That’s Zach with an H.
And don’t forget it.
At least that is the hope of Corona del Sol junior and Ahwatukee Foothills resident Zach Walton each time he steps on the wrestling mat.
“In this sport you better be a jerk when you are out there or you are not going to win,” he said. “You don’t want to seem like a sociopath, but you do want to impose your will on a guy. You want him to walk away remembering your name and never wanting to wrestle you again.
“That’s how I approach every match.”
The level of nastiness can often be a separator between two quality opponents. There are moments in a match — fighting through a hard crossface or cranking on someone’s head until they turnover unless a potentially dangerous call is made — that calls for no remorse.
Walton learned early on that that extra attribute is needed to beat the best.
Before making the Corona del Sol lineup as a sophomore last year, Walton spent a lot of time working with Desert Vista three-time state champion Robbie Mathers.
In those sessions Mathers, who’s spending this year at the Olympic Training Center before enrolling at Utah Valley State, usually manhandled Walton.
After countless of hours of being physically beaten, mentally tested and technically bettered, Walton finally had enough.
“He was a hammer and he’d whip you so bad without thinking about it,” Walton said. “One day it clicked in my head, and I said I was going to take this kid down. I got in a good stance, stood my ground and took him down, and we went into a full on fight. That’s how intense that kid is. My face was battered every day. That kid is relentless.”
As much as Walton learned from their tangles as younger kids, it didn’t seem to help when Mathers and Walton met in the Division I 132-pound state finals. The result went down as a 22-8 win for Mathers. It was clearly a mismatch, but it was not all for not for Walton.
“It was embarrassing and put a fire in my belly,” said Walton, who had one loss heading into Corona’s trip to Minnesota for The Clash, which gets under way Friday. “I was really motivated and made some gains in the weight room. I really went to work. It was something I had to overcome.”
Corona coach Jim Martinez has seen a difference in his 145-pounder after watching Walton win the Moon Valley Invitational on Saturday.
“He is wrestling with more strength and he still has the quickness,” Martinez said. “When he is in the right frame of mind he is going after people and not being hesitant.”
Walton has found a new drilling partner in Ethan Tursini (160 pounder) after former Aztec Daniel Cartagena moved to Texas.
“I’m a guy who needs partners,” Walton said. “Daniel used to give me tail-whippings. Ethan has taken me over the hump.”
Walton has been on a path toward a state title since his father, Keith, got him started as a fourth-grader. The first couple of years the younger Walton only wrestled freestyle, but he eventually jumped into folkstyle and has become a very technically sound wrestler following the footsteps of his father, who wrestled at Oklahoma and coached at Brophy for some time.
“If you watch me wrestle I am like every other kid, but it is the little technical things where I can hear his voice,” the younger Walton said. “We’ve been working on technique for a long time.”
Combine it with the relentlessness learned from Mathers and Walton just might find himself exactly where he wants to be in February.
“Robbie is where I want to be,” Walton said. “He won state titles and he trains at the Olympic Training Center. He never stops working and I’ve seen (that approach) work and I’m going to do the same.”
• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.