By Andrew Johnson

HESPERIA – For most high school wrestlers, a third-place finish in the individual state finals would be something to be very proud of.

But for Hesperia’s Zach Young, it’s just been a motivational tool.

Young was not happy about finishing third in the Division 4 finals last season, after losing to Carson City Crystal’s Braxton Seida 4-1 in the semifinal round of the 140-pound weight class.

The loss bothered him in the offseason, and he was reminded of it two weeks ago at regionals, when he saw Seida competing.

Hesperia’s Zach Young closes in on a pin during a match this season.

“It broke me,” Young said about the semifinal loss. “But it pushed me to go harder so nobody could really stop me this year.”

Young’s extra efforts have paid big dividends this season.

He has a perfect 47-0 record, and added a nice feature to his resume by winning the championship in the 160-pound weight class in the Division 4 individual regional tournament on Feb. 17 at Carson City Crystal High School.

He posted a perfect 3-0 record in regionals, and finished his great day with an 11-4 victory over Maple Valley’s Franklin Ulrich in the championship match.

On Friday and Saturday, Young will try to cap off his remarkable high school career by taking the next step and winning a state championship at the Division 4 state finals at Ford Field in Detroit.

He won’t get the chance to gain revenge against Seida, who is competing in a lower weight class, but that won’t matter.

Last year his teammate Garret Yates won the state title at 152 pounds, and Young would love to bring a second straight championship back to his school, no matter who he has to beat to do it.

Young has an opponent off balance and in trouble during a recent match.

“It’s like an 11 out of 10 for me,” Young said about his excitement level going into the state finals. “I’ve been looking forward to this my whole wrestling career, to finally be good enough to be in the (state title match).”

Preparation has been key for Young this season, and he’s had plenty of it.

While he’s had some stiff challenges from wrestlers from other schools, some of his biggest challenges have come during practices, from his own teammates.

Hesperia has six wrestlers who qualified for Saturday’s state finals, including Yates (152) and Trentyn Gleason (145), who Young often wrestles in practice. The other Panthers who will compete on Saturday are Mack Baird (119), Korbin Klaus (125), and Jeremiah Hasty (160).

“We’re really strong right in the middle,” said Hesperia coach Doug Baird. “Those guys are his partners in practice, and I think it gives him a dynamic of always having someone he wants to train with. Zach doesn’t take his foot off the gas much, and trains hard with them.”

Young said he loves being pushed to improve on a daily basis by his teammates.

“I feel like it’s actually a big advantage,” he said. “They’re probably the best matches I’ll get. I’m glad I’m going down (to the state finals) with them, because I’d rather go with them than alone.

“They’re people I’ve known all my life, and it’s kind of nice to have them come along and try to achieve the same thing.”

While Young is set to close the book on his high school career, the state finals won’t be the final chapter of his wrestling story.

“I’ll probably go to Muskegon Community College for two years and see what I can do,” he said. “I’m just waiting to see if any Division 1 or big colleges want to give me offers after state.”