Giving up 24 points at the onset of each wrestling dual is not an ideal situation for any high school team to find itself.
But that’s exactly what happened to the Payson Longhorns Dec. 3 and 4 in the Southwest Duals tournament held at Rio Rancho High School near Albuquerque, N.M.
The Longhorns could not fill four weight classes — 103, 189, 215 and heavyweight — for any of its eight matches over the two days.
“We were in a bit of a hole to start off,” said PHS coach Casey Woodall.
Nonetheless, the Longhorns were able to carve out a 3-5 dual meet record and took fifth in Pool A.
In the championship round, the Horns beat Tascoas, N.M. and Rio Rancho jayvee for 13th place.
Woodall returned to Payson saying, “I was pleased with our kids as a group and thought we grew up quite a bit over the course of the tournament.”
The duals allowed the young Longhorn wrestlers to see firsthand some of the best teams and finest grapplers from a five-state area — New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Arizona and Oklahoma.
“We got a chance to see programs like Rio Rancho, New Mexico and Duncan, Oklahoma which represent the point we are trying to get to,” said Woodall. “We then talked to the kids about what it will take to get to that point.”
In the prestigious fray that drew mostly 4A and 5A schools, Payson High was the school with the second smallest enrollment.
Individually, Jacob Spear (125) and Ben Lee (140) both wrapped up the tournament with 7-1 records.
Spear, Woodall said, “Wrestled extremely well, battling injuries and had a barnburner match against a Rio Rancho kid. He had to overcome a lot of adversity to win.”
About Lee, Woodall said, “His only loss was to a Rio Rancho kid in a 1-0 match. Other than that, he dominated all his opponents.”
The coach also lauded 171-pound Tanner Savage for his 6-2 record, “Very impressive for a sophomore. He has a lot of potential to be a threat by the end of the year.”
In the 145-pound mat battle, Colton Ludtke also finished 6-2.
“I’m extremely happy with the way he wrestled,” said Woodall. “He showed major improvement as he majored (decision) a kid who had pinned him last year.”
Travis Bix finished 5-3 stamping the sophomore “another bright spot.”
Freshman Austin Armstead finished 4-4 in the 112-pound class.
Fellow freshman Tanner Purtill was 4-4 in the 135-pound division.
Jacob Cluff (130) posted a 6-2 record and Zac Wilson (119) was 2-6 filling in for Matt Schreur who didn’t make weight.
“I was extremely pleased with the work ethic and the willingness to listen that the kids displayed,” said Woodall. “As long as they continue to work hard to improve, we will be fine.”