Sibling rivalry — you can use it for good or it could tear you apart. Winters High School graduate (2016) Zach Linton definitely learned how to harness it for his benefit. In his sophomore season at Doane University, Linton not only used his older brother Cody as his mark, he also has him as one of his wrestling coaches. So if the fuel of sibling rivalry wasn’t enough, Cody was right there on the mat to make sure that fire remained lit in his little brother’s heart.
Zach entered his second year after qualifying for the nationals the year before but said that alone was not good enough.
“That was an accomplishment,” Zach stated. “But for Cody and I, it wasn’t near enough. It was basically nothing. I wasn’t ranked; my name wasn’t known and Cody had taken fourth his sophomore year so I know I had to beat that at the very least.” (That is where it started). “Those are the small competitions that keep me going. The fact that I wanted to beat my brother so much that I would go through insane amounts of training just so I could say I’m better.”
That attitude is what took Zach right to the top of the Great Plains Athletic Conference and the NAIA. After losing a couple of tough matches early on to a couple of NCAA D11 wrestlers Linton went on a hot streak. He won the Doane Open Tournament in December going 5-0.
“That was a huge confidence boost and from then on I was on a mission,” Linton explained. “The more matches I won the more I felt like I could beat anyone in the nation.”
In the regionals, Linton dominated his opponents’ going 3-0, earning his team 21 points and was named the Great Plains Athletic Conference wrestler of the year.
“The title didn’t mean much for me then,” Linton said. “But looking back on it my confidence was at an all time high going into the national tournament with the help of that accomplishment.”
At the national tournament, Linton continued to dominate his opponents. Linton pinned his first competitor in the second round.
“I felt great that match but an hour later I felt some fatigue coming on,” Linton stated. “I managed to get through my second match winning by decision. I finished the first morning session and went back to the hotel to nap and get some nutrition in me for my quarterfinal match.
“For people who don’t know wrestling, it’s hard to explain the science in this sport but there is a lot and this is another huge aspect that my brother brings to me as a coach. Whether it’s getting enough REM sleep, getting every vitamin and mineral in the world in my body, staying hydrated, keeping my mind strong and confident, keeping my muscles from crashing and doing all this while staying at 184 pounds when I walk around at about 200-210.”
The next match, Linton won the quarterfinals 17-7 guarantying him All American Honors and advanced him into the semifinals.
“The next morning, I was extremely nervous,” Linton said. “One win and I would be in the finals, but it was the number one guy in the nation, undefeated so far this year.”
After reassurance from his coaches Linton stepped on the mat in the semifinals and 22 seconds later he had the number one ranked wrestler pinned on his back.
“The ref slapped the mat and I shot up to celebrate with my coaches,” Linton stated. “This was the greatest moment in my career so far.”
Linton ended up losing in the championship round but refused to let it get him down, and when asked about his future and this past season he said, “I wanted to win and still wish I did a couple things differently. But I’m grateful for the learning opportunity because the journey is nowhere near over. Cody’s a one time national champ and I must be a two-timer.
“Along with the possibility of giving the Olympics a try, I ended the season 33-3 only one NAIA loss on the season and broke the school record for most wins in a season. Without Cody, I don’t know if I would’ve even placed this year.”