LANSING | Illiana Christian junior Zach Groen got more than a winter break in Wisconsin in late December.
The 170-pounder took third at the Lourdes High School On the Water Classic at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, and did it by beating the person who handed him an early round loss.
"I think that really gave me some confidence to come back and take third at a big tournament like that," Groen said. "You had guys from all over the country there and it was really a tough tournament. I needed that to get better."
Groen lost 8-5 to Taylor Kelley of Bonduel (Wis.) High School, but came back to beat him 9-2 as he wrestled back for a third-place finish.
"Not many times do you have a chance to come back and wrestle someone who beat you earlier," Groen said. "I went into the (third-place) match knowing I could beat him because I should have the first time. I just was aggressive, but didn't make a mistake and I was able to win."
Illiana assistant Dave DeBoer said Groen needed a confidence booster.
"That proved to him that he could come back and wrestle the best," DeBoer said. "Zach has a lot of experience, but he lacked some confidence. I think he found that."
He is 28-3, but he has not let that go to his head. After a recent practice, Groen and a few others were working with ropes to improve their strength and agility.
"He is always the last one out of here," DeBoer said. "That's Zach. You talk about the hardest worker and he is it. He knows he has to get better and he is going to do what it takes to improve."
Groen wants a trip to the Class 2A state meet in Champaign and knows it will be a tough road.
"My goal is to place down there," Groen said. "I know I have to pick up the pace, go harder and wrestle smarter. I think I can do that. It will boil down to confidence, which I have picked up a lot of."
The Munster resident also talks about being in great shape.
"You have to be ready both physically and in your mind," Groen said. "You have to be ready to wrestle. For me, it is being more aggressive, getting more points to help the team.
"If you can get a fall (pin) or get a major (decision) or tech a guy (technical fall), you can get more points than just three."
A decision is three points, a major decision is four and a technical fall is five points. A pin is worth six points.