Payson's R. C. LaHaye, a 15-year-old, 125-pound sophomore at Payson High, battered and bruised his opponents at the World Wrestling Championships last weekend in Reno, Nev., but had to settle for a fifth-place finish after a scheduling mishap.
After building a 6-0 record, LaHaye's march to the top began to unravel during mid-day Saturday after he had won all his matches relatively easily.
A public address announcement at the end of the preliminaries said wrestlers who had finished their matches by noon would be given a one-hour break. Thinking he had finished by the deadline, LaHaye took the anticipated recess.
But upon his return, LaHaye was told that he had missed the opening round of the finals and his match had been forfeited. This eliminated him from the chance for a championship.
LaHaye says he believes he had a legitimate chance of winning the gold medal based on comparative scores with the wrestler who went on to win the crown.
Both LaHaye and the champion had an opponent in common. The champion won his match on points, while LaHaye nearly pinned the same foe on the way to a major decision.
The trip to Reno for the World Championships was not LaHaye's first.
Last year, he went as an untested freshman and lasted until the quarterfinals.
Preparing for the tournament has been a rock 'em, sock 'em ordeal for the youngster. Under the tutelage of coach Dave LaMotte, he tuned up arduously with a variety of drills.
"There's a lot of running and weightlifting, and then we go into the wrestling room for more practice," LaHaye said.
Unlike USA Wrestling which conducts its tournament with freestyle and Greco-Roman rules, the World Championships adhere to collegiate rules. LaHaye says championships are demanding but he enjoys the style of competition.
LaHaye has been a varsity starter on the state champion Payson High School team since his freshman year. Last year, the youngster captured the Class 3A 125-pound state title. At the Tim Van Horn Memorial Tournament in February held in Payson's Wilson Dome, he was named the meet's outstanding wrestler in the lower weight classes.
His goal, he says, is to earn a college scholarship in the sport.