Former Warren County Wrestler Zach Beckner earns All-American status at Ferrum

Former Warren County wrestling star Zach Beckner capped off an interesting freshman journey in the college ranks by earning All-American honors with his second-place finish at 125 pounds in the NCAA Division III national wrestling championships last Saturday in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Beckner, who transferred to Ferrum in December, went undefeated for the Panthers during the regular season and also won the Southeast Wrestling Conference and East Regional titles to qualify for the national event.

Beckner came in unseeded and promptly made his presence known by knocking off No. 2 seed and 2016 national runner-up C.J. Pestano of Central College (Iowa) 3-2.

Beckner then beat No. 7 seed Jonathan Hass (Brockport) 3-2 and then earned his All-American status with a 5-2 win over No. 3 Zac Denny of Wisconsin-Whitewater in the semifinals.

In the finals Beckner could not handle defending national champ, senior Lucas Malmbert of Messiah College, losing 5-1.

But what a sweet ride it was for Beckner, Warren County’s all-time leader in wins and a two-time 3A state champ.

“It was a heck of a ride,” Beckner said. “And this is just the beginning.”

But when classes started in the fall, Beckner had a change of heart.

Beckner said he was going through some personal bumps in life and didn’t have the desire.

“I needed to get over that and the fact I didn’t want to be used as a practice dummy and a body for four years while never cracking the lineup,” Beckner said. “A program that good will always be bringing in top-10 recruits out of high school from all over the country and I wanted an opportunity to be the guy.”

After making the decision, Beckner said he hit a funk and just wanted to be alone.

But as the leaves changed color and wrestling season started to approach, Beckner began to get back that familiar itch to return to the mat.

Beckner, who was attending classes at Lord Fairfax Community College, admitted that, “the hunger was there, but I just didn’t feel worthy to be on the mat anymore after backing out of Tech.”

A chance meeting with former Warren County alumni and old drill partner, Brett Binnix, opened the door for another shot at collegiate wrestling.

Binnix contacted Ferrum coach Nate Yetzer and informed him that Beckner was available.

Yetzer, who recruited Beckner during his glory days at Warren County, reached out and opened the door with an offer to wrestle for the Panthers.

“I sat on it for a while,” Beckner said. “Then I called coach Yetzer and he [and his staff] walked me through the application process and FAFSA in a few weeks, all while continuing to pump me up to return to the mat.”

Beckner said that Yetzer and his assistants knew how to push his buttons and he responded to their coaching style.

“When I first got to Ferrum, people knew I was a decent wrestler, but they didn’t know the potential I had,” Beckner said. “So I really focused on establishing myself and kind of fell into the family atmosphere there. The guys were great and the coaches push us just as hard as D-1 programs to be great and I’m fully convinced of that.”

After breezing through the regular season unbeaten, Beckner knew he belonged when he knocked off Austin Petril of D-2 Kutztown 5-4 in the Virginia Duals.

“He got fourth at 125 in the D-2 nationals the previous week,” Beckner said. “I knew I truly could scrap with anyone.”

Beckner’s only loss came in the national finals to Malmberg, a four-time finalist and two-time champ.

“He was by far the strongest competitor I’ve ever faced,” Beckner said with a laugh. “Typically I would be angry or sad after a tough loss, but I was a little congratulatory toward him. He had a hell of a career and was still humble. Now I have that opportunity in my career, if not better.”

Beckner says the chance to win a national title excites him and will fuel him strongly for the future.

Beckner’s run to the finals also excited the local wrestling community in Front Royal, as several members of local club OutKast Wrestling on Main St. took a break to watch a local wrestler who has made frequent visits to practice with the youngsters.

Hundreds more around the county watched the match live on ESPN 3 and live streamed it on, including his former Warren County coach Matt Wadas.

“We are so proud of him as coaches and a wrestling community,” Wadas said. “He is a great story of what work can produce. He has had to work for everything he has earned. A lot of great wrestlers who came before him were not able to succeed on that state. I am proud to have coached him and I hope he enjoys every second of his journey.”

Beckner admitted that being a role model in the area is very special to him.

“It warms my heart and I’m an example that if you put your heart and soul and everything you have into what you love, you can accomplish anything,” Beckner said.

Beckner plans on heading back to Ferrum next year, but wouldn’t rule out a shot at a D-1 program.

“Im not sure,” Beckner said. “We’ll have to see what it holds, but I’m still open to possibly transferring to a D-1 at some point in my career and shooting for the stars. But next year, I think I’ll be back at Ferrum.”

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