Wrestling, Algebra No Sweat For Eighth-Grader

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Whoever said "brains and brawn don't mix" never met Mark McCarty.

At 13 years old, the Rim Country Middle School eighth-grader is excelling in both the "brawn" -- the demanding sport of wrestling --nd the "brains" -- mathematical excellence.

As a three-time White Mountain league weight-class champion, McCarty is one of the most accomplished wrestlers to ever don a Maverick uniform.

In the classroom, he's treading in mathematical circles that no other RCMS math student has ever reached.

That list of former Mavericks includes some very accomplished mathematicians including Elizabeth Gille, Christopher Pirch, Jake Goble and Bryan Zumbro.

Gille is currently a graduate student at the University of Arizona where she is preparing to become a high school or college math teacher. Pirch, an honors graduate of Cornell, is studying at James Madison University for his master's degree in math. He too, has aspirations of someday teaching math. Goble graduated with honors from the University of Arizona and has his sights set on becoming a physician. Zumbro is a third-year cadet at the United States Air Force Academy.

The accomplished foursome earned academic jump starts in middle school by enrolling in advanced math classes. But none took the sophisticated courses as early as McCarty.

As a sixth-grader, he excelled in Algebra I. During his seventh-grade year, he earned an A in a Plane Geometry class normally reserved for high school sophomores and juniors.

This year, McCarty is an Algebra II student at Payson High School. Next fall, he will achieve the almost unheard of accomplishment of studying calculus as a 14-year-old freshman.

As good as McCarty is in math, he is the first to admit that he is not overly fond of the courses.

"Math just comes easy for me." he said. "But it's not my favorite."

McCarty's Algebra teacher, Kara Huskey, is lavish in her praise of the teenager.

"He's a student whose mathematical abilities seem as natural for him as walking or breathing. He sees concepts very clearly and simply," she said.

Huskey also sees a quality in her student that is difficult to uncover in many of today's adolescents.

"The thing I like about Mark is his humbleness. He never talks down to the other students who might be asking him for help. He just explains what you have to do to solve the problem and then gets back to his own work," she said. "There is no fanfare about him; he seeks no praise other than the satisfaction of a job well done."

Huskey says she's certain that even if she didn't grade his papers, McCarty would continue to excel. "He just likes things to be done right, and he doesn't stop until it is."

McCarty's success is also fueled by a strong work ethic.

"For him, you work hard, do your best, finish the job you've started and then move on to the next job," Huskey said.

When McCarty takes to the mat, he sports a sense of confidence that is the result of years of wrestling in the back yard with his two older brothers, Justin and Matt.

As the youngest of the three, McCarty learned at an early age to be ferocious in his approach to the sport. If he wasn't, he was good-naturedly pummeled.

Encouraged by his brothers and his parents, Steve and Lynette, McCarty took up organized wrestling as a second-grader.

"Even before that, I had been to some wrestling camps," he said.

In addition to his three White Mountain League championships, McCarty was a USA Wrestling freestyle western national champion as a 120-pound sixth-grader.

In the Arizona State USA tournament, he has finished fourth the past three years.

His goals this season include another WML title, a first state championship and a national freestyle crown.

Eventually, he wants to earn a scholarship to a Division I university where he can continue his math studies and compete for NCAA honors.

These ambitious goals would be lofty ones for most small-town teens. But for McCarty, he sees them only as milestones along the journey of life.

"That's just what I want to get done," he said. "It's no big deal."

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