FARMINGTON — Aztec's Royal "RJ" Yazzie worked through 11 matches to place in a big wrestling tournament in California.
Yazzie went 8-3 at the Shark Tank meet in Corona, Calif., after losing his second match to the No. 2-seeded wrestler in their 152-pound weight class. Yazzie, who was unseeded, then reeled off seven consecutive wins before losing in the consolation semifinals via first-round pin and in the fifth-place match via second-round pin.
Still, Yazzie had a spot on the podium in sixth place in the 66-team tournament.
"I am pretty proud. It was tough to get there. I feel like I wrestled hard," Yazzie said in a phone interview Saturday night. "It was pretty tough overcoming all the matches and all the fatigue. We really didn't get much break time at all."
Aztec head coach Monte Maxwell said Yazzie could have done even better if not for some issues with the bracket.
"He teched the first wrestler on Friday, and the brackets were messed up, so he had to turn around and wrestle the second seed," Maxwell said.
Yazzie's only losses were to the No. 2, No. 3 and No. 5 seeds in the tournament.
"I saw a lot of tough guys and saw some different wrestling styles," Yazzie said. "It was a lot of good competition."
Yazzie was one of three Tigers to reach the second day of the tournament. Orien Israel reached the sixth round of consolation matches at 182 pounds, and heavyweight Justin Slavey also fell one round short of wrestling for a podium spot after losing via pin in the third round of a sixth-round consolation match.
"Slavey wrestled tough for a first-year kid," Maxwell said. "Orien was up 2-0 on the No. 2 seed and ended up getting caught and pinned. It was a good tournament for him. He learned and grew a lot this weekend."
As a team, Aztec finished in 22nd place. Maxwell called it a good learning experience in a big environment for his entire team.
"We got off the train Friday at 6 a.m. and weighed in by 7 a.m. and started wrestling. It was grueling for all the boys," Maxwell said. "It was really good, especially because 11 of our 14 guys scored for us. We had a lot of first-year guys get at least one win, too."
Bloomfield at Miyamura Invite
The Bloomfield Bobcats' wrestling team shook off some rust from the holiday break with a third-place finish Saturday in Gallup.
Bloomfield finished behind a mixed bag of Piedra Vista varsity and junior varsity wrestlers and meet champion Miyamura.
"It was kind of funky the way they did the tournament with total team points. The results were kind of weird," said Bloomfield head coach Greg Shoemaker. "Overall, it was a pretty good day."
Paul Jaramillo was the only Bloomfield wrestler to go undefeated.
"We had some guys who lost who hadn't lost in a while, so that is always good to get tough matches like that," Shoemaker said.
Shoemaker was happy to get a look at another 3A school in Ruidoso at the meet.
Bloomfield is back in action on Friday night at a tri-meet in Pagosa Springs, Colo. They will spend the night Friday and stay for the Rocky Mountain Invite in Pagosa Springs on Saturday.John Livingston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 505-564-4648. Follow him on Twitter @jlivi2.