Payson’s “Big Five” of Jacob Spears, Ben Lee, Ben Sandoval, Nick Goodman and Bryan Burke will lead the Longhorn wrestling team tomorrow, Jan. 14, to Wickenburg and three days later to Alamosa, Colo.
In Wickenburg, the Horns will face off against four small town Arizona teams. But in Colorado, Payson will be pitted against some of the state’s finest “big school” squads.
During both invitationals, the Horns might have to give up forfeit points in three weight classes — 112, 142 and 171.
In the 112 class, the status of usual starter Ryan Abraham is up in the air due to a foot injury.
In the Rim Country Duals in mid-December, he showed well, recording three pins in the 119-pound division.
Although the Horns could lose Abraham, they do have in their arsenal the five stalwarts who have the potential to medal at both upcoming tournaments.
Sandoval, a junior, has been particularly impressive losing only two matches this season. Both were to Mingus’ Josh Chang who is on track to be a four-time Class 4A state champion.
Spears, only a freshman, sprung onto the wrestling scene early this year with stellar performances at Fountain Hills, in the Rim Country Duals and at the Mingus Invitational.
The 152-pound Goodman, a senior, who was second in the Rim Country Duals and third at the Mingus meet, will take four years of varsity experience to the two upcoming tournaments.
Goodman is athletically seasoned by his varsity participation on the state championship football team and as a pole-vaulter in track and field.
Lee was a state placer last year as a freshman and has returned this season with more experience and maturity.
At the Mingus meet, the 125-pounder was 4-1, losing only to a returning 5A state champion in the finale. In the Rim Country Duals he won his weight class title.
Burke, an all-state and Arizona Coaches Association all-star tackle and end for the Longhorn football team, has proven for the past two seasons to be one of the finest 215-pounders in the state.
He has the potential to return from both Wickenburg and Alamosa with medals in hand.
Also on the PHS schedule is the Tim Van Horn Invitational, which will be held Jan. 23 and 24 in Wilson Dome.
The tournament is probably the highlight of the home season and is held each year in memory of Van Horn, a dedicated Longhorn team booster who died tragically, almost two decades ago, in an out-of-state auto accident.