Asa Schwartz is a star athlete, but his life isn’t defined by sports alone.
He cares about doing well in school. He cares about being a good leader. He cares about his family legacy.
But, perhaps most importantly, Schwartz cares about helping other people. If a friend or family member needs him, he’ll be there. If a community member requires assistance with a project, Schwartz will be there. He’s still a teenager, but already he’s grasped one of life’s most important lessons, one that cannot easily be learned in a classroom or an athletic field: Actions speak louder than words.
The best thing about Schwartz’s attitude toward life is that it’s authentically genuine.
“He’s all about paying it forward,” said Chelan wrestling coach Jay McGuffin, who helped guide Schwartz to a state championship at the Mat Classic tournament last winter. “He doesn’t expect anything in return.”
Schwartz is active in his local church, Real Life Lake Chelan. He has been to Mexico three times as part of relief missions; the first two trips involved working with an orphanage that houses handicapped children. In June, Schwartz joined a group of about 40 people that visited migrant camps.
“(We) hung out with the kids because their parents aren’t around for 12 hours of the day — they’re working, and when they get home, they just leave the kids (alone),” Schwartz said. “They’re in really poor conditions. We built stuff for them, hung out with the kids, give them a good time for that week.
“I try to help other people a lot. That’s a big passion for me, to help people that are less fortunate.”
Through his mission work, Schwartz has learned a lot about the world around him, and himself.
There’s no doubt that he’s a better person for those experiences.
“A lot of people, they have (fewer) opportunities, but they make the best out of everything,” he said. “(Some) people that (live here) aren’t happy, even though they’re blessed with so many things — they’re just not living life correctly. (Those mission trips) gave me a new mindset about how to live. (I’m) thankful for everything that I have.”
Schwartz can thank his upbringing for his positive moral values. He was born in Kady, Texas, and moved with his parents, three brothers and sister to Mercer Island several years later. After Schwartz’s parents separated, his mother, Julie, moved the family to Chelan, where Schwartz started school as a kindergartner.
“(My mother) worked really hard to make (sure) all of us had a house and food and everything (we needed). She made us work hard to succeed, not only in athletics; her main goal wasn’t athletics, it was academics,” said Schwartz, who will carry a 3.5 grade-point average into his senior year. “We all work hard academically so that we can excel in sports.”
‘A physical specimen’
Last year, Schwartz established himself as one of the best all-around athletes in North Central Washington. During the football season, the defensive lineman earned co-defensive player of the year honors for the Caribou Trail League after recording 20 sacks during the regular season. After winning the 1A state wrestling title at 220 pounds, he qualified for the 1A state track and field meet in the discus event.
He’s primed for an even bigger year in his final go-around at Chelan.
“I think his thought process is that he wants to be a dominant force in all of his sports this year so that he can be considered by colleges,” McGuffin said. “Pound for pound, he’s one of the strongest athletes I’ve ever coached, and he’s the hardest worker. He’s a physical specimen. He’s got all of the right ingredients to be great. I think he’ll be heads and shoulders above his peers this year.”
Quite simply, Schwartz has the kind of brute strength that gives him an advantage in most of his athletic endeavors.
He’s gained that physical fortitude through rigorous weightlifting sessions — sessions that he takes very seriously.
“When I was younger, I was that chunky little kid,” Schwartz said. “My older brother (Cole) was chunky, too. He was like, ‘I’m going to get into the weight room,’ and I just always followed him. I just love being in the weight room. I mean, when I’m in there, it’s just like a work day; I just focus, lift hard. I really enjoy it. If I don’t get there, I feel like I’m missing out.
“(Hard work) is what I really pride myself on. I feel that I don’t have a big fear for the opponent in front of me. No matter if they’re 300 pounds, 6-foot-6, I feel that I can out-strength them in some way because that’s just how I grew up, and through wrestling and stuff, you just get confident. (I’m) not necessarily cocky or anything; that’s definitely not what I’m trying to be. But the right (kind of) confidence elevates your game.”
Currently, Schwartz holds the Chelan records in the three powerlifts — the squad, bench and power clean. “The other ones, I’ll probably try to break — the curl, the dips, pull-ups,” he said.
“He’s always working out, asking if he can lift longer,” said Chelan football coach Travis Domser. “I’m trying to get kids into the weight room more, but I have to slow Asa down. He’ll lift all day if he could.
“If you’re the defensive player of the year in the league as a junior, you have to get out there your senior year and dominate. There’s pressure on him to do it, and he’ll have to step up. But with the way he flies around out there… we don’t have a lot of guys that can block him, let’s put it that way.”
Schwartz has built his strength through other avenues as well.
He’s got somewhat of a knack for picking up odd jobs around town that require, in his words, “tedious, hard labor.”
“I worked (for Powers) Concrete for a little bit; that was rough,” he said. “I also worked in (local) orchards; when I was growing up, that’s where my main job was. I’d go pick up lugs of 30-pound cherries and dump them; 10 hours a day of doing that.”
Schwartz has also been a part of Chelan’s ‘Rent-a-Wrestler’ program, which sends prep grapplers around town to provide services for people — “everything from building rocks out of walls to digging holes,” he said. “I (also) do a lot of moving jobs, actually — people will call me up and ask me if I can help them move, so I go and pack boxes, furniture.
“I don’t like down time. I always try to stay busy doing things. I want to make an impact on this community, not only in sports, but through everything.”