In his first three years at McFarland High School, Zach Gunderson has qualified for the WIAA boys state wrestling tournament as a member of the Monona Grove/McFarland co-op, received All-Rock Valley Conference honors for football and starred on the track and field team as a runner.

But he has been a leader not only in school but in the community. These efforts have earned him a leadership and character award in high school wrestling from the U.S. Marine Corps.

Gunderson received his award June 11 in a small ceremony outside in front of the memorials at the McFarland American Legion Post 534.

He was nominated by his coaches, and Schindler said the award was given to only three Madison area wrestlers.

Gunderson received the award from Staff Sgt. Lindesy Schindler. Co-head wrestling coaches Doug Peterson and Karl Voeck, athletic director/football coach Paul Ackley and members of Gunderson’s family were in attendance.

“His coaches and teammates recognize the hard work he is putting in. They can see his character is coming out and his leadership,” Schindler said. “It’s not just being recognized in their schools but outside of schools in their communities as well.”

Peterson, who has not only coached Gunderson in wrestling but also football, applauded his willingness to take on the role of a leader as an athlete and a volunteer.

“Zach is usually the first guy there and the last to leave. That’s not even sports-wise,” Peterson said. “Take a vet fishing. Shared Table charity work. Since he’s been in the eighth grade, he’s been a leader.”

Gunderson said he has been working out during the COVID-19 pandemic with hopes of returning to the boys state wrestling tournament in 2021 and excelling even more at football.

“I made my own gym with a squat rack so I could keep on lifting. I have had some teammates over, because not everyone has that in their basement,” Gunderson said. “I’ve been trying to be constant with the training, and keeping in contact with other people that may have more knowledge to share. I’m trying to get better 1 percent every day and focusing on those little things which cover a whole mile.”

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