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Remember The Wrestler: Zach Light, Lisbon HS

If you’ve been following the site the past year, you may recall that I posted Remember The Wrestler articles for Lisbon brothers; Ike and Shane Light a few months ago. For those of you who know the Light family, you may have felt as if things were still pretty far from being complete in regards to the Light brothers because another Light brother with an equally impressive resume equipped with a hot temper as well as a reputation of being a fierce competitor, excellent wrestler, explosive athlete and a charismatic person had not been covered yet.  This was the middle brother, Zach Light. A 3X state finalist and 2X state champion. I’d say it took about 2 days after posting the 2nd Light bro’s article (can’t remember if it were Ike or Shane) before the first Lisbon fan inquired with something along the lines of, “you are going to do Zach Light for one of these as well, right? I can’t wait for his.” There has been 2-3 inquiries about him from Lisbon fans since that initial request. As a wrestler and as a guy who came from a family of 4 brothers myself, I was absolutely planning on doing one for Zach considering he wanted to…I’d consider it a “jerk-move” on my end not to do so. But there are some Lisbon fans looking forward to this one, for sure!

Lisbon is a wrestling community that every wrestling community should strive to be like in the sense where they follow, support and genuinely love every one of the athletes that go through the works with them. Lisbon wrestling goes so deep and has been going on for so long that there are wrestlers who have both grown up with Lisbon wrestling heroes they looked up to and have become Lisbon wrestling heroes that future Lions looked up to themselves. It’s gone full-circle with so many of these guys and Zach Light (as well as his brothers) is a perfect example of this. Zach was born into a well-known Lisbon wrestling family and grew up idolizing some of the Lions that surfed the initial waves of Lisbon wrestling dominance before him… And when it was his time to shine, well hell… would you expect anyone with the last name “Light” to not shine? Zach became one of the best himself and in turn, inspired several future Lisbon wrestlers. It’s the “circle of life” made famous by Disney’s The Lion King. It’s become the Lisbon Lion way. Or hey, how about “the circle of Light?” How’s that for fitting?

Still gotta get their cousin Vance and who knows, maybe my uncle Kevin Swafford can write one on one of the “Baxter generation” Light brothers? 

Think about how much joy the Light family experienced at Vets Auditorium from 1987 when oldest brother, Shane was a Freshman, to 1993 when the youngest, Ike graduated.  Shane won 4 state titles in from 87-90. Zach won titles in 1991 and 1992 and wrestled in the finals in 1990. Ike won 3 titles in 1990-1992. That is 9 titles in 5-6 years for just one family of wrestlers. The Light family… That must have been one happy wrestling family in their era. And that’s not including their cousin, Vance Light who was a couple-few years older than Shane… He also won multiple titles. What an experience that must have been for them.



What clubs, schools, etc. did you wrestle for?

Lisbon was it in HS. We usually would have to travel for Freestyle partners though.


What year did you graduate?



Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?

I literally don’t remember. My Dad encouraged me by having us brothers wrestle in the living room and my brother Shane would rip my face through the carpet and go on beatin’ the shit out of me…This started when I could barely walk, for we were the same size when we were little kids. That’s when I ultimately decided to become a fighter (MMA), for I could throw punches at him after gettin’ worked by him in wrestling. My Dad would always let my fights with Shane go…haha.


Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently? Parents, children, brothers, etc.? How did they do?

Dad & My Uncle (Uncle George was my corner man as a kid). They Both wrestled in HS. They both wrestled for Al Baxter, so they became badass mentally and physically from them. They just handed that right down to us boy’s & cousins.

Cousin Vance was a 2X State Champ and wrestled in the NCAA Tournament his final year at Drake. It was a dream of mine to compete in that Tournament so FKN proud to be associated with him.

Brother Shane was a 4X State Champ.

Brother Ike was a 3X State Champ.


What were your youth results? Any rivals there?

Pretty damn good. Won A bunch of Kids freestyle & Northern Plains Regional meets. I think the 1st AAU State meet was my 8th Grade year and I beat my biggest rival that day, Kirk Crawford. Felt like we traded wins every time we would wrestle. He and I wrestled from age 10 until we were freshmen in college.


What was your record in HS?

Won a bunch. My most memorable HS win was against Travis Allen from Mt Vernon. Guy was insane when at his best.

9th Grade: 9L’s. 3 Simmering Pleasant Valley/ Howell Maq. / Phil Morgan Maple Valley

10th Grade: 4L’s.  Matt Hatcher from CR Prarie and a kid from Maquoketa were probably my biggest upset losses in HS. Wrestled Daryl Weber from Don Bosco in the finals. 1-2 against him that year.

