The Payson Longhorn wrestling squad put forth a valiant effort in the Rim Country Duals championship finals, but it was not enough to bring home the big medal.
After two days of intense and exciting high school wrestling, the two teams going into the championship matches were still undefeated: perennial powerhouses, the Payson Longhorns and the Silver City High School team from New Mexico.
Both teams had earned a spot in the championship finals by winning five duals in the previous day of wrestling. From a spectators' perspective, this would be a hotly contested dual between two quality teams where pinning may make the difference for the title championship trophy.
Silver City earned a fall at 103 and Ben Lee at 112 pounds but the Longhorns responded by pinning his opponent in the second period.
With the score knotted at 6-6, the visiting New Mexico squad scored three consecutive pins and a decision to take a commanding lead of 27-6.
Isaac Cluff, at 140 pounds and West Point-bound, recorded a first-period fall, which put the Longhorns within striking distance. Mark McCarty followed at 152 lbs. with a fall, as the senior continued his winning ways.
Oshay Chovanec earned a hard-fought decision with a takedown for a 3-1 victory. Bryan Burke, a junior and state-placer at 215, finished the scoring for the Payson grapplers with a second-period fall.
The final score was 51-27 in favor of the Silver City squad, but the Payson wrestlers fought valiantly and had the opportunity to wrestle a quality team, which will pay them dividends in the later season.
At the conclusion of the dual meet competition, the top four wrestlers in each weight class squared off in a mini-tournament in a battle for the gold medal.
The matchups created a fitting climax for the two days of wrestling plus quality competition for many of the grapplers from the 10 schools in attendance.
Payson had eight medalists
The Payson Longhorns had eight medalists for the tournament.
- At 103 pounds, Jed Ward defeated his Queen Creek foe with a 4-2 decision and earned the bronze medal.
- Joey Spear at 125 recorded a fall over his San Manuel opponent and also earned the third-place award.
- Ben Sandoval, a sophomore, wrestled in the championship at 130 against the defending state champion from New Mexico and lost in a real barnburner 16-9. Sandoval had taken his Silver City opponent down and put him on his back in the first period and kept the match close until the end.
- Ryan Cox earned fourth place at 135 and scored valuable team points.
- At 140 pounds, Isaac Cluff lost a thriller in overtime 4-3 and was awarded the silver medal for his weekend efforts.
- Nick Goodman, a 160-pound state-placer as a sophomore, made it to the championship finals and lost by a fall to another New Mexico state champion, as he earned the silver medal.
- Mark McCarty at 152, a senior, and Bryan Burke at 215, a junior, both received gold medals for winning their respective weight classes for the Longhorn team.
McCarty pinned his opponent from Queen Creek in 3:31, while Burke decisioned his Silver City grappler 3-0 for a hard-fought victory.
Both McCarty and Burke will be wrestlers to watch for later divisional and state competition as they continue to improve in their quest for a state championship.
The Longhorns are done with competition until after the holidays, but coach Dave LaMotte will have them working on improving their technique in the practice room for the divisional wars in January.
The practice schedule for the holidays is available at the high school athletic office or from LaMotte.