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February 03, 2012 - Image 6

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The Michigan Daily, 2012-02-03

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6 - Friday, February 3, 2012

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Stevens wrestles way through life

By LIZ NAGLE a sport that Stevens wouldn't try,
Daily Sports Writer and there was never a project too
big or complicated that he couldn't
Michigan's Zac Stevens stares tackle. Stevens became the second
adversity straight in the eyes. handyman in the house, work-
The senior wrestler approaches ing side-by-side with his father.
life's hardships inthe same wayhe After moving from Jacksonville,
faces opponents on the mat - he Fla., where John was stationed in
defeats them, walks off and never the Navy, Stevens and his family
looks back. But after practice at returned to his mother's home-
the Bahna Wrestling Center, Ste- town in Monroe, Mich.
vens hit rewind on all his memo- Because his mother couldn't
ries and shared his story. work, John had to support the
Stevens's life is one long match family himself, and was fre-
on the mat. When he gains an quently away from home, travel-
advantage, he rides it out. When ing for his job. So, for most of his
his opponent poses a challenge, early years, Stevens and his three
he wrestles fate until the end. He siblings were left to take care of
inherited his strong sense of work themselves.
ethic from his father, John. "I wouldn'tsay we have a really
"My dad was always a hard close family," Stevens said.
worker," Stevens said. "I believe But Stevens' older sister, Casey,
I'm a hard worker, (too). ... You came to fill the void left by their
can't really replace a father-son mother. He can remember Casey
bond." preparing meals, cleaning the
But when asked to describe his house and taking care of them
relationship with his mother, Ste- when he was still in his elementa-
vens was hesitant and careful in ry years. It was at that same time,
his choice of words: at age eight, that Stevens first took
"She's not really what you the mat. Through wrestling, Ste-
would call a role model." vens began learning the meaning
Stevens's mother wasn't sta- of hard work, independence and
ble enough to raise a family. She family. Wrestling began as his
struggled with drug and alco- escape, but it became his destiny.
hol problems, forcing Stevens Suddenly, Stevens was sur-
to mature quicker than he had rounded by people that support-
planned. Even today, Stevens feels ed him. Though. Stevens always
their relationship is backwards. motivated himself, there were
"She never really took care of many others that encouraged him
me," he said. "I'm more of her along the way. He established a
guardian than she is mine." strong relationship with his great
Stevens is now a fit, 133-pound aunt, Toni Bean, who watched
senior wrestler, but his jour- him develop into a wrestler.
ney began as a little boy, before "She always followed me, more
he even took up the sport. At a than anybody, in wrestling," Ste-
young age, he started developing a vens said. "She hardly missed a
mechanical mindset. match."
"Mygrandma, to this day, every After years of excelling on the
time I see her, talks about when I mat and in the classroom, Stevens
was two years old," Stevens said. was readyto become a Wolverine.
"I would play with the same one His transition into college wres-
toy for hours and hours, trying to tling was an expedited process.
figure out how it works." Michigan's roster had a hole to
That mentality translated into fill at 133 pounds, so Stevens was
everything he did. There wasn't thrown into the lineup right away

0I

ADAM G
Senior wrestler Zac Stevens has battled a lot to thrive at Michigan.

and had to play catch-up. Though
his character developed early, his
body wasn't physicallyup to par.
Michigan coach Joe McFarland
took a special interest in Stevens
and guided him to become the
wrestler he needed to be.
"The team views Zac and Joe
in a father-son relationship," said
redshirt freshman Jake Salazar.
But it's inevitable for fathers
and sons to occasionally, or fre-
quently, butt heads. Stevens said
it stems from their similarities,
but Salazar said it's almost out of
love. Either way, it's undeniable
that McFarland and Stevens share
a mutual respect for one another.
Stevens was honored for his
discipline and dedication to the
team - as a sophomore, he was
honored by being named the
youngest team captain in program
history, something he spoke about
with genuine appreciation. But he
deserved it, and earned that rec-
ognition on his own merit.
Stevens grew as an athlete, stu-
dent and teammate. With under-
classmen coming in each year, he
repaid the generosity he received.

