Payson High School wrestling coach Casey Woodall is convinced his team’s standout showing in the Tucson Catalina Invitational was due to a strong holiday practice effort.
“We put in a lot of work over the Christmas break and I feel it is paying off,” he said.
The coach also modestly deflects the credit he’s receiving for the team’s showing in Tucson to assistant coaches including Zach Lee, Dave LaMotte, Rocky Berry and Doug Eckhardt.
“I cannot give enough credit to them,” said Woodall. “They have put a lot of work in with the boys.”
In the Tucson tournament, which drew several so called “big schools”, the Longhorns finished fifth in the field of 17 teams.
After returning to Payson, the coach lauded the athletes’ efforts in the tournament saying, “Our kids have bought in and are showing great attitudes, continuing to hustle and fight in every match.”
Although the team is very young, with mostly underclassmen and only two seniors on the roster, the wrestlers have been able to succeed by outworking their opponents.
Individually, Jacob Spear, who wrestled his way to a first-place finish on five pins and two technical falls, led the Horns with the team’s lone gold medal
“He looked great — dominated his opponents,” said Woodall.
Dallin Macnab and Zac Wilson garnered two silver medals for Payson.
Wilson dropped a weight class to 122 pounds for the tournament and “looked very good — I am very impressed with the progress he has made; it is a testament to his work ethic.”
In the championship round, Wilson lost 4-0 to a talented Tucson Amphitheater wrestler.
Macnab also advanced to the finals of his weight clash, unleashing what Woodall is calling a “dominating performance.” But, in the gold medal round, Macnab dropped a 4-3 heartbreaker to a Tucson wrestler.
Also for Payson, Conner Anderson battled to a fourth-place finish by making “some major strides,” Woodall said.
Anselmo Vasquez also returned to Payson with a medal, finishing fifth in his weight division.
“He continues to show progress,” said Woodall.
William McCrary dropped an overtime decision in the final medal round to a Globe wrestler.
McCrary, the coach predicts, “will be hungry if he gets to see him again at the Payson Invitational (Jan. 20 and 21).”
Several other wrestlers, including Cody Shepard, Trevor Anderson, Brett Royer and Kyle Brown, represented Payson well at Catalina but did not medal.
Shepard, Woodall said, “looked extremely tough, (he was) one round out of placing.
“For a first-year wrestler, he is showing a ton of potential.”
The coach praised Trevor Anderson for “continuing to grow and make progress. He always hustles; he will be a force in the future.”
Royer is being lauded for “showing a lot of promise but makes some mistakes related to experience.”
Brown was one round away from earning a medal and continues to draw praise from the staff for his rapid improvement.
The Longhorns return to the mat tomorrow, Jan. 11, at the Show Low Duals.