11th Grade: 1 L. Lost to a kid from West Des Moines Dowling. I lost 16 lbs. in 24 hrs when I wrestled him. It was my 1st heavy pressure weight cut.

12th Grade: 1loss to Matt Hatcher of Prairie.


How did you place at state every year?

9th Qualified for state… – No true wrestle back that year.
10th 2nd
11th 1st
12th 1st


What were some of the most notable adverse challenges or moments you experienced in wrestling and how did it turn out?

Wrestling my brother Shane when I wasn’t old enough to enter a tournament & my Dad snuck me in. It was the Solon tourney. I made it to the finals in an 8-man bracket. I had every single person in my corner. He pinned me in 10 seconds. My 1st freakout as a kid.

Also, making weight at NJCAA tournament, I lost 24 lbs in 72 hrs and lost 18 in the last 24 hours and almost got DQ’d for stalling in the 1st match because I literally couldn’t move. I have a crazy story about finals weight cut. Save that for another day. What I learned from those as an MMA athlete, I really figured out nutrition from guys like Mike Dolce and many other MMA athletes. It was probably the best thing I did in MMA.


How would you describe your wrestling style?

Wide Open Until my SR year then I started wrestling with Chris Lembeck and I believe my level of wrestling sky-rocketed. He truly calmed me down and brought finesse to my game. Became one of the best in the country that year.


How many guys in high school did you go back and forth with or exchange wins with?

Matt Hatcher had my # I was 1-4 against him. Didn’t Beat him until the All Star meet our Senior Year.

Mike Uker… don’t remember losing to him in folk or freestyle, but couldn’t touch him in Greco. He was a hell of a competitor.

Rick Moreno… He was always bigger as kids. We became friends and it was easier to associate with opponents when you were not competing against each other. We were fierce competitors when we did wrestle freestyle in HS.


Who was your most influential coach?

Brad Smith Hands Down I live by his methods in training for competition. Because of him I helped my Daughter obtain a Full Ride scholarship in D1 program as a Sprinter in Track.

Dean Happel (Dawn) really helped me more than on the mat. I owe them a lot for being Great people. Dean thought me how to wrestle on top.

Collin Oyama MMA wish I had more years with him. Guy is still rocking the best fighters today.


Was your team competitive in HS/college?

Yes the stats are there we won multiple titles and had lots of wars against Clarksville in my day vs. the Kroeze bros. and a Sterling Kielman guy… they were FKN tough


Who was your most influential wrestler that you looked up to growing up?

Greg Butteris was like a God to me I idolized him and his style. Him as a training partner I don’t think I would have lost a match in HS.

Lincoln Mcllravy wrestled him a few times.Went at it for an hour straight in the Iowa room our Senior year. That guy was Brilliant wrestler.


Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?

If we’re just talking HS only:

Dan Knight is my all time great.
Have to put Jeff McGinness in there.
Royce Alger World Champ his Senior year.


Personality-wise, how would you compare Shane, Ike and yourself?

Those fuckers were always teaming up. We played football in our yard… me against those 2. Then I recruited Josh Jones on my team. We fk’d them up. Shane is pretty relaxed always takes everything in stride. Ike is more emotional, but a super good guy Very family oriented. I’m passionate about winning very competitive.


What is your experience with MMA? How has wrestling and the people you met in it impacted your MMA journey?

It was a game changer my wrestling ability literally carried me into my fighting career because when you can take everybody down, at that time in MMA your stock as a training partner was through the roof.


How did your wrestling style compare and contrast to your brothers Ike and Shane and your cousin, Vance?

Vance led the way. He was soo FKN strong and fast for his size. Really good football player.

Shane didn’t really seem to excel at other sports, but he played everything. Guy wasn’t even ranked #1 in state until his Senior year.

Ike was such a great mix lacked a little strength but had amazing penetration on his shots. Was a pretty damn good football player. That 1993 team needed him his Senior year when he didn’t play.


Which sport is more difficult? MMA or wrestling?

Wrestling was more difficult because MMA was so fun. In MMA, I got to travel the world and entertain people. Some Losses I took pretty hard, but they didn’t affect me like in my youth. I learned so much with every loss.


What are some interesting hypothetical matchups between guys from different eras that you would have been interesting in seeing?

Myself vs Doug Lord… he sounded like a fuckin Legend

Shane Light vs Scott Morningstar

Ike Light vs Robert Avila JR.

I could rattle off hundreds of matches, but I’ll save that the next time I’m at Bill’s Tap.


Who are some Iowa HS wrestling guys from your era that you have an immense amount of respect for?

