Although the Payson Invitational is the only tournament on the wrestling team’s home schedule, it’s a premier event that has attracted some of the top wrestlers from around Arizona.
Some of them will be taking their wrestling skills next year to the collegiate level, possibly for former Longhorn star R.C. LaHaye, now the head wrestling coach at Grand Canyon University.
Among the stars set to compete at the PI from Division IV schools are Michael Casillas (103), Isaiah McReynolds (112) and Heath Carroll (130) of Camp Verde, Round Valley’s Brandon Nichol (130) and Jacob Goodsell (189), and Michael Echevarria (215) of Globe.
Division III will be represented by Dion Romero (103) of Coolidge, Williams Field’s Gabriel Cobb (106), Ivan Komerdeji (145) and Jordon Trulson (152) of Fountain Hills, and Snowflake’s Jacob Lucas (160).
Representing Division II ranks will be Goldwater’s Troy Vandall (122) and Trent McMinn (140) of Apache Junction.
Jacob Spear (138) will undoubtedly be Payson’s top-ranked entry, having won his weight division at the Catalina Invitational, finishing 7-0 on five pins and two technical falls.
At the 2010 PI, Spear was a bronze medalist.
Payson’s Dallin Macnab, Zac Wilson, Conner Anderson, Anselmo Vasquez and William McCrary could also contend for PI medals.
All were top-six finishers in the Catalina mat battles.
Especially interesting will be the fate of McCrary should he meet the Globe wrestler who narrowly decisioned him in overtime at the Catalina showdown.
McCrary, coach Casey Woodall predicts, “will be hungry if he gets to see him (the Globe wrestler).”
A bevy of other up-and-coming PHS athletes, including Cody Shepard, Trevor Anderson, Brett Royer and Kyle Brown, are expected to represent the Horns well in the mat showdown.
A record 23 teams have entered the PI, to be held Jan. 20 and 21 in the friendly confines of Wilson Dome.
Chandler, the defending team champion, is set to return with another power-packed roster, but there are plenty of other teams in the field, including Durango, Colo., capable of upsetting the Wolves.
Gilbert Highland, which finished second last year, could also displace the Wolves as champions.
Although Camp Verde is a so-called “small school” aligned in Division IV, the Cowboys cannot be overlooked, mostly because they were third last year and have a solid nucleus of returning letter winners in the lineup.
Wrestling action tips off at 10 a.m., Friday, Jan. 20 on four mats in Wilson Dome. Round robin wrestling is expected to continue until about 7 p.m.
Round robins resume at 9 a.m. Saturday and continue until noon.
From 12:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., cross-pool, consolation and championship finals will highlight the invitational.
Team scoring will be on points acquired in both pool and placing rounds.
At the conclusion of the tournament, an awards ceremony will feature three outstanding wrestling awards — for lightweights (108-128), middleweights (134-162) and heavyweights (172-hwt.).
Once again Don Heizer is