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Orien Israel

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Orien Israel Wrestling Champ

AZTEC — Orien Israel has been working, and working, and working. And now, the Aztec senior wrestler is reaping the rewards of his tireless pursuit of perfection, both on and off the mats.

Last week, at the Blackwatch wrestling tournament in Upland, Calif., Israel finished second in the 182-pound weight division, which consisted of 29 wrestlers, and helped the Tigers to a fifth-place finish in the 63-team field.

"It was really great to go out there and see new and diverse competition, and see how well I could do against it," Israel said. "Individually, you never know where you're at until you achieve something."

Israel hopes that facing the high level of competition at the Blackwatch will help him compete at a higher level as he works through the second half of the season and prepares for February's district and state championships.

Ranked among the top wrestlers in the state at 182 pounds, Israel is expected to challenge for an individual title, one of his goals for his final season in black and orange. He knows he'll have to continue to work every day to get to the top level, but working hard has never been an issue for the senior.

"He's not a real athletic kid, but he's a pleasure to work with because he'll do whatever you ask and he'll work his tail off to get better," Aztec assistant Herb Stinson said of Israel. "He may make a mistake, but he'll work to correct the mistake."

Israel was named one of the Tigers' team captains entering the 2014-15 season, due in part to his work ethic and leadership.

With a young roster — 31 of Aztec's 42 wrestlers are underclassmen — Israel is tasked, along with his fellow captains and upperclassmen, with guiding his younger teammates.

"They've really stepped it up this year and I want to see them develop, and help them develop as much as I can," Israel said of Aztec's underclassmen. "I encourage them as much as I can. They are young and they are going to make mistakes, but I want to make sure that they learn from it."

Hard work and leadership have helped Israel reach a high level in wrestling, but it's the type of person he is away from athletics that separates him from the rest.

While he would like to continue his wrestling career at the collegiate level, Israel said he would only do so if it comes with the right academic opportunity. An 'A' and 'B' student, Israel said going home with anything less than an 80 percent is unacceptable. Wherever he attends college, he wants to major in chemical engineering.

Because he strives for greatness in everything he does, Stinson said the Aztec coaching staff never has to worry about Israel in the classroom or outside of the wrestling room, making him an ideal student athlete.

"He's what I call a prototype Aztec wrestler because he's the kind of kid we want in our program," Stinson said.

Karl Schneider covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648 and

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