Sean Scarborough
Matt Hatcher
Mike Uker
Rick Moreno
Mark & Matt Ironside
Jeff McGinness
Brent Paulson


Who are your favorite current wrestlers?

Robert Avila, Lisbon
Cael Happel,, Lisbon-UNI
Justin Thomas, Oklahoma
Spencer Lee, Iowa
Carter Happel, Iowa

What music would you listen to back in the wrestling days?

Tom Petty / ZZTop / 2Livecrew


What was the most upset you ever felt after a loss?

My 1st ever loss to Rob Olney at Prairie kids meet. I had nightmares about it for almost a whole year… sleepwalking and everything. Funny story carried wood in below zero weather half naked in my sleep cuz I thought my dad was mad at me for losing. Also, 1990 State Finals was a serious meltdown. That loss against Daryl Weber really fucked my life up for a while, bad.


If you could go back and change one thing about your wrestling career, what would it be?

I wouldn’t ever talk back to or disrespect my dad during a match when he was coaching me. I learned so many lessons coaching my daughter to greatness and experienced many lessons where I was in the wrong back then. He did Everything he could for me. I couldn’t imagine going through that by himself he – we had some tough years 4 of us. Thankfully he met Penny, my stepmother and he got way better. Thankful for her during my Middle school & HS years.


What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?

All American in 1991. 8th JR Nationals a Goal that Sean Scarbrough imbedded in my brain. In 1991, I trained with him and his family that whole summer.  He was a Monster. Great memories with those guys. All American in 1992 2nd Jr Nationals. Champion was Tony Pariano OH / had Chris Bono FL / Kyle Porter CA / Roger Chandler OH / Ryan Kringle ND in my bracket.


Who were some of your most notable competitors in high school? College?

Never got to wrestle Cary Kolat. Wrestled Lincoln Mcllravy at NP Regionals a couple times & at Jr Nationals my JR year. Beat Lee Fullhart my senior year in State freestyle. Beat Steve Marinetti at Northern Open when I was at Ellsworth CC and my only loss was to Troy Steiner that day.


Did you wrestle all year or was it seasonal for you?

I wrestled all year, but FKN loved freestyle because pressure was off and nobody really cared about winning or losing and everyone was just looking to get better.


How would the guys from your day stack up against the guys today?

The level of HS wrestling in this generation is pretty amazing, at least from what I see at my HS in Lisbon. Cael Happel didn’t get his shot at Winning a JR National Title.  Guys like that in the room changes the level of every single athlete & coach because they all have to up their game.


Did you wrestle after high school?

1993 2nd NJCAA 142


What other sports did you play?

Football – My fave sport in HS. Baseball. Track – In 1991 I won 3 Medals: 200 dash 2nd, 400 dash 4th, 4×400 5th. I really blew it for my Teammates in ’92 for we had an opportunity to win State in the 4×400 and winning a team title was a possibility. I owe big apologies to Matt Kohl, Mark Fairly and Aron Fader for we ran together since 7th grade and I really let them guys down that year.


What are your favorite sports teams?
Cal State Fullerton Women’s Track, Pittsburgh Steelers, Iowa Hawkeyes Football & Wrestling


What are your hobbies other than wrestling?

Salt Water Fishing for Blue Fin Tuna Tops are the hobbies right now and loved being on Cedar River fishing as a kid.


How good does it make you feel to give back to the sport?

I have not paid back all the way yet, but am gonna help coach at Norco HS when my boy gets to HS next year.  He won’t compete, but he will practice all season. He’s a pretty damn good football player. 5’7 219 lbs. and not gonna be a freshman until next year.


How has wrestling shaped you as a person to this day?

It kept me together when things got bad as a youth it was there to save me with hard work anything is possible.


What do you do now?

I am a trophy Husband for My wife, Louise Brookes from Liverpool and I raise my 4 kids Daughter 18 Johnny 14 Zachery 7 Ruby 4.


Are you still involved with wrestling?


Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?

Play every sport be as competitive as possible for anyone on any day can win if you really believe it and you put in the work. It’s all HARD WORK!


Any chance we see you wrestle again at an Old Timer’s tournament?

Getting a new ACL & Meniscus removal surgery Jan 4, 2021, so if I want a National Title, the 2022 Masters US Open will be my last shot. I plan on rehabbing like an animal. Plus I’m back Coaching HS next year. So let’s plan another interview for after that.


Would you like to give a shout out to anyone you wrestled with, against, coached, etc.?

My Teammates All through HS.

My Top Guys:

Greg Butteris
Brian Stewart
Robby Kamerling
Small group of Alburnett kids and wrestlers I coached for a short time.

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