The Division III, Section I wrestling championships, to be held today, Friday, Feb. 3, and tomorrow in Winslow, will probably be the most competitive of the three section tournaments because state top-10 ranked teams Blue Ridge, Coconino, Mingus and Chino Valley are members.
The Section II championships are under way at Tucson Sabino and Section III is occurring at Greenway High, Phoenix.
Section I is the smallest of the three with 13 member schools while Section II and III encompass 17 schools each.
Along with the Section I tournament drawing some of the finest teams in the state, it will feature some of the most accomplished individuals, with 35-plus top-eight ranked wrestlers competing over the course of the two days.
Which means Payson wrestlers will face plenty of mat challenges as they battle for individual honors and team points.
The 138-pound division is possibly the most stacked weight class in the sectionals and is the one in which Payson’s best wrestler, Jake Spear, competes.
In the division that features six top-eight wrestlers from Section I, Spear is ranked third.
The only ranked individuals who will not compete in the Section I tournament are Christopher Mata of Youngker and Moon Valley’s Domingo Deleon.
Mata and Deleon will compete in the Section III tournament.
The alignment of so many excellent wrestlers in the Section I championships could mean whomever emerges tops in the weight class in Winslow, might have an easier row to hoe a week later at the Division III state championships at Tim’s Toyota Center in Prescott Valley.
Among the 138-pounders in Winslow, Coconino’s Taylor Martin is the odds-on championship favorite, mostly because he is top ranked.
But Martin is not invincible as evidenced by his second-place finish earlier this season at the Doc Wright Invitational in Winslow.
River Valley’s fifth-ranked Carl Sohmer could also contend for the weight division title.
He was a gold medalist at the Mogollon Invitational and finished third at Doc Wright.
Sohmer is no stranger to Payson sports fans as he played linebacker on the RV football team that whipped the Longhorns 27-7 in the final game of the 2011 season.
At the conclusion of the year, he was named All-Division honorable mention.
Andres Perez of Mohave is state sixth-ranked and another wrestler who could contend for the division weight class title.
As highly regarded as those wrestlers are, Spear has proven all season long he is among the finest in the state. At the Payson Invitational against several excellent competitors, Spear won his division championship giving up just four points the entire tournament.
Dallin Macnab (113) is Payson’s only other state-ranked wrestler, currently rated seventh, and like Spear, he finds himself in one of the toughest weight classes at sectionals.
Also in the 113-weight division with Macnab are second-ranked Blake Schweigart of Show Low, third-rated Gabe Galaviz of Coconino and Winslow’s Daniel Lopez, currently rated sixth.
Blue Ridge’s Jordan Roberts is eighth-ranked.
While 195-pound Anselmo Vasquez is not state-ranked, he has shown improvement all season long, eventually finishing fourth at the Payson Invitational.
His toughest competition at Winslow could come from third-ranked Kisha Batchelor of Chino Valley or fourth-ranked Christian Morris of Coconino.
Blue Ridge’s Jacob Badger enters the tournament as the sixth-rated 195-pounder in D-III. At the Doc Wright match, he was fourth.
If 152-pound Conner Anderson is to win a sectional gold, he’ll have to get past Blue Ridge’s Bradley Suthe, who is fourth-ranked.
Conner’s younger brother, Trevor, will compete at 132 pounds, which features two ranked wrestlers — top-rated Hank Goetl of Mingus and Snowflake’s No. 8 Isiah Diaz.
Payson’s Denny Clinton, 170, is in a weight class along with No 2. Zane Gouker of Blue Ridge, No. 3 Patch Dalcerro of Chino Valley and Mingus’ No. 4 Brandon Morales.
Payson’s Kyle Brown, who coach Casey Woodall praised early this season for a “scrappy performance” at the McClintock Invitational, will have three ranked wrestlers in his 145-pound division.
Best among them might be Mingus senior Dillon Lightfoot, ranked third in D-III.