Upcoming Tournaments Are Showcases

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The Payson High School girls basketball and the wrestling teams are readying themselves to host two upcoming tournaments that will showcase our town by attracting throngs of athletes, their parents and fans.

They are just the type of events that town leaders argue will help fuel the local economy by attracting visitors who will frequent local restaurants, motels, gas stations and retail shops.

The first attraction is the Holiday Hoops girls basketball tournament on Dec. 28 and 29. The second is the Payson Invitational Wrestling Tournament set for Jan. 20 and 21.

The basketball tournament will be played in Wilson Dome and Julia Randall Elementary School gymnasium.

The wrestling tournament will be conducted on four mats in the dome.

This year the basketball tournament has drawn 16 teams from around Arizona. They include Gilbert, Glendale Apollo, Mesa Westwood, Tucson Catalina, Phoenix Xavier, Eloy Santa Cruz, Blue Ridge, Florence, Poston Butte, Yuma Kofa, Catalina Foothills, Queen Creek and Higley.

Not many local events attract such a huge and diverse group of visitors.

On the days of the tournament, players, families and friends will flood our community much like they did last summer when the ASA girls state tournament was held in Payson.

Many will be first-time visitors eager for up close glimpses at life in the Rim Country.

In past years, Holiday Hoops has generated a feel-good vibe among the visitors as they enjoyed our hospitality and good will.

It’s obvious, the tournament is more than basketball games and an economic boost, it’s a testament to the small town way of life we all enjoy.

At last year’s tournament, several players from big city schools like Mesa, Glendale and Gilbert could only gasp in amazement as snow began to fall giving them their first opportunity to revel in the white stuff.

Of course, it takes a great deal of effort, commitment and work to put on a basketball tournament that draws upward of 300 high school players and their followers, but coaches, parents and volunteers have always stepped up to help make Holiday Hoops a tournament everyone can be proud of.

The same plaudits can be said for the Payson Invitational Wrestling Tournament that will also attract throngs of visitors to the Rim Country.

Tournament director Don Heizer is always quick to deflect any credit for the success of the tournament, but in truth he is the man who has for the past 20-plus years made the invitational one of the top wrestling tournaments in the state.

Although wrestling takes center stage during the tournament, it is the well-stocked hospitality room that draws raves and praises from visiting coaches and officials.

Don and his crew of volunteers, many of them parents, put on a free, lip-smacking spread that has visitors spewing superlatives.

The PI has also built a reputation among coaches and wrestlers as one of the most well run and organized tournaments in Arizona.

Last year, a testament to Heizer’s tournament directing skills and the dedication of volunteers surfaced when Payson High was asked to host the first-ever Division III, Section II wrestling tournament.

“They (state wrestling officials) asked if we could host it, but then (qualified it with), ‘Don has to be the go-to guy,’” PHS athletic director Rob Varner said at the time.

That tournament drew hundreds of visitors to Payson, which was just the remedy town and school leaders prescribed for a sagging economy.

Also the tournament served as a “good ambassador” of sorts as many visitors left exposed to the virtues of our town, school and sports programs.

Our high school tournaments should be a source of pride for all townspeople and they represent an opportunity for all of us lucky to live in the Rim Country to show genuine hospitality and warmth to our visitors.

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