After Anderson University in South Caroline terminated its wrestling program, fifth-year senior Zak Hale gave up his full-ride scholarship because he was not ready to give up wrestling.
Anderson University even offered to honor Hale’s scholarship despite eliminating the team, but he respectfully declined and transferred to Castleton University, already familiar with the school and the first-year program’s coaching staff.
Growing up in Shaftsbury, Vermont and previously wrestling for coach Scott Legacy in high school at Mount Anthony Union, Hale was excited to continue his wrestling career at Castleton.
With a successful 35-4 record in the inaugural season, Hale made history by being the first wrestler from Castleton University and compete in nationals.
“I put the program on the map and honestly it’s a great feeling,” said Hale.
Qualifying for nationals is not something new for Hale, as he was a three-time Division II qualifier at Anderson University.
The now four-time qualifier described his qualifying match as something he’ll always remember.
“Going into the semi-finals, I have already beaten him twice, but he was good and he could adapt very well. I knew I had to wrestle my best,” said Hale.
A match that was 13 seconds away from heading into overtime, never made it that far as Hale landed a reversal, which gave him two points, got him the win and most importantly, sent him to nationals.
Hale credits himself for being personally motivated and a committed wrestler, but he credits his coaching staff far more.
“The coaching staff is great. They have a lot of experience coaching other guys through tough situations and they know a lot about the sport,” said Hale.
Legacy believes that Hale deserves the credit and he is not only a good wrestler, but an outstanding leader.
“Zak is a very driven athlete. He was in high school, and he still is now. He only knows one way and that’s working hard,” Legacy said. “He was not just a wrestling captain, but he was like an assistant coach. He would push kids and he would help his teammates inside and outside of the classroom. He brought all his experience and wisdom.”
For teammate Jakob Trautwein, there’s only one word that comes to mind when he thinks of his teammate Zak, savage.
“He’s a savage and he works his tail off harder than anyone else. He was a very inspirational leader. He was a captain and earned the respect of the team,” Trautwein said.
When asked if he was ready for the Division III National Tournament, which will take place March 10-11 in La Crosse, Wisconsin, Hale simply laughed.
“I’ve been prepared since October. My goal is to win nationals. That has been my goal. I’m in the best shape of my life and it’s the last competition of my life,” he said. “I’m ready to retire, but I’ve got one more thing to finish before I do that.”