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Wild week for standout PHS athlete

On Friday afternoon, Powell High School senior Zach Thompson stood amongst his Powell Panther teammates as they celebrated their third consecutive state football title.

It’s a testament to Thompson’s talent that Friday night might have been only the second-most important moment of his week.

Two days earlier, he was sitting in the PHS library signing a letter of intent to wrestle for Chadron State College.

“It’s been the best week in a real long time,” Thompson said. “I’ve accomplished something that took almost my whole life to build up to.”

Thompson started at defensive end for the Panthers football team and had a personal-best and game-high three and a half sacks in Powell’s 19-13 overtime win over Douglas in the championship game.

“It just feels great for me to end my season with my best game,” Thompson said.

Thompson has played football since he was 9 years old, but said he relishes the challenge of one-on-one competition that wrestling offers.

“You have a team behind you, but you can’t blame anything on anyone but yourself,” he said. “When it all comes down to it, it’s you all by yourself.”

Though he began to wrestle in seventh grade, Thompson said he didn’t get good until he made varsity his sophomore year.

It was at that point he thought, “I can see myself doing it in college.”

Thompson said he was contacted by Chadron State wrestling coach Brett Hunter in the late summer and scheduled a visit to the campus soon after.

“All the students were very respective towards each other, and the atmosphere is good,” Thompson said of Chadron State.

Thompson, who has wrestled at 195 pounds since his sophomore year, said his goal is to wrestle at 184 in college but could go up to 197 if needed.

Thompson said his wrestling coaches at PHS helped him reach this point by “not letting me take it easy, (they) always push me to my full potential.”

His parents have been behind him as his wrestling career developed into a college scholarship.

“They’ve been very supportive through the whole process,” Thompson said. “They’ve let me make my own decisions.”

One more high school wrestling season remains for Thompson, who plans to make the most of it.

“Right now, my goal is to repeat my championship in wrestling,” said Thompson, who won the 195-pound state title as a junior in a match that clinched the team title for Powell as well.

After the school season ends, Thompson said he plans to enter offseason tournaments as part of a tough training regimen.

“When fall comes around next year hopefully I’ll be ready to enter that higher degree of athletics,” he said.

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