Payson turns into a hotbed of wrestling activity this summer with the annual Arizona Intensive Wrestling Camp turning up the heat on about 60 campers, and the Payson Wrestling Club hosting bi-weekly sessions for about 40 fledgling grapplers.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” said PHS coach Casey Woodall, the man who will head both events.
The wrestling camp, which is for high school-aged athletes, kicks off tomorrow, June 4, and continues until June 10.
The Payson Wrestling Club, which meets from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. each Tuesday and Thursday, kicks off June 14.
The club actually held sessions in the spring, but has been in recess for about a month as school classes wound down.
The wrestling camp has attracted some of the finest coaches and clinicians from around the country, including Arizona State University’s Anthony Robles who went undefeated (36-0) last season, becoming a three-time Pac-10 champion and a national champion, defeating the defending 125-pound NCAA Champion, Iowa’s Matt McDonough 7-1 in the final.
For his efforts, Robles was voted the Tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler.
The 5-foot, 8-inch Robles concluded his Arizona State wrestling career with a record of 122-23, a three-time Pac-10 wrestling champion as well as a three-time All-American.
Robles was born with only one leg, but refused to wear a prosthetic leg, removing it at the age of three.
Robles is pictured on the May 15, 2011 cover of Wrestling USA magazine.
Also participating in the camp are former All-Americans Eric Larkins, Aaron Simpson and Kirk Smith.
Simpson, who was 142-1 and a four-time state champion at Antelope High School, now competes in Mixed Martial Arts as a middleweight in the Ultimate Fighting Championships.
Larkins is a former NCAA Division I National Champion at 149 pounds and now is an assistant coach at ASU.
Smith was a two-time All-American and a three-time national qualifier at Boise State University.
The presence of the All-Americans at the camp has Woodall spewing superlatives, “We have a really great lineup of clinicians and coaches; the best around.”
Woodall expects the camp to draw about 60 campers from around the state, which is about the same number who participated last summer.
“We’d like to expand the camp, but with the economy the way it is, it’s tough to grow,” he said.
During the six days of camp, the athletes will live on the PHS campus, dine in the school cafeteria and train in Wilson Dome and the old gymnasium.
“We will be entirely self-contained,” said Woodall.
The camp’s sessions, by design, are extremely rugged and demanding, hence the camp name “Intensive.”
Past campers have called the camp, “The toughest training week in Arizona” and say successfully finishing it is one of the most rewarding feelings in the sport.
During the week, the wrestlers will compete in 15 to 20 live matches against some of the finest wrestlers in the state and train in three-a-day practice sessions.
Among the advantages of attending the camp is the opportunity to train at a 5,000-foot altitude, which has proven to increase speed, strength, endurance and recovery time.
Payson Wrestling Club
Since the club’s founding, the youth wrestling club sessions have drawn about 40 aspiring wrestlers ages 4 to 18.
There is no charge to participate in the sessions, but to compete in tournaments the athletes must register with USA Wrestling. The fee is $25 per year.
During the club sessions, wrestlers practice and compete in age and weight divisions and travel to tournaments around Arizona, including those in Show Low, Heber and in the Valley.
Rocky Berry, a former PHS wrestler who assists Woodall with the club, says club members will also have the chance to travel to the Grand Canyon State Games when they are held June 17 to June 20.
Berry says the club sessions focus on learning the fundamentals of the sport, but “we also have fun and play games.”
The basics taught include positions, motions, stance, takedown basics, attack moves and defense.
The sessions are also designed to teach the youth the pillars of character including trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship.
Those interested in participating in the club sessions need only to show up in Wilson Dome on the day and time the practices begin.