The wrestling action this past Friday and Saturday in the Rim Country Duals was exciting and intense as most teams were in action for the last time prior to the Christmas break.
The dual meet format allows a wrestling fan to see an entire team in competition, which increases spectator interest.
From a coach's perspective, a dual meet tournament provides every wrestler on the team more matches in a day of wrestling, because the entire team is participating with another squad as opposed to the bracketed weight class tournaments, which only allow the best wrestlers to continue competition. It is possible in a weight class bracketed tournament to go two matches and out, which will not benefit the more inexperienced wrestlers. The dual meet format is excellent for the early season, because time and experience are essential for later season success.
On Friday, the Payson Longhorns wrestled three duals and gained momentum with each victory as the team defeated Queen Creek 56-19, San Manual 50-21, and Page 63-21. Wrestling to three wins and no losses put them into the team championship bracket on Saturday morning against Canyon State Academy where they soundly defeated the competition, 68-12. The final dual meet for the tournament title placed the Payson Longhorns against a much-improved team from Ironwood High School and Payson won a real thriller by a final score of 49-26.
Throughout an athletic season, there can be a few key moments or matches that help create true team cohesion. The dual with Ironwood may very likely be considered one of those true turning points. The Longhorns were down 27-6 when Isaac Cluff stepped on the mat at 140 pounds and after regulation time of six minutes the score was tied at 5-5.
In overtime, the winner is determined by the first wrestler to score, and after a flurry of action, Isaac scored a takedown for two points and the match victory. Seven consecutive victories followed. The Longhorns were like a freight train that could not be stopped.
Porter Wilbanks scored a pin at 147, Mark McCarty pinned at 154, Kevin Bryant earned a major decision of 9-1, Zach Rodgers pinned at 171, Oshay Chovanec pinned at l89, Brian Burke pinned at 215, and Oscar Chavez completed the tournament championship with a first period fall. Momentum can help create a new level of team performance that can be drawn on for the rest of the season. This dual will be used by coach LaMotte for later mat wars.
At the completion of the dual meet tournament, the top four wrestlers in each weight class wrestled for the gold medal in each of the 14 weight classes. Again, Payson prevailed with six champions, two runners-up, a third, and two fourth places for a grand total of 11 placers against quality opponents.
At the completion of the tournament, two wrestlers were chosen by the coaches and referees as the outstanding wrestlers of the Rim Country Duals.
Chris Romiti at 119 from San Manual and Longhorn Porter Wilbanks at 145 received wall plaques that were given in honor of former Longhorn wrestler Mark Sylvester.
Mark Sylvester wrestled for Payson High School where he was All-State at 145 pounds. He graduated in l984. He was a tenacious wrestler and led by example on and off the mat as a true student athlete. He was an inspiration to his teammates with his tremendous work ethic.
Eight years ago he developed cancer and passed away leaving his wife, Bobette, and two children.
His son Chandler, who is currently a freshman on the Longhorn squad, presented the award in honor of his father. This award will be an annual presentation to honor the former Longhorn star, Mark Sylvester.