The East vs. West Duals Jan. 13 in Wilson Dome will provide fans and boosters their first opportunity to see Longhorn wrestlers showcase their grappling skills on the home front.
Since the season tipped off in early December, the Horns have not had a home meet, instead, they have traveled to Albuquerque, N.M., Fountain Hills, Show Low and Mingus for tournaments.
The upcoming duals fray, an inaugural tournament to be held in Wilson Dome, is somewhat unique in that it will pit the finest 3A teams from the western portion of Arizona against teams from the East.
Among the western teams that have committed to participate are River Valley, Parker, Chino Valley, Wickenburg and Estrella Foothills.
PHS coach Travis Koppenhafer tabs Chino Valley and Parker to be the two most competitive teams in the West field.
The East teams include Snowflake, Round Valley, Blue Ridge, Show Low and Payson. Koppenhafer predicts Show Low will be tough because the Cougars “return the most (state) qualifiers, but Snowflake, Round Valley and Blue Ridge are already reloaded and full of tough kids.”
If there are visiting wrestlers that could be favorites to go undefeated in the duals they are Show Low’s 130-pound, three-time defending state champion Ricky Ryan and Chino Valley’s 112-pound Kyle Lindahl. Although Ryan won’t face Payson’s Ben Lee in the meet, the day might soon arrive when Lee upsets Ryan. In a 3A East regional meet on Dec. 12, Lee gave Ryan all the fight he could handle before losing a 4-3 decision. That showing prompted Koppenhafer to declare, “Ben is closing the gap on him.”
Expected to shine for Payson in the upcoming duals competition are Jake Spear (112), Matt Schruer (119), Jacob Cluff (125), Joey Spear (135), Ben Sandoval (140), Keith Williams (145), Connor Anderson (152) and Derek Williams (160).
Among those, Cluff gave a head-turning performance in the Dave Work Memorial Tournament last week in Mingus. There, he wrestled his way to his first-ever tournament crown prompting Koppenhafer to praise him for his dedication and work ethic.
Also at Mingus, Sandoval finished third in his first appearance this season, and is a threat to finish undefeated. Jacob Spear finished second in Mingus losing an 8-4 decision to Parker’s Billy Escoto — a wrestler he beat earlier in the tournament. The two should meet again in the Payson Duals competition.
Action in the Duals begins at 1 p.m. on four mats in the dome. There is no admission charge.
The only other opportunity to see the Horns in home action will be the Payson Invitational, Jan. 22 and 23.