MOSES LAKE — In some ways, Wednesday’s Moses Lake wrestling practice was a step back in time, tracing the footsteps to what’s led them to 18 state championships dating back to 1959.
Room temperature was a workable 106 degrees, creating a warm, almost humid environment, like Galveston on a summer day. It was a no-nonsense, blue collar, bring your lunch-bucket-and-get-to-work kind environment for a program intent on winning the last wrestling tournament of the season.
Yep, just another day in the life of Chiefs wrestling. Hall of fame coach Ron Seibel (1976-2004) was working with yet another Zamora. Protege and current head coach Jaime Garza was giving his input and freshman 106-pounder Maximus Zamora listened and learned from the best of both worlds. He has old school and a brave new world at his disposal and he intends to make the best of it in his first 4A District 6 tournament this weekend in Yakima.
The past met the future with Seibel (408-28-2), who was inducted into the Washington State Wrestling Coaches Hall of Fame in 2004. Garza, a 1998 4A state champion and a member of the Chiefs’ three-peat (1998-99-00) that ushered in the 21st century. Garza then picked up the torch in 2013 and led Moses Lake to its 18th state championship in 2015. And of course, Maximus (23-10), the next Zamora up in a long line of wrestling talent.
All the pieces are in place. The common thread is Chiefs tradition and the goal is to add another state wrestling championship to the mantle.
“I started taking my wrestling serious when I was nine. I started wrestling year round with the Greco and freestyle season,” said the Moses Lake 14-year-old, whose father Duane was a state runner-up in 1981. “Greco and freestyle is a good experience and helps you in the collegiate style because you’re rolling around. You get more aware of the throws and where you are on the mat. Greco is all upper body, but I like it because it’s all about throwing your hips and hand fighting, which helps with this style.”
When it comes to wrestling, Maximus is wise beyond his years with an understanding of technique, leverage and body control. Maybe it's because he's a Zamora, who have had 10 guys come through the room over the past three decades, dating back to his father Duane.
Wrestling has been the constant and the topic of discussion at more than one family reunion. The Zamora clan has produced some good ones. There was Duane, who was second at the state tournament in 1981 and later wrestled for Big Bend Community College.
"My uncle Charlie Zamora used to run the Moses Lake wrestling club when we were all growing up. He's the man that taught us all how to wrestle when we were kids," said Pete, who later wrestled at Oregon State University.
Joe Jr. (1984-86) was a two-time state runner-up and later wrestled at Big Bend and Alaska Pacific University. Carl (1985-88) was a four-time state qualifier, finishing second three of those years, and was later an All-American at Boise State University. Eli (1993-96) participated at the state tournament all four years, placing third in three of them.
Peter (1995-98) was a part of the Chiefs team that triggered the three-peat, winning an individual state championship in 1997 and was a runner-up in 1998.
“Pete was the first Zamora state champion. All of us had taken second up to that point, so he broke the Zamora curse,” Joey Jr. said with a laugh.
John (1998-00) helped the Chiefs usher in three consecutive state titles He finally broke through with the Zamora clan’s second individual championship in 2000 after finishing third in 1998 and second in 1999. John later wrestled for North Idaho College where he was a NJCAA national runner-up. Mario (1996-99) also made his way through the Chiefs room, along with cousins Jason Delarosa (fifth at state in 1998) and Robert Castro (fourth in 1998). Joseph Castro (state runner-up in 1998) went on to become an All-American at Highline Community College.
Maximus is making his own noise in a proud wrestling lineage, joining Carl and Eli to become the third Zamora to wrestle for a Tri-State Tournament championship as a freshman.
“Tri-State was fun. That was probably my best performance for the whole year,” said Maximus, who goes into the district tournament this weekend with a 23-10 record. “The other match I remember is the home match where I wrestled Chris Melo (from Othello). I beat Chris at Tri-State (for the first time) and wrestled him tough again at home.
“Chris is tough and he’s definitely hard to wrestle. I can’t wait to watch him wrestle at (the 2A) state tournament to see how he does.”
Coming from a wrestling family like the Zamoras with as much tradition as Chiefs wrestling itself, it might be easy to be overwhelmed by it all. Maximus just smiles.
“I heard it all — all the stories, all the stuff,” he said. “I kind of like it. But I’m working on my own story.”
Maximus was only 5 years old when Bruce Springsteen put out his 16th studio album called “Working on a Dream.” He probably never heard of The Boss. But yeah, he gets it. He’s working on his own dream.
“The Zamoras are monumental to our tradition. They weren’t the first ones, but they helped the sport of wrestling here transition into a little more (cultural) diversity and it was a beautiful thing,” said Garza, who is now in his sixth season as the head coach. “The bloodline is strong and dedicated to hard work, but it went far beyond wrestling. Some of the best relationships I’ve ever had are outside the sport.
“With Maximus coming from a family with a legacy of success like the Zamoras have, where the standard is high, we tell him to be yourself. It doesn’t matter what your dad did or your cousin did. It’s about you reaching your potential.”
Seibel has coached ‘em all over the course of the 60 years he’s been involved with wrestling.
“The Zamoras are talented, they’re athletic. I think I’ve coached ‘em all,” said Seibel, who started coaching at Frontier Junior High School in 1969. “I’d say there’s pressure coming from a group like that, but Max is a pretty special person and he’s going to do well.
“This year, 106 is the toughest bracket I’ve seen in years. I don’t think I’ve ever seen competition like this. If he comes through and places, that’s special.”
Maximus learned a long time ago, good things come to those who work for it and the room is where champions are forged.
Rodney Harwood is a sports writer for the Columbia Basin Herald and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org