Camdenton senior wrestler Zion Vasquez is not ready to hang up his headgear.
After turning in a successful senior season where he had the privilege to represent the Lakers at the state tournament in Columbia, Vasquez signed with Division III wrestling powerhouse Wartburg College on Thursday amongst coaches, family teammates and friends.
The school, located in Waverly, Ia., and about a seven-hour drive from Camdenton, has won six of the past seven national championships and the Knights just recently made Division III history by winning their record-breaking 13th national championship this past season going 20-0. Vasquez, who has attended Wartburg wrestling camps in the past, is eager to make his own contribution to the program and will not take the opportunity for granted.
“I’m really excited to get the opportunity to go there. They are a really good program so I am really grateful for it,” Vasquez said. “It just really felt like home there and I felt like that is where I needed to be. The coaches are really good and they’ve been national champions six out of seven years so they obviously got something going.”
Camdenton coach Joe Herman said he heard from several colleges inquiring about Vasquez and the coach said the senior made a solid choice.
“I’m glad that he settled on Wartburg. They are national champions, they’re a great school and it is where his mom graduated from,” Herman pointed out. “He knows the coach and the coach knows him. He has a bright future with it and I’m just excited to see him continue on.”
However, the road to becoming a collegiate wrestler was no small task as Vasques was a frequent presence in the wrestling room and his advice for returning and future wrestlers is that a little hard work can really go a long way.
“It has taken hard work and just basically being in the practice room all the time,” the senior remarked. “Practing all summer, being in the room and working out… When you work hard and put all your time in, it pays off in the long run and gets you where you want to go.”
Herman would be the first to vouch for the senior’s work ethic noting that he was one of the few wrestlers who was constantly working in the offseason and attending offseason tournaments including national tournaments in Iowa. Vasquez also attended wrestling camps in Columbia put on by the Purler Wrestling Academy, which has helped numerous Missouri and Illinois wrestlers win state and national titles.
“He was always looking to get better,” Herman said of Vasquez. “He got some of our other guys involved in that wrestling camp and now we have or own crew of guys that go to that camp on a weekly basis. That is what it is going to take to improve, doing stuff on your own time. He was a big leader and a big spokesman for that and it is helping us out as a program.”
Indeed, the leadership qualities Vasquez displayed may be one of the things Herman will miss most about his former grappler.
“There were times where we might be running behind as coaches and he would already have the guys running, stretching and warming up. He was a pretty vocal leader for us the last several years and it is going to be hard to replace him, but hopefully he did his job as a leader and those guys are going to step up and fill his shoes,” Herman noted.
As Vasquez joins his new team, Herman is hoping the senior will carry on those qualities that made him a good teammate at Camdenton and the coach is also eager to see what he will bring back to teach the younger Laker wrestlers on the mat.
“The thing about when you go off to a college sport is that everyone is as good as you are in the room. It is not necessarily what he brings as an individual, but what he can bring as a teammate, being there for your teammates and what you can learn from them,” Herman pointed out. “You build that team family and that is a big part of it.
“Iowa is a wrestling mecca and it always will be so it will be a big change of pace for him, but he is going to learn a lot and he is going to bring a lot back whenever he comes in to work out with us. That is what I am really excited for,” the coach added.
Vasquez’s time as a Laker may be coming to an end, but Herman will not forget what the senior has done for the program and if the coach were to tell future wrestlers about him, it would be a story of perseverance.
“As an individual he was a fun kid to coach. We had our ups and downs, but you have that with every kid you coach were you don’t always see eye-to-eye,” Herman remarked. “But he came through in the end and he got what he deserved. He punched his ticket to state, got that experience and now he is going off to the next level and that is what is important.”
Vasquez intends to major in biology and will go on to study physical therapy.