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MLHS alum Maximus Zamora earns All-American honors at NAIA tournament

by IAN BIVONA
Sports Reporter | April 8, 2024 1:30 AM

MOSES LAKE — The success of Moses Lake's storied wrestling program stretches beyond the high school ranks. 

Maximus Zamora, a 2021 graduate of Moses Lake High School, recently proved that at last month’s National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics National Championships after battling through injuries throughout the season.

“For preparation for the national tournament, I decided to not really care about what was going on physically,” Zamora said. “It was more like, it doesn’t matter — this is the last go, there’s only seven minutes. I just took it one match at a time and did whatever I could for that seven minutes.”

Zamora — a junior wrestling at 174 pounds for Menlo College and a No. 13 seed in the tournament — opened up with an 8-2 decision over Cumberland’s Anthony Pyron and a 4-2 decision over No. 4 Montana State-Northern’s NaKoda Siegel to reach the 174-pound quarterfinals.

“I was really confident in my ability to take them down; I felt really good this whole tournament on my takedowns, even though I did end up getting hurt at the tournament, I was still able to score pretty efficiently,” Zamora said.

After losing to No. 5 Alex Reynolds of Grand View, Zamora defeated Daniil Gorchkov of Embry-Riddle in the consolation bracket before suffering a loss to No. 3 Abel Nava of Providence. In the seventh/eighth place match, Zamora took on No. 9 Alex Hernandez of Southern Oregon.

Adding to the challenge, Zamora sprained his MCL early in the tournament.

“I actually sprained my MCL my very first match on my other leg that was hurt,” he said. “I was really beat up, and then I also sprained my wrist. I got beat up that trip — had a black eye.”

With injuries stacked against him, Zamora battled to a seventh-place finish at the NAIA National Championships, defeating Hernandez in an 11-10 decision and earning All-American honors. Even with that, Zamora said he’s still looking for more.

“I did feel like I could have done better, and in the end I’m not truly satisfied and I do still have eligibility, so I’m still going to be competing,” Zamora said. “It feels good, and I understand the importance of the accomplishment, but I’m still hungry for the next achievement.”

After his two previous seasons wrestling for Menlo, including an appearance at last year’s national tournament, Zamora’s confidence was high entering the 2023-24 season.

“This year I felt pretty confident,” Zamora said. “The previous two years, I’ve always done good and competed with kids that were top in the country but I never really was able to beat them. I’d have one-point matches, but wouldn’t win the matches. This year, all that experience from the last few years helped me figure out a way to beat those next-level guys.”

Along with experience, that sense of self-belief stemmed from Zamora’s coaching staff at Menlo.

“Them believing in me just gave me more confidence,” Zamora said. 

While Zamora saw high levels of confidence, he ran into a roadblock early in the season; at the team’s first tournament of the season, Zamora sprained his labrum — an injury that kept him out for two months. 

Shortly after returning from his labrum injury, he sprained his lateral collateral ligament and didn’t return to competition until Jan. 19 at the Missouri Valley Invitational, where he took sixth.

“Those injuries affected my performance I would say, because I wasn’t able to wrestle that (much),” Zamora said. 

While battling through injuries, Zamora remained involved with team practices.

“To keep my head right I’d act like I was still involved,” Zamora said. “I’d still go to all the wrestling — wake up, go to practice, do whatever I could do with my injury. Shoulder was injured, so I don’t move around in my wrestling stance. Would still run and do everything I could to stay in shape and in that environment where the team is working hard for that end goal at the end of the season.”

In addition to wanting to remain in the proper mentality when it came to wrestling season, Zamora said he felt it was his duty to do so as a team captain — a position that’s appointed by the head coach.

“I had to set an example for all the other kids — I feel like that also helped me push through these injuries,” he said.

Ahead of the national tournament, Zamora and Menlo traveled to the Cascade Collegiate Conference Championships in La Grande, Ore.

Zamora, who took seventh at the tournament, described the conference championships as “not being my weekend.”

“It was probably the worst I’ve wrestled all year — I lost to some kids that weren’t that good, I think I just got a little bit in my head and I was just out of it,” Zamora said. “I really had to go back to practice and figure out what I need to work on, and then come back for that national tournament the week later.”

Two weeks later he was an All-American at the NAIA National Championships. Clearly, something worked for him.

During his time in the maroon and gold, Zamora was a two-time participant in the Mat Classic, having placed third in the 145-pound class his junior season. 

“Max loved wrestling, he was motivated in regards to enjoying the sport and the process of wrestling — the hard work,” said Jaime Garza, Zamora’s wrestling coach when he was a student at Moses Lake High School. “(If) there was a little bit of a challenge, he was always up for it. You couldn’t get him out of a wrestling room, and that’s special.”

During breaks from college, Zamora has been seen in the wrestling room at Moses Lake High School working on his craft and guiding the current Maverick wrestlers.

“I like to go in and teach the high schoolers a bunch of stuff I wish I would have known,” Zamora said.

Being a recent Moses Lake graduate goes a long way to connecting with the younger wrestlers, Garza said. 

“Moses Lake has a storied program of being able to produce some quality wrestlers and get them to the next level,” Garza said. “... For our kids to have that experience when Max is home during winter break, or any of these kids are home during winter break, and they can say ‘Oh wait, that’s Max, he’s wrestling here, I see him on social media — that’s a big thing. There’s a connection there.”

Ian Bivona may be reached at ibivona@columbiabasinherald.com.

    During his time as a wrestler for Moses Lake High School, Maximus Zamora was a two-time Mat Classic participant, taking third his junior season.