He took Salazar under his wing
and their friendship blossomed. It
was his dutyto pass on the accep-
tance he received.
"People have always stepped
into mylife atthe right time," Ste-
vens said. "I've been very lucky."
Stevens maintains and cher-
ishes every relationship he has,
whether family by blood or by
bond. He acknowledged his girl-
friend, Christina Sbrocchi, and
her family for their kindness.
When talking about them, Zac
spoke as one does about their own
family-with sincerity.
Stevens calls Christina's moth-
er, Ann, a "stay-at-home super
mom." Over the years, Stevens
has faced obstacles, but he always
managed to grow from those
experiences. It was during his
hardest moments that Stevens
established some of his strongest
traits. Whatever curveball life
may throw next, Stevens will just
come out stronger, like every time
he comes off the mat.
"I feel that things will fall into
place," Stevens said. "They always
have."

Sophomore Shaun Bernstein helped Michigan win the match's doubles point.
Michigan scrapes by
Louisvill at home

ByIAN SHEETS
Daily Sports Writer
Starting three freshmen is
normally not a recipe for success.
But for the Michigan men's
tennis team, that recipe has
proven quite tasty.
The
fresh- LOUISVILLE 2
men trio MICHIGAN 5
of Michael
Zhu, Alex Petrone and Eli Brown
proved to be the difference for
the Wolverines (3-2 overall) on
Thursday in a 5-2 win over Lou-
isville (3-3).
The match began straight-
forwardly, with an 8-3 doubles
victory by the team's captains,
junior Evan King and sophomore
Shaun Bernstein.
Down 6-4, the No. 3 team of
Petrone and Zhu began to gain
ground in their set, aided by
some helpful errors by the oppo-
sition. Following a quick break
and two holds of serve, the team
found itself leading 7-6, on Lou-
isville's serve.
The ending was anticlimactic,
as Louisville double-faulted at
0-40 to end the match.
"That was the worst match
that Alex and Michael had
played," said Michigan coach
Bruce Berque. "Michael actu-
ally didn't play that well today,
even though he won both of
his matches. But he was able to
really step up for the team, and
I think that he sensed that he
needed to."
Following doubles play, the
Wolverines' lead was quickly
increased with easy wins by
nationally ranked No. 6 King
(6-0, 6-4) and Bernstein (6-4,
6-1) at No. 1 and No. 2 singles.
Bernstein found himself down
3-0 to start, but he hit his stride
early enough to turn it around.
"It's always nice to get in the
win column," Bernstein said. "I
think it was good that I ended
up gettingthrough a patchy start
and ended up finding my game a
little more there."
Louisville won the next two
matches to make things inter-
esting, with the deciding points
of the match being left to two
freshmen, Zhu and Brown.
An exchange of words from

Berque may have helped affect
the outcome.
"I walk over to Mike at one
point in the third, and I told him
that it's not looking that good,
and that I'm not trying to put
pressure on him, but he needs to
have the attitude that we need
his match," Berque said. "I think
that's when he kind of calmed
down a little bit and started
focusing on what he needed to
do to win the match, instead of
beating himself up so much."
With a new focus, Zhu found
his form and broke his oppo-
nent's serve at 4-3. Zhu then
went on. to exchange holds of
serve with his opponent for a 6-3,
1-6, 6-4 win.

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"It's always nice
to get (another
notch) in the
win column." 0
Brown never lacked focus,
pulling away at 2-2 in the decider
when he began to pressure, mov-
ing his opponent around the
court without letting up.
Eventually, after breaking
his opponent's serve, Brown
amassed a 5-2 lead and then
coolly finished the match on his
serve to seal a 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 win.
"That was a really good win
for (Brown) after losing the first
set," Berque said. "What I love
about watching Eli play is that he
plays every point hard, like it's a
meaningful point that'll decide
the outcome of the match."
Going forward, the Wolver-
ines will rest assured that they
can perform better, despite
scraping by Louisville.
"I don't think everyone played
their best but I think we did a
great job of competing as a team
and that's huge, especially in our
fifth match of the season with
half our lineup being freshmen,"
Bernstein said.
"That's a great effort, and it's
just going to keep improving
from here."

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