GLEN ROSE - Merriam-Webster’s simple definition of a fighter is someone who does not give up, someone who continues fighting or trying. Diego Ruiz embodies everything about this definition.
“I feel like I can fight harder, I can train harder, I can sweat and bleed and nothing will stop me,” Ruiz continued. “Right when I walk into the ring, [my opponent] is just another fighter and it’s no biggie. I just go in and do my thing and let the better man win.”
It just so happens that the ring was at the 2016 Texas State Taekwondo Championships and, in this case, Ruiz came out the better man. With his victory, The Glen Rose High School senior now holds the title of the 2016 Texas State Taekwondo Champion in the Featherweight Division.
“It feels really good, because I put so much work into it and just getting a reward from it is awesome,” he said.
Ruiz began martial arts at 10-years-old and he trained out of a small gym here in Glen Rose. When that gym closed, his family drove him to Granbury to train. After he earned his black belt, Ruiz knew he wanted to advance even more with his practice. On the suggestion of a friend he got into contact with coach Adriana Gonzales at Adrenaline Taekwondo in Ft. Worth. He tried out for Gonzales and she was impressed with his skills and let him on the team.
Now Ruiz makes the 54-mile drive to Ft. Worth four times a week to train. It is during these training sessions that he gains the fighter mentality to step into the ring for tournaments.
“I go in with a mindset of this is going to be another day and once I start hitting the drills and intense sparring it’s kind of like I’m in game mode,” he stated.
Training at Adrenaline has been the best thing for Ruiz. Not only is he state champ, he will be heading to Nationals in July. Before he heads to Nationals he will be competing at the Pan American tournament, where he will be in the ring with competitors from all over the world. Knowing that he will be up against some of the best taekwondo practitioners in the world has only made Ruiz even more determined. Right now he is training even harder in the gym.
In his short career Ruiz has made the leap from student to teacher. He now teaches the martial arts form to younger students at Adrenaline.
“It’s a good feeling to see the kids get really happy because we are teaching them, he added. “I want to say I think I do inspire them, because after every tournament our coach will tell the kids how we did, and the kids get filled with excitement because they know their coach is state champ and that’s so cool.”
In addition to mastering the art of taekwondo the GRHS student is on the tennis team, and by the time he graduates in May, he will have completed 37 college course hours. Ruiz will use those credit hours at the University of Texas, Arlington when he starts attending in the fall.
“I try to dedicate myself a lot to school and taekwondo, Ruiz explained. “It’s definitely become a lot of my commitment, because I wake up, go school and then on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays when school’s over, I go teach and then I have my class. When it ends at 8:30 I come home and study.”
Not only does Ruiz excel in school, he also works during the summer at Glen Lake Camp to help cover the expenses of his taekwondo training. Between the travel costs, tournament entry fees, and training sessions, his mom, Rosa said the sport could get expensive on the family’s budget.
As he moves on to college Ruiz plans to continue to pursue his taekwondo, because he still has plenty to do in the sport. He said that going to the 2020 Olympics would definitely be a dream come true, but for right now he is staying focused on the present challenges in front of him.
“Right now I’m focusing on what I can accomplish in the year, and one of my main goals is the World Cup team,” he said.
If this past year is any indication, Ruiz is very much one his way to making the World Cup team.