In high school sports, individual praise is traditionally reserved for older senior class athletes who have paid their dues to the program.
An unwritten rule in coaching ranks is to not heap too many accolades on newcomers to avoid swelled heads and inflated egos.
But that’s not the situation with Payson’s 103-pound wrestling stalwart Jacob Spears.
“He’s a good one, really good,” said PHS principal Roy Sandoval, also a former Longhorn wrestler.
Former coach Dennis Pirch, the founder of the PHS wrestling program, lauds Spears as an up-and-comer with unlimited potential.
So, what has Spears done to draw all these plaudits?
Some are arriving as the result of his showing in the recently completed Rim Country Duals in which he captured the weight class championship.
“He did so well and didn’t even get an outstanding wrestler award,” assistant coach Joseph Harris said.
That award went to a 119-pound champion from San Manuel.
Spears opened the tournament with a 14-2 major decision loss to a Skyline foe. Refusing to whine over spilt sports drink, the teen returned to the foe with a vengeance, recording a first period pin of Fountain Hills’ 103-pounder.
Against Chandler Seton, he moved up to the 112-pound class and won by a fall in the first period.
After taking a forfeit against Camelback, he major decisioned San Manuel’s entrant.
Finally in the dual meet portion of the tournament, he won on a forfeit against Queen Creek.
With his one-loss record he moved on to the individual championship round where he met the same Skyline wrester who had beaten him in the earlier duals by 12 points.
This time around, the Skyline grappler was no match for Spears who pinned him to win the tournament crown.
“(The win) wasn’t a fluke or anything like that, Jacob dominated him before the pin,” Harris said.
The frosh was one of four Payson wrestlers who earned tournament titles. The others were Ben Lee (125), Ben Sandoval (135) and Bryan Burke (215).
With the duals at an end, Spears, Lee, Sandoval, Burke and their teammates are continuing to condition and train in holiday practices. They’ll return to action Jan. 2 and 3 at the Mingus Invitational, which is considered one of the state’s most competitive tournaments.