Former Southern Wrestler Zach Wilhelm Wraps Up Sensational Career at Stevens

By DAVID BIGGY | Mar 14, 2018
Courtesy of: Loras Athletic Communications

Earlier in the winter season, former Southern Regional standout wrestler Zach Wilhelm added to his legacy at Stevens Institute of Technology by breaking the career wins mark previously held by Rob Murray. But with three months still left to his collegiate career, Wilhelm had the chance to continue cementing his place in Ducks history.

On March 10, Wilhelm concluded his illustrious career at the NCAA Division III Championships in Cleveland, not only as the Ducks’ wins leader but also as a two-time All-American. After placing seventh last year, Wilhelm this time reached the third-place contest before dropping a 4-0 decision to Coe College’s Cole Erickson to finish fourth in the nation at 157 pounds.

“It definitely was a weird feeling at the end of that match,” Wilhelm said. “I was listening to the ref count down from 10 seconds, and it was just weird. As I left the mat it hit me all at once. I didn’t really know how to handle it for a couple hours. But I can’t be happier with how I finished up and how my career turned out.”

As the third-seeded wrestler in the bracket, Wilhelm scored a 6-2 victory over Gavin Nelson of Ohio Northern in the first round, before adding a 9-4 decision against NYU’s Raymond Jazikoff in the quarterfinals. Wilhelm then lost a 7-4 decision to second-seeded Logan Thomsen of Wartburg.

In the wrestleback semifinals, Wilhelm pinned fourth-seeded Mark Choinski of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 2:42 to gain a spot in the third-place bout. The loss to the fifth-seeded Erickson ended Wilhelm’s season at 46-4. It was his third straight national tournament.

“Sometimes things don’t work out as you planned them,” Wilhelm said. “At that level, the little things make a difference. Everyone’s working as hard as you at that level, and on any given day anybody can win. But you’re talking the pinnacle of Division III wrestling at that point, and to be among the upper echelon at the end is a great place to be.”

Two weeks prior to the national tourney, Wilhelm won the Midwest Regional title at 157 with a 12-3 major decision over Rochester Institute of Technology’s Kaidon Winters, after knocking off Merchant Marine Academy’s Kieran Duggan with an 18-3, technical-fall victory in the semifinals.

Wilhelm went 28-15 as a freshman, 41-14 as a sophomore and 48-9 as a junior to finish 163-42 for his career. The 163 career wins also is a Centennial Conference mark. His 48 victories last season is a single-season record at Stevens as well. Several weeks ago, Wilhelm was named the Centennial Conference Wrestler of the Year after being voted the conference championship tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler.

“I probably can talk for hours about the past four years,” he said. “Coming out of high school, I didn’t think I was going to be great, but I knew I would be a competitive wrestler at the college level. But as a freshman, I quickly learned I wasn’t at the level of other wrestlers. There were physically stronger, overall better wrestlers, and I realized that if I wanted to be really good in college I’d have to put in more time and work.

“But I was surrounded by like-minded coaches and teammates, so I knew it would be possible. After I made the national tournament as a sophomore, I wanted more, and then I became an All-American last year. But I remember thinking I could still go higher, and I did. If you had told me I’d have 160-plus wins after my freshman year, I wouldn’t have believed it.”

Head coach Joe Favia had nothing but positive things to say about Wilhelm after he broke the career-wins mark back in December.

“He positively represents our program in every aspect of his life,” Favia said. “What people don’t realize is that Zach didn’t come to Stevens with the goal of being the Stevens wins leader. His goal is to be the best wrestler in the country and this record is just a testament that, for the past three and a half years, he has been living the right lifestyle to achieve his goal.”

Now that his wrestling career is over, Wilhelm is thinking a lot more about his future once he graduates in May.

“With what I’ve accomplished on the mat, it’s a real possibility that I maybe take on a role as a graduate assistant somewhere,” he said. “But the main focus is to start searching for a full-time position with the degree I’ll have. I might try to get into cellular processing and engineering, or making prosthetics.

“If I can help design things to better the health of people suffering from disease or injury, that would be really cool. But I’d also like to give back to the sport, if I can, and hopefully an opportunity will come up.”

(Courtesy of: Loras Athletic Communications)
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