When Matt Zarth got a "B" in reading as a fourth-grader, he told his parents that "B" stood for "bad" and pledged that his report card would never be besmirched again.
True to his word, Zarth has been a straight-A student ever since. He'll graduate from Henry Clay next week with a 4.9 GPA (weighted from taking advanced courses), and ranked third in his class.
Zarth exhibited the same hard work and discipline in sports. He is the only Lexington wrestler to capture three state titles, winning at 119 pounds as a sophomore, junior and senior.
Zarth's focus and determination in academics and athletics also won him the Tommy Bell Award as the outstanding high school student-athlete in Fayette County.
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The Lexington Rotary Club sponsors the annual award, which honors the memory of Bell, a community leader and highly respected pro football and college basketball official who died in 1986.
Zarth said bearing down on class work and homework was similar to bearing down on a wrestling opponent.
"Both involve hard work, discipline and pushing through adversity," he said.
"Wrestling-wise, it's obvious. You have to run, do push-ups and sit-ups to get ready because, when you're wrestling somebody, you get so tired you can hardly get up off the mat.
"In academics, sometimes you've got to do work you might not like, or when you'd rather be doing something with your friends."
Zarth will face the same challenges at Davidson College, where he will pursue a career in medicine (in orthopedics or anesthesiology) and also wrestle.