob Kuhlins, who went on to place eighth at state.
Lahood lost 7-2 in his go-to match against Manchester’s Jake White, the same wrestler who beat him 7-4 in the sectional final. He then lost 4-0 to Mapleton’s Hunter Fredrick in the fifth-place match.
“I think he was kind of burnt out mentally,” Pirates coach Jesse Campbell said of the fifth-place loss. “He was beating himself up and wasn’t all there mentally for that match. But this year it’s definitely been a motivator. He’s really taken it to heart this offseason.
“The kid’s been doing it since pretty much since he could walk. I’ve known him for a long time, when I came back in 2013 he was in seventh grade. Knowing his family, him and the time he puts in the offseason. He just goes and challenges himself with better kids, challenging himself by wrestling the top kids in the state.”
Campbell said Lahood is working on pushing some of his narrow wins into major decisions with a big focus on top, an area in which the coach said Lahood struggled last year.
Lahood said he worked on a lot of tilts and arm bars. Campbell added that the ability to ride out opponents with a strong top game will pay dividends come tournament time.
“When you get to the postseason, you get in some tough matches where you may be up by one with 45 seconds left,” Campbell said. “You ride him out, you win. That’s really where those things will come in handy.”
Campbell said Lahood will likely move up to 113 or 120 this season, but he is certified at 106 to keep that option open, too.
Either way, the end goal remains the same.
“It’d mean a lot,” Lahood said of making state. “That’s the overall goal and I’ve got a lot of tough matches coming up so we’ll see if the offseason paid off.”
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