Wrestlers from around the 3A East will battle tomorrow, Feb. 6, at Blue Ridge High School for regional honors and the right to move on to the state tournament when it is held Feb. 12 and 13 in Prescott.
The top four East finishers in each of the weight divisions qualify for the state showdown.
Longhorn coach Travis Koppenhafer and his grapplers have set a regional tournament goal of qualifying all nine of their wrestlers for the big show.
He believes the Horns have a golden chance to accomplish that, “Our team is in tremendous shape because of the boys’ commitment and work ethic.”
He’s also predicting a majority of the teams in the East will show well at state and the region tournament in Lakeside will be the most competitive in the 3A conference.
“As usual, five (East teams) will place in the top 10 come the state tournament,” he said.
With nine wrestlers competing tomorrow, Koppenhafer took time this week to evaluate each individual.
• 112 — “Jacob Spear should be the No. 1 seed in the regional tournament and is ranked third in the state. He is 28-6 on the year and hungry for his first regional title.”
• 119 — “Unranked freshman Matt Schruer will probably get the fourth seed. He has had close matches with the four- and five-ranked guys in the state and we are expecting a good showing at regionals.”
• 125 — “Jacob Cluff will get anywhere from the first to the fourth seed at regionals. This might be the toughest weight at the tournament with four wrestlers competing that are ranked in the top six in the state. He will have tough matches in Udall from Round Valley, Chase from Snowflake, and Pearce from Show Low. Jacob is 19-6 on the year and ranked sixth in the state.”
• 130 — “In a battle of last year’s state finals match, Ben Lee will most likely wrestle three-time defending state champ Ricky Ryan of Show Low in the finals of our regional tournament. Lee is 31-4 on the year, having lost to Ryan earlier in the season (by a score of 4-3). Ben is hungry and looking to upset Ryan in a battle of the top two ranked wrestlers in the state.”
• 135 — “Senior Joey Spear has had a phenomenal season racking up wins to a 32-5 record. Currently ranked fourth in the state, Joey has beaten everyone in our region and is undefeated in 3A competition. He is focused on dominating our region which he should do as the No. 1 seed.”
• 140 — “Senior Ben Sandoval makes his return to the mat after a season plagued with injuries. Injured or not, Ben will have the No. 1 seed at regionals and he is currently ranked No. 1 in the state. He could get a tough match from (Round Valley’s) Ryan Bigelow ranked No. 3 in the state.”
• 145 — “Sophomore Keith Williams is performing great for our team, wrestling up two weight classes. Keith is fearless on the mat and has powered his way to a 4-1 regional record, his only loss coming to Joseph Baldenado of Blue Ridge who is currently ranked third in the state.”
• 152 — Freshman Connor Anderson has had an up and down campaign this year, but has been working hard and is ready to punch his ticket for the state tournament. He is fresh off a 5-0 performance at the East vs. West duals and hopes to carry that momentum into regionals.”
• 160 — “Senior Derek Williams is currently ranked sixth in the state. He has pinned his way to a 24-4 record. He will face stiff competition from Brandt of Snowflake and Henderson of Blue Ridge, ranked third and second respectively. Derrick lost to both at the outset of the season and is looking for some major revenge at regionals.”
Regional tournament action takes place tomorrow, Feb. 6, at Blue Ridge High School.