Wrestling: Capes catches accolades on the mat, in the water


Senior heavyweight also a two-time state qualifying bass fisherman

Zack Capes grew into one of Rochelle Township High School’s strongest heavyweights throughout his nearly four-year career with the Hubs. Off the mat, however, Capes was competing at a high level with the RTHS bass fishing program, and one of his greatest achievements with the team resulted from a series of fortunate circumstances.

Capes was near the end of his sophomore year at RTHS when the bass fishing team was preparing to battle in the IHSA Sectional at Shabbona Lake. Capes was only in his first season as an RTHS angler, and he wasn’t supposed to be in the team’s No. 1 boat that afternoon. But the Hubs needed Capes to step up after a teammate was unable to attend the competition. With his help, Rochelle not only placed second, but qualified for the IHSA State Championship.

“I wasn’t supposed to be in the first boat with Lucas [Anderson] but one of my teammates couldn’t make the sectional meet, so I was bumped up only for the sectional,” Capes said. “We had a chance to win the sectional, and even though I missed two nice bass in the afternoon, it was very exciting to make the state meet.”

Capes and Anderson went on to lead Rochelle to seventh in the 2018 state championship meet, outperforming nearly 60 other programs and locking down Rochelle’s third top-10 state finish in four years. Capes returned to the water the following season, and as a junior, Capes guided the Hubs to third in the Shabbona Lake sectional and another state championship bid.

“After the first day at state my sophomore year when we were in the hunt, it was such a rush and all I could think about before going to sleep was how shocked I was,” Capes said. “Although we didn’t finish where we wanted on the second day, it was still a very good season.”

While the COVID-19 pandemic unfortunately forced the IHSA to cancel spring sports and activities, including bass fishing, Capes was able to finish his wrestling career strong, winning 19 matches at the 285-pound weight class as a senior. His efforts led Rochelle to a close victory over Rock Falls, where Capes notched the match-sealing victory in the final bout of the dual. Capes went on to medal in second at the Interstate 8 Conference Championships.

“I enjoyed how much our team came together toward the end of my senior season,” Capes said. “My mental toughness improved a lot, but I feel I improved everywhere else as well. My favorite memories were the close duals we competed in. Through wrestling at RTHS, I learned not to quit on myself and I learned how to work hard and achieve my goals.”

Capes, who was one of several seniors on the 2019-20 varsity wrestling team that finished 18-4 overall, received the Most Improved Wrestler Award for his efforts this past winter. Capes, who began wrestling when he was 6 years old, said he’s considering pursuing a career as either a diesel mechanic or a heavy equipment operator after high school.

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