The Christmas holiday is a two-week break from the rigors of classroom attendance, homework, and tests for the Payson High School students, but the young men and women who are student-athletes are diligently practicing in preparation for the second half of their season.
The wrestlers, under the leadership of head coach Dave LaMotte, have been honing their skills in preparation for the stretch run of divisional and state competition.Each dual meet or tournament in January seems to mean more than the pre-holiday matches.As the coaches plan, and theeam practices, the obvious goal is for each varsity wrestler to earn a berth at the big dance, the 3-A state tournament.
The Longhorn wrestlers are currently 8-2 in dual-meet competition with a third-place finish in the Holbrook Invitational and the runner-up trophy at the Rim Country Duals. The early season success has been the result of a number of wrestlers scoring team points for the Longhorns.
At the midseason break, there are two Longhorns with identical 22-0 records;Mark McCarty, a senior, at 152 and Bryan Burke, a junior, at 215.
They both finished first in their respective weight classes at the Holbrook Invitational and the Rim Country Duals which will give them momentum going into the second half of the season and their quest for a gold medal at the state tournament.
The Longhorns are establishing a much-needed balance in the lineup as all the wrestlers sport a winning record in varsity competition. West Point bound Isaac Cluff has a 20-2 record at 140 pounds, while sophomore Ben Sandoval has grappled to an 18-4 mark at 130 pounds.
Junior state placer, Nick Goodman, is 7-2 at 160 pounds, having been out of the lineup in the early weeks of December.Ben Lee, only a freshman,as earned
the starting spot at 112 pounds and is currently making his presence known with a 12-4 record against varsity wrestlers.
As the Longhornrapplers continue to improve in each weight class, team balance will begin to develop, which is essential at the divisional and state tournaments.
The Payson team travels to Cottonwood today to compete in the always-tough Dave Work Memorial Tournament, which is hosted by the two-time defending 4-A state champions.
Other powerhouse squads from the 5-A ranks will also be attending, which certainly creates a high level of wrestling action.Former state championship teams from Red Mountain, Mesa, Desert Vista, and Kofa will be attending and will test the Longhorn squad.
"This would be the best wrestling we have seen to date this season," LaMotte said.