Payson Qualifies 10 Wrestlers For State

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Jed Ward is in an uncomfortable position at this point in his match.

Longhorn wrestlers came up short in their bid to win East regional team and individual championships but that shouldn't stall their bid for state honors.

Payson remains in contention because 10 grapplers qualified for the Class 3A tournament by virtue of top-four finishes in the East finals held Feb. 2 in Show Low.

The only weight divisions in which Payson did not qualify state entrants were 103, 135, 145 and heavyweight.

The state tournament will be held Feb. 8 and 9 in Glendale.

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Joey Spears has his Alchesay opponent where he wants him in his first match at the start of the tournament.

Longhorn qualifiers and their first round state opponents include:

  • Ben Lee (112). The freshman qualified as an East runner-up and will open the tournament against Jason Rhea of Chino Valley. Lee is 28-12.
  • Jacob Cluff (119). Cluff opens against Winslow's John Beecroft after finishing second at the East tournament. Cluff, a freshman, has posted a 16-13 record this year.
  • Joey Spear (125). The sophomore finished fourth at regionals and will take on Eddie Montano of Winslow at state. Spear is 21-25.
  • Ben Sandoval (130). Son of PHS principal Roy Sandoval, Ben was second at the East tournament. He finished the season 37-12 and will challenge Coolidge's J. Dominquez in the state opener.
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    Payson High wrestling Coach Dave LaMotte and Isaac Cluff look over the match-ups after the coaches' meeting before the start of the regional Tournament.

  • Isaac Cluff (140). The West Point appointee and honor student wrapped up the year 41-9 and was an East region silver medalist. He's pitted against Chino Valley's Billy Davis.

Mark McCarty (152). Probably Payson's best wrestler, McCarty was upset in his bid to win an East crown but will open pursuit of a state title against Sam Pennington of Florence. McCarty, a senior, is 42-3.

Nick Goodman (160). With a 29-8 record and an East third-place showing, Goodman opens at state against Alex Tsosie of Ganado.

Kevin Bryant (171). Bryant finished third in Show Low and is paired against Wyatt Dewitt of Winslow in the state tip off match. Bryant, a senior, is 22-8.

Clint Godac (189). Only a freshman, Godac was third in the regional tournament and will battle Estrella Foothill's Eric Brumbach. Godac is 6-9 on the year.

Bryan Burke (215). With a 44-4 record and an East silver medal, Burke opens against R. Nelson of Empire. In the East tournament finale, Burke lost to former PHS football and wrestling star Steel Armstrong, who transferred to Blue Ridge two years ago.

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