116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Zach Axmear hadn't considered wrestling until fifth grade.
That is when his gym teacher asked if he was a wrestler. She noted he had the build for the sport and encouraged him to try it. Neither could have imagined the special career to follow at English Valleys.
'It's funny the impact a teacher has on you,' Axmear said. 'Maybe if she doesn't say anything I don't go out for wrestling and do the things I've done.'
Axmear has become one of the most successful wrestlers in Bears history. With three state medals under his belt, Class 1A's top-ranked 152-pounder and returning state runner-up is attempting to close his prep career with a state title. He will try to capture his fourth South Iowa Cedar League crown Saturday at North Mahaska.
Axmear, who has signed to wrestle for the University of Iowa, didn't experience immediate success. The second year wins were more common. He said the sport fit his personality well and developed into a serious passion in junior high. He joined the Eastern Iowa Wrestling Club and was inspired by Hawkeye associate head coach Terry Brands.
'I really liked wrestling,' Axmear said. 'I wanted to be the best. I'm still working to be the best.'
Axmear's work ethic has been a key factor in becoming the school's all-time wins leader. He has reached the state semifinals every season, placing fifth and third his first two seasons.
English Valleys Coach Steve Hester has coached football and wrestling for more than three decades. He praised Axmear's effort.
'He's the hardest worker I've encountered,' Hester said. 'That's impressive to me.'
Hard work is a necessity. He has set the bar high and pushing himself is the only way to reach it.
'I think high goals make me work hard,' Axmear said. 'I don't want to be average.'
Axmear excels off the mat as well. According to Hester, Axmear is second in his class and owns a 3.97 grade-point average. He does some volunteering for a local church. Hester also has seen Axmear make strides in leadership this season.
'He's a tremendous student,' Hester said. 'He's a well-rounded kid. He's a good young man.'
Nothing about Axmear's career has been average. He is 27-0 this season, owning a 181-8 career record. He can become English Valleys' first four-time state medalist if he reaches the podium at Wells Fargo Arena in February. The only thing left to add to his resume is that elusive state championship.
'He's doing a very good job of preparing for his ultimate goal,' Hester said. 'He wants to be at the top of the podium.'
The sting of last year's finals loss has pushed him. He wrestled more freestyle in the offseason, focusing on improving daily. Every aspect of his life has to support a championship lifestyle.
'I realized how much it would hurt if I didn't win the state title,' said Axmear, who was on pace to set the state wins mark until he was sidelined by injury. 'I had to ask if my life would be complete if I didn't win this title.'
Axmear isn't consumed with being the Bears' second state champion, joining Dick Morrison, who won the 1A heavyweight title in 1984. He is focused on all the small steps that lead to the top step in Des Moines.
'Right now, it's about tomorrow and the next day,' Axmear said. 'Then, it's competing the best I can Saturday, the next Saturday and until the end.'
l Comments: (319) 368-8679; firstname.lastname@example.org