The 2009-10 high school wrestling season was supposed to mark the end of Longhorn woes in which the team could not field a full lineup of wrestlers in all 14 weight classes.
But those problems continued to hamper the Horns when the team traveled Dec. 4-5 to the Rio Rancho Duals in Albuquerque, N.M.
“We were missing some key starters at 125, 140, 145 and heavyweight,” coach Travis Koppenhafer said. “And we still do not have a 215-pounder.”
Those lineup problems were all too similar to those last year’s team endured when it often forfeited three and sometimes four weight classes.
In last season’s state team championship, Payson forfeited a whopping six classes, or 36 points to Holbrook. Although the Horns wrestled the Roadrunners to a 23-23 tie, the forfeited points gave Holbrook a 59-23 victory.
For the Rio Rancho Duals, “Joey Garcia didn’t wrestle 125 because of weight issues,” Koppenhafer said. “Ben Sandoval didn’t wrestle 140 because of a leg infection, Keith Williams (145) had some family business to attend to and J.B. Thornhill (heavyweight) just got cleared this week to wrestle.”
The coach expects all the individuals, except for Sandoval, to return by Dec. 12 to compete in an East Region multi meet in Show Low.
Despite being shorthanded in the prestigious New Mexico duals, Payson managed wins over Espanola and Moriarty, N.M. high schools.
Individually, Ben Lee (130) won all seven of his matches. Jake Spear (112) won six of his seven matches, losing only a hotly contested 7-5 decision to the Class 4A New Mexico state champion. Joey Spear (135) and Derek Williams (160) also finished with 6-1 records.
“Derek’s only loss came when he bumped up to wrestle at 171 (pounds),” Koppenhafer said.
Freshman Matt Schreur (103) had a varsity debut he won’t soon forget posting a 5-0 record.
Although Nick Johnson is a senior, he also made his varsity debut during the duals and got off to a rough start losing his first two matches on pins.
“He then reeled off four straight wins, including three by pins and an overtime victory,” Koppenhafer said. “He really made big gains as a wrestler that weekend.”
The coach calls stepping onto the varsity mat for the first time, as Johnson did, “a lonely feeling, but Nick proved himself up to the task.”
The East Region meet tomorrow, Dec. 12, begins at 1 p.m. in Show Low High School gymnasium.