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Pretty (good) in pink

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(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukvalley.com)
West Carroll senior Zach Hartman will be competing in his first state wrestling tournament, beginning today in Champaign, at 132 pounds.

SAVANNA – All that's missing for Zach Hartman is a hot pink singlet.

The West Carroll senior has got the rest of his wrestling attire covered.

Hartman, the Thunder's 132-pounder and a 4-year starter, bought himself a pair of pink wrestling shoes before the start of the 2012-13 season. He had desired those kicks for 3 seasons, and decided the time was right.

He didn't stop there, however, as he decided a change in hairstyle was in order.

He went to Tangles, a shop in Savanna, and got a Mohawk haircut – a nod to the heritage of his high school, the former Savanna Indians. He colored the rest of his hair fuchsia, and his shocking pink pate stands out in a crowd.

"I got the pink shoes," Hartman said, "so I thought I might as well get the pink mohawk and go crazy for my senior year."

Hartman was well aware his appearance came with responsibility. Specifically, if he didn't win, he'd just be a losing wrestler with a weird haircut, and he didn't want that.

"At first I was like, 'If I start losing a lot, then I'm going to have to get rid of the haircut,' " Hartman said. "You're showing off, so you can't just go out there and get beat up. Then it doesn't make sense to have it. If I was going to keep my hair, then I've got to win."

Hartman has done that, and then some. He was a good wrestler his first three seasons, with win totals around 20 as a freshman and sophomore, then ramping it up to 29 as a junior. He's taken it to another level this season.

Hartman is now 34-7, and his second-place finish at the Class 1A Oregon Sectional this past weekend punched his first ticket to the state tournament that begins today.

"It seemed like I was more focused this year than I was in previous years," Hartman said. "I definitely knew at the beginning when I started on a roll, it seemed like I was going to do something pretty good this year."

Hartman got wins in 27 of his first 30 bouts, but one of them stood out. He won by pin over Dakota's J.J. Wolfe in a dual back on Jan. 12. Wolfe is ranked fifth by Illinois Matmen, while Hartman is 10th.

"I think that was a turning point," Hartman said. "It showed that I could be up there with the guys that were ranked."

When asked what aspect of wrestling he's improved on the most this season, Hartman mentioned he's much better on his feet, whether it be defending or taking shots. Thunder coach Jeff McIntyre has a different view, as he believes his greatest improvement has been on the mat.

"He doesn't give up when he goes on the bottom," McIntyre said. "When he's down underneath, he doesn't go, 'Oh, I can't get out.' There's been a big improvement in that category. In general, he's not afraid of being underneath."

Hartman also credits his training partners, 145-pounder Morgan Hartman and 152-pounder Cody Yenney, for his wrestling growth.

"Cody likes the headlock, so he throws me around there," Hartman said. "Morgan, he's fast and he shoots. I work a lot on defense with him."

There is no shortage of Hartmans in the West Carroll wrestling room. In addition to Zach and Morgan, there is 170-pounder Nate Hartman. They are triplets, having entered the world on Nov. 15, 1994. Morgan was first, followed by Nate and Zach.

"I s it's pretty cool because I know no matter what, I'll have two guys that will always be there rooting for me, even if they don't want to." Hartman said with a smile.

The Hartman triplets have another thing in common. After graduating from high school, each will be entering the Navy, and will take the first step toward that career at the Great Lakes Naval Station in Chicago late this summer.

Zach wants to be a Seabee, Morgan a hospital corpsman and Nate a military policeman. Each will be going his separate way after training in Chicago, and Zach noted it will be a little strange.

"I'm not so worried about where I'll be deployed," Hartman said. "I'm just so used to having my two brothers around, it's going to be different going out and meeting a bunch of new guys without having a brother around."

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