Although it's the off-season, local high school wrestlers will soon have the opportunity to test their mat skills against some of the best young athletes from a pair of neighboring states.
At 6 p.m. Sunday (June 2) in Wilson Dome, prep teams representing Bayfield, Colo. and Aztec, N.M. will lock horns with a band of young Payson wrestlers looking to improve their skills for next season.
PHS wrestling coach Dave LaMotte and his staff will oversee the scrimmage that represents a stop on a Western United States tour in which Bayfield and Aztec participate. Both schools, LaMotte said, are wrestling powerhouses in their respective states.
Prior to their stop in Payson, Bayfield and Aztec will have visited several Valley schools including Class 5A powerhouse Mesa Red Mountain. Taking on such formidable competition will be a huge learning experience for the Payson wrestlers, LaMotte said.
Among the PHS athletes expected to participate in the scrimmage are Nathan Lee, Zack Lee, George Coleman and Larry Wilbanks.
Competing in the 171-pound cadet age group (15-16 years), Nathan Lee recently won the USA Arizona State Freestyle championship.
Like Nathan, Zack Lee and Coleman also won age/weight division freestyle championships at the Arizona meet.
Zack Lee captured his crown in the 152-pound junior (17-18) division and Coleman was the 215-pound junior champion.
At the state championships, Wilbanks finished third in the 140-pound junior division.
Since both Bayfield and Aztec will bring to Payson several younger wrestlers, LaMotte is anticipating a handful of Rim Country Middle School grapplers will be on hand. Among the younger grapplers who could see action are Tyler Goodman, Kevin Allen and Mark McCarty.
LaMotte is encouraging spectators and fans to attend the scrimmage. There is no admission charge.
Following the June 2 scrimmage, the local wrestlers will return to practice sessions from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. June 3, 5 and 7 in the Wilson Dome wrestling room. The sessions, which will be designed to help local youngsters prepare for the June 8 Grand Canyon State Games in Wilson Dome, are free.
Registration and weigh-in for the GC Games will take place from 7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. The fee is $25, which includes a souvenir T-shirt. Medals will be awarded to the top three finishers in each age/weight division.