FARMINGTON — Entering his senior year, Aztec High School's Royal "RJ" Yazzie wanted to make his last wrestling season his best.
Yazzie is off to a solid start in 2014 after being the Tigers' lone wrestler on the podium at the "Shark Tank" tournament, placing sixth in the 152-pound weight class on Saturday in Corona, Calif.
Yazzie worked through 11 matches at the tournament, finishing 8-3, and said his success at the event was a good experience and a big confidence boost.
"It felt good to wrestle different styles and be able to beat them," he said. "It really showed the level I can wrestle at."
As a junior, Yazzie qualified for the 4A state tournament last year at 138 pounds, winning two matches, but has his sights set higher against the bigger, stronger wrestlers in the 152-pound class this year, and thinks he has what it takes to reach the winners' podium in February.
"They have a lot more strength, but I know I can make it if I just keep working more," he said.
Aztec head coach Monte Maxwell believes Yazzie has all the tools to continue a successful season for the Tigers.
"He works hard every day and really pushes himself," Maxwell said. "He doesn't back down to anybody."
Jumping two weight classes can be a difficult transition for some wrestlers, but Maxwell said Yazzie has been able to seamlessly work into the higher class.
"It's the best record he's had in his whole career," Maxwell. "He's really adapted well."
Maxwell believes Yazzie's success will continue if he keeps putting in the work the rest of the season.
"That (Shark Tank) tournament is definitely tougher than the state tournament," he said. "So as long as he keeps progressing the way he's been progressing, then he should be fine at state. Every big tournament is a mental challenge, he's mentally and physically stronger after that meet."
Yazzie, who's been wrestling since fifth grade, will continue to look for ways to improve between now and the district tournament on Feb. 15.
"He has no fear. He'll go after anybody no matter who they are," Maxwell said. "There's a lot a of tough kids in the state and he'll have to work his way through the bracket, but that's a long way off and there is still a lot of wrestling ahead."
Favorite food to eat after making weight: a breakfast burrito.
Who's your idol growing up: My dad.
Favorite TV show: Breaking Bad.
What was your top Christmas present this year :I got a dog, a corgi and a Jack Russell mix.
Favorite and least favorite class: My least favorite is math and my favorite is English.
If you had a million dollars, what would your first purchase be: I'd probably just save it.
Dream Vacation: Oregon
Favorite team: Dallas Cowboys.
If you could have any superpower, what would you pick: Flying
Plans after graduating from high school: I don't know yet, but I'm definitely going to college.