This story was originally published on Sept. 21, 2016

Fifteen-year-old Taylor Peercy has come home with her fair share of black eyes, scratches and bruises.

But the Rincon High School sophomore isn't getting into fights in the schoolyard, she is chasing her dream of competing in the 2020 Olympics, one judo match at a time.

While Taylor is quiet and unassuming around her classmates, the last five years she has spent training at Tucson Dojo has built her confidence and skill level up to the point where she has been named one of the top judo fighters in the country.

Competing in national contests over the last year has helped Taylor earn a No. 6 ranking in her weight class for 15- to 17-year-old girls.


Judo student Taylor Peercy grapples with her sensei Michael Sumner during a class at Higher Ground Resource Center, Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016, Tucson, Ariz.ย 

Taylor could easily focus all her time and energy on her own endeavors. Instead, the Tucson teen is working with girls and boys as young as 6 years old twice a week, helping them master judo moves and encouraging them to dig deep and be fierce whether they are on the mat or in anything else they choose to pursue.

Read more about how this judo fighter juggles school and the sport, the impact she hopes to have on her young students and her olympic goals.

On joining the judo world

โ€œI started judo when I was 10. I saw a sign and I wanted to try it. I thought I would just do it for a little bit and probably stop and do something else. I didnโ€™t think I would end up here, wanting to go to the Olympics.โ€

On judo-instilled values

โ€œCourtesy, courage, honesty, modesty. You have to be honest with yourself when youโ€™re on the mat. You have to be modest whether you win or lose โ€” you have to say โ€˜thank youโ€™ to your opponent. You have to have courage to go out there and fight your hardest and leave it all on the mat.โ€

On becoming a nationally-ranked fighter

Taylor trains judo for four hours a day, four days a week and she does jiu jitsu for one hour. She travels once a month to California for intense training with Sensei Tony Mojica, a former Olympic coach for Mexico. She does strength training twice a week.

On juggling school and judo

Lots of late nights and slipping in homework before she trains and during independent study opportunities at school. When Taylor has to go out of town, her teachers send school work with her. On top of being ranked sixth in the country in judo, Taylor is earning four Aโ€™s and two Bโ€™s in school.

On working with young judokas

โ€œI like teaching kids and I learn a lot from them. I know they are watching how I react and I want to be a role model. I want them to know they shouldnโ€™t be scared to do something different than other girls, like itโ€™s OK to be different than the regular type of girl and you can do whatever you want to.โ€


Judo student Taylor Peercy practices her technique with Jansen Azarias during her class at Higher Ground Resource Center, Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016, Tucson, Ariz. Kelly Presnell / Arizona Daily Star

The journey to the 2020 olympics in Tokyo

โ€œIโ€™m doing the best I can, Iโ€™m training everyday. It would mean the whole world to make it, I donโ€™t even know how to describe it in words. I think I would cry first and then I would jump up down, and thank everyone who pushed me to where I wanted to be.โ€

On being a badass

โ€œI donโ€™t think that a lot of girls like me do this, so being different I think is pretty badass.โ€


27 questions with Taylor Peercy

Your name, age, occupation.

Taylor-Marie Peercy, 15, student

I'm on a mission to _______________________.

the Olympics in 2020

What's your astrology sign? Does it fit you?

Aries. Yes

Describe yourself in three words...

Badass, Amazing, Beautiful

And in five emojis.

๐Ÿ• ๐ŸŒฎ ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ ๐Ÿ… ๐Ÿ’ช๐Ÿป

How long have you lived in Tucson?

All my life

Who and/or what inspires you?

Marti Malloy, Hannah Martin, Kayla Harrison

The secret to coping with stress is ________________.


Your favorite Tucson spot?

Calle Tepa

What are your favorite three songs and why?

Eye of The Tiger, Lose Yourself, Picky

Your go-to order at your favorite Tucson restaurant?


What's your favorite Tucson-only thing?


You know you're a Tucsonan when _____________.

You like the rain

What constitutes your morning getting-ready routine and how long does it take?

Pack my bag for judo and jui-jistu

Favorite app at the moment?

Disney Blitz Emoji

Give us a two-sentence pep talk.

Never give up on your dreams!! Don't stop believing in yourself

What would you tell your teenage self?

Don't be so scared in life

What's a quality you got from your mama?

Don't Take Crap From Anybody

And one you hope to pass on to the next generation?

Keep Your Dreams Big

The last great book you read?

The Summer I Turned Pretty

The last great movie you watched?


Is there something you've always wanted to learn, but haven't had the time?

How to ride a bike

Anything you've always wondered about Tucson?

Why is it so hot

Favorite ice cream flavor?


Where can our readers follow you on social media?

Is there something you REALLY nerd out about?


What's your spirit animal?


Which fictional character (from TV, movies, books, etc.) just gets you?

Hermione, Rocky

What makes you feel the most confident?


The best piece of advice you ever received?

Don't Stop Believing In People