Aztec junior recently went 5-0 at California's Blackwatch Tournament and owns a 12-1 record on the season
AZTEC — Austin Littlefield has been reaping the rewards of the work he's put into the wrestling room at Aztec High School's Lillywhite Gym over the years.
Before the 2016-2017 season started, Tigers wrestling coach Monte Maxwell said he wanted to see Littlefield "do everything he could to move up on the podium" after he placed second in the 145-pound weight class at last year's state tournament.
So far, Littlefield has answered the bell. The junior boasts a 12-1 record this season and already has earned two Outstanding Wrestler awards. Out of his 12 wins, nine have come by pinfall, and he has taken down opponents 23 times while only being brought down three times himself.
Maxwell said there are a couple of attributes in particular that have helped the junior become one of the best 152-pound wrestlers in the state.
"Commitment and time," Maxwell said. "He just wants to be the best. And he's come a long way since I met him in seventh grade. He's just really worked at it. His parents take him all around, and he travels, and he gets to see competition all over the country."
A strong work ethic didn't come naturally for Littlefield, who Maxwell said was a bit "goofy" when he first took up the sport.
"He just behaved like a seventh-grader," Maxwell said. "But he's come a long way."
Consistency has been another trait that has prepared Littlefield for success. Falling to Piedra Vista's Nick Rino in last year's 145-pound championship match became another log on the fire that is Littlefield's drive to be the best, but he said that defeat didn't necessarily spur any alterations to his off-season routine.
"Nobody likes to lose," Littlefield said. "But I think that throughout my whole high school career, I've always been keeping up steady work in the wrestling room. It's never really changed."
Good on his feet and with his cradles, Littlefield put his wrestling arsenal on display during last week's Blackwatch Tournament in Upland, Calif., where competitors from 64 West Coast and Southwest schools hit the mats.
Littlefield went 5-0 at Blackwatch in helping his Tigers take fifth place as a school. He scored four pins and won another match via technical fall.
"I ran a lot of cradles," Littlefield said. "I think that was working well at that tournament. And I did really good on my feet. I've been focusing on that for my whole high school career."
Littlefield was dealt a bit of a break on Wednesday when Tanner Griffin out of Chino, Calif., upset a couple of highly-seeded 152-pounders on his way to the finals, where he met Littlefield. One minute and six seconds into the first period of their match, Littlefield registered a pin.
"We watched the semifinal match, and we kind of had a feeling it was going to go the direction it went," Maxwell said. "Austin took him down, turned him and got the pin."
Both Maxwell and Littlefield agree that the junior doesn't have to do anything special in order to take an extra step on the podium this year at state. Littlefield said that consistent hard work has helped him build a 12-1 record to this point, so he thinks consistent hard work should guide him to a state title.
"It really just comes down to how ready I am that day," Littlefield said. "Whoever wants it the most is going to win it that day. I've just got to go in there and hope that I've put in the work to do what I need to do."
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.
A closer look: Austin Littlefield
1. Favorite team?
2. Favorite athlete?
3. Favorite food?
"I like mac and cheese a lot."
4. Favorite thing to watch on Netflix?
"I watch a lot of 'Archer.'"
5. Favorite subject in school?
6. Least favorite subject?
7. Biggest fear?
"Not being successful."
8. Do you play any other sports?
"Nope, just wrestling."
9. What is the first thing you would do with $1 million?
"I'd probably put it toward building a new wrestling room."
10. Do you have any pregame rituals?
"Not that I can think of."