“I love the way Zach goes and goes and goes,” Spanish Springs coach Joe Imelli said. “He does a lot of good technically right things. He uses a lot of fundamentals. Zach is a very good wrestler for us. Outside of that part of it though, he’s a fun kid to be around.
“He has a smile on all the time. Not a whole lot of kids are looking forward to wrestling Reno’s Joey Lavallee. Not a lot of kids will get beat by Joey and smile about it after, but he comes off the mat every time asking ‘Hey, when do I get to wrestle him again?’ He has that mentality that you want around the team. It’s fun. It’s an attitude that we will definitely miss in the room.”
Long before Perez entered his senior season with the Cougars, that passion for wrestling took hold of him as youngster, wrestling his two older brothers. As far back as his earliest childhood memories go, Perez has been wrestling and although a need to exert some energy originally got him started, the sport has developed into a love for Perez.
“I’ve been wrestling ever since I could remember,” Perez said. “I was probably around 5 or 6 years old. I think this is my 11th or 12th year, but I lost count honestly. My two older brothers wrestled and they got me into it. We would always wrestle in the house and we would always get in trouble, so the only way we could do it was just to join a team and practice. My brothers and I would wrestle and wrestle until we were so dead that we would go home and sleep. It was pretty fun.
“I actually joked around with it quite a bit. One of my favorite coaches was Coach Randy. He would always motivate me with bubble gum when I was little. He would call me ‘Bubblicious.’ I wasn’t serious about it at first, but I got better and started working harder as I got older. Now, it’s just a part of me. I love slamming people and hearing the crowd. Hearing the crowd, that’s one of the greatest feelings. So is getting your hand raised at the end of the match and seeing everyone on your team all happy. Especially in a really tough match, it’s like solving a puzzle. You get something on the other person and you beat them and you just feel so successful.”
While Perez’s wrestling career began by going to battle with his brothers at home and was fueled by bubble gum, around the time he hit middle school, Perez became serious about the sport, realizing that he had a shot to do something as a wrestler. Since then, Perez has taken full advantage of his opportunities.
Entering his senior year at Spanish Springs, Perez is one of the best wrestlers for the Cougars. Having him around will be something that SSHS coach Joe Imelli said he will miss.
“It’s hard because every couple years you lose somebody that has been within the program for a while and they all bring one thing or another to the program,” Imelli said. “Some people bring a good personality, or a good work ethic or are just good wrestlers. Zach is one of those rare combinations.
“He has a good personality to him that kids gravitate to and like to be around. He definitely works hard and doesn’t take time off in the room. He’s a coach-kid. You can tell him what to do and he understands and he does it to the best of his ability. It’s a combination that you’ll miss. I’ll miss that the most, just the leadership, the work ethic and him just being the type of kid that you can talk to outside of wrestling.”
It is that rare combination that has gotten Perez to where he is. Imelli said the senior has come a long way since he first joined SSHS.
“His freshman year the biggest thing we talked about was his attitude,” Imelli said. “It wasn’t that it wasn’t a wrestling attitude. He would just get so engrossed in a match that he would get upset and he would absolutely lose all train of thought.
“You would watch him from being a good wrestler to looking like a freshman and scrambling around. The ability over the years for him to be able to control himself even in a loss has been outstanding. I told him he was going to be a great wrestler for us, but we have to learn how to control that and get you in a positive direction. He’s done a real good job of that.”
That positive direction has led Perez to his senior season, one that he said would be no better than to end with a state championship to his name.
“Especially considering it’s my last year, I haven’t been slacking. It’s scary to think about that this could be my last year, so it’s a factor in motivating me,” Perez said. “Plus, I’m a leader on the team. I just try to lead the guys and set a good example. When one guy does really well, you can see it spread through the room. It helps everyone else out if you do well.
“For myself though, the best way to go out would definitely be to pin Joey Lavallee in the final in regionals or state. That’d be like my dream right there. That’d be awesome. But the ultimate way I want to go out is to win state, regardless of who it is against.”