Payson High School junior R.C. LaHaye scurried to teacher/coach Dave LaMotte's social studies classroom Friday morning with nothing more occupying his mind than the day's practice agenda.
Before entering, however, classmates overwhelmed him with congratulations.
"I didn't know what it was all about, but coach (LaMotte) told me," LaHaye said.
The hoopla had originated hours earlier when it was made public that LaHaye had been selected to the prestigious All-Arizona wrestling first-team.
The award is given annually to the state's most outstanding wrestlers in each weight division, regardless of school size they represent. The athletes are chosen in a voting of members of the Arizona Wrestling Coaches Association.
Often, the honors are doled out to athletes from Class 4A and 5A schools located in metropolitan Phoenix and Tucson.
On the 2000 first team, LaHaye was the single honoree not from a 4A or 5A school.
The only other Payson wrestler to earn first-team status was Christopher Pirch three years ago. In 1998, Payson's Jeff LaMotte was a second-team selection.
In addition to naming LaHaye to the first team, honorable mention honors went to Payson's 189-pound state champion Jimbo Armstrong.
As the first-team member in the 135-pound weight division, LaHaye's greatest competition for the slot came from Tucson Sunnyside's Seabrook Sizzle.
The 4A champion finished the season undefeated but had to settle for All-Arizona second-team honors behind LaHaye.
PHS assistant coach Don Heizer said he believes one of the reasons the Payson wrestler earned the nod over Sizzle was due to their performances against a common opponent.
During the past season, LaHaye and Sizzle locked horns with a talented 135-pounder from Mingus Union. Sizzle narrowly defeated him in the state championships, but LaHaye turned heads in mid-season by whipping the Marauder on a major decision.
LaHaye said since he and Sizzle had not met head-to-head, he also believed the results against a common opponent might have swayed the ACA members in his favor.
However, even without that bit of evidence proving his state supremacy, LaHaye would have been a strong first-team candidate. The two-time weight class champion finished the season with an eye-popping 41-0 record leading the Longhorns to the 2000 3A state title.
Seldom during the season was LaHaye tested, winning most of his matches on pins, major decisions and technical falls. The grappler capped the season Saturday evening in Wilson dome with a 16-4 major decision in the Best in the West all-star match.
Paired against Mesa Dobson's Caleb Peters -- the 5A state bronze medalist -- LaHaye outmaneuvered and outmuscled his foe to the easy win.
With the season behind him and a summer of amateur USA Wrestling competition awaiting, LaHaye said his goal is to cap his senior season with a third state championship and turn in a performance good enough to earn a college scholarship.
The past months, several colleges have courted LaHaye who said he is listening to all offers.
Although he is a B student, he'll have to improve his GPA to attend Stanford University. Others he's considering include Oregon State, Arizona State and a handful of small colleges in Colorado.
More of the West's best
In addition to LaHaye's victory in the Best of the West tournament, Payson High had two other wrestlers emerge victorious.
Junior Caleb Miller, a state runner-up, pinned Arcel Allsup of Duncan in a showdown of two of the best 145-pounders in Arizona.
Also, 112-pound freshman Matt McCarty filled in at the last moment for an athlete who didn't show up and wrestled his way to a tournament title with a 3-2 victory.
In addition to the Best in the West tournament, more than 300 youngsters from Arizona and New Mexico showed up in Wilson dome to participate in a day-long USA Wrestling freestyle youth tournament.
Local athletes who earned age/weight class crowns included Porter Wilbanks, Garrett Stanley, Bryce River and McCarty.
Silver medalists were Clint Godac, Nathan Lee, Mark McCarty and Larry Wilbanks. Ben Sandoval wrestled his way to third-place honors. Aaron Bratholdt was fourth. Also participating was Stefan Bernhardt.