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Carlson captain Zack Underwood, a Downriver League champion and a state-ranked wrestler, keeps an eye on his teammates. Photo by Frank Wladyslawski


WRESTLING: Carlson's Underwood takes captain's duties seriously (PHOTO/TOUT VIDEO)

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When a Carlson wrestler doesn’t show up for practice, team captain Zachary Underwood wants to know why.

If it looks a fellow Marauder won’t be in the wrestling room, the senior will pick up his phone and give him a call.

It’s just a part of the leadership shown by Underwood, Carlson’s standout grappler who holds a 39-3 record this year and is ranked No. 8 in the state in Division 2 at 215 pounds.

“I try and be the voice of the team and push everybody to be better at practice,” he said. “I enjoy the bond that you develop with your teammates when you have to do things like push each other through a tough practice.”

And if the coaches aren’t ready to go right away at practice, Underwood has no problem getting things started on his own.

“If I'm busy doing something, Zack takes it to himself to start the warm-up routine, said Carlson Coach Lance Hassell. “He leads by example on and off the mat. He is always motivating and pushing others to work harder. It has affected our team greatly and it shows by our team's success the past two seasons.”

This year, the Marauders finished with a 4-3 Downriver League record, were 19-5 overall and won three team tournaments and had 10 wrestlers place fourth or better at last Saturday’s DRL Meet.

Topping the list of successful Marauders at the league meet was Underwood, who repeated from last year as an individual champion in the 215-pound weight class.

Aside for the league title last season, the 2012-13 All-News-Herald selection qualified for the state finals and along the way earned a 39-13 record and a team-high 21 pins.

In 2014, he surpassed the 100-win mark for his career and has claimed big victories against state-ranked opponents in Huron’s Deion Copley and Flint Carman-Ainsworth’s Jerron Thomas.

One thing that plays a key role in Underwood’s success is his combination of size and quickness, Hassell said.

“Zack is 215 pounds, but faster and more explosive than many 140-pound wrestlers,” his coach said. “You don't get that type of athleticism in the room every day.”

Hassell also said Underwood is an intelligent wrestler and a quick learner.

“Zack is a very smart young man,” he said. “He knows when to try certain moves and how to set them up.

“It usually takes hours and repetitions of drilling to be able to execute certain moves properly, whereas with Zack, I'll explain something to him and he says, ‘oh, that makes sense’ and executes it perfectly. He just gets it.”

For Underwood, it’s those same attributes that made him a standout on the school’s football team, as well.

In his third year as a varsity starter, the 2013 All-News-Herald selection and team captain was a force for Coach Kent Sikora’s squad as both an offensive lineman and a defensive end.

Before the season ended, he recorded 79 tackles and five sacks and on the other side of the ball helped to protect his quarterbacks long enough that receiver Alex Rahming set a school record for receptions.

This winter, Underwood is surrounded by a tight-knit group of Carlson wrestlers that includes his brother Max Underwood, as well as tough grapplers like Jerry Lakos, Mason Brott, Andy Mydloski and Doug Bunea.

The group has formed such a strong bond, he said, that many of the best times together have actually come away from the mats.

“Some of my favorite moments are the (Buffalo Wild Wings) trips we make after weigh-ins on Friday or just hanging out in the locker room or at the basketball games with the team after practice,” he said.

The squad will be focused on wrestling this week, however, as it will had into Division 2 team districts tomorrow at New Boston Huron, a day that will feature tough competition from the host Chiefs, as well as Trenton and Riverview.

Saturday will begin Underwood’s quest for a trip back to the state finals, as individual Division 2 districts take place in Milan

While Underwood lost early on last year in Auburn Hills, Hassell feels that in 2014 his captain is ready to grab the top spot.

“I'm very confident Zack can be a state champion this year,” Hassell said. “I have coached and worked with many state champions and Zack has shown me that he has everything he needs to win a state title.

“If he wrestles up to his potential and believes in himself, Zack will be on the top of the podium at the Palace of Auburn Hills in March.”

Last Updated: 2/4/2014 4:01:49 PM EST