Higley High's Yazzie ranked No. 1 in 220-pound weight class
'I put it all out there'
By Candace Begody
WINDOW ROCK, Jan. 26, 2012
But football is only a way to stay in shape for the sport that has become his forte.
"He turned down all the offers because football was just something to keep him busy," said Zach's father, Brian Yazzie. "And for someone who just wanted to keep himself busy, he's made quite a name for himself. But he really wants to wrestle."
Undoubtedly, Zach will be sought after by college wrestling coaches - just take a look at his resume.
A senior at Higley High in Phoenix, Zach Yazzie currently owns an almost perfect record of 30-1 and has been nationally recognized as the No. 1 220-pound wrestler in Arizona.
He is also the favorite to win this year's Division III state title after earning runner-up honors at last year's state tournament to Matt Chavez of Mingus High, who has graduated.
During his junior year, Zach had a record of 45-6 and captured the sectional title and placed second at the state meet. En route to the championship match, Zach surprised the crowd when he defeated the No. 1 215-pound wrestler in the state, Hunter King from Buckeye, which allowed him to advance to the finals.
His season also earned him a spot on the "Monumental 100" list, which honors the western states' top 100 kids in high school wrestling.
During his sophomore year, Zach won 30 matches and earned his first trip to the state meet. He did not place.
During the 2011 Westwood Warrior Classic at Westwood High, Zach went undefeated and was named an all-star wrestler. At the McClintock tournament, he improved from last year's 6th-place finish by placing second. And recently, Zach captured first-place honors at the Coolidge tournament and was named the outstanding wrestler.
Although Zach walks around with a target on his back, it's something that doesn't faze him.
"Right now I am ranked number one in the state, but I don't feel much pressure," said Zach, who is half Bilagáana and has roots in Holbrook. "I just go out there and wrestle. I put it all out there and put in my best effort. I don't think about whether or not I'm going to lose because if you lose, it only matters how you lose - give up and lose or give it your all and lose."
Speaking of losses, his only loss was during the McClintock High tournament in Mesa, Ariz. He lost to Sunnyside's Cedric Gonzalez, who is ranked No. 1 in Arizona's Division I and comes from arguably the strongest wrestling program in Arizona.
However, Zach Yazzie has come long way to earn his current record.
"When I joined my freshman year, I didn't know anything about wrestling," he said. "Our football coach told us all to join wrestling to stay in shape so I went out there. My dad thought I was crazy because he thought I was going to become a basketball player."
That year, Zach won only 8 matches.
"I was awful," he said of his first year.
The turning point in Zach's wrestling career came during a meet in Payson, Ariz., when Zach hung his head in tears and shame after losing every single match.
"He was struggling and lost every match," Brian Yazzie recalled. "Even the coach chewed him out. I think at that moment, it became a quest for him to be the best he can."
And the best is exactly what Zach Yazzie has become with the help of his coach, Lou Carmona.
"Our coach has this motto," Zach said. "Strength, honor and pride - that is a guideline for my life, to live for those things. When you are on the mat, you are wrestling for those who can't. He says that God gave you the gift of wrestling and what you do in those six minutes is your gift back to him.
"It's more than just a sport because it makes you become the best you can be," he added. "The biggest part of my success is the mental aspect. I am not the most technical wrestler on earth, I just have the mental part down to be able to get through all the pain and I worked my tail off in practice to be the best."
It's been a while since Carmona has seen a wrestler like Zach.
"He's just a tough old bear," Carmona said. "I have worked with him since he was a freshman. Zach came in with background in football and over the years, he's developed into what we have today - a senior that's made a name for himself just in the last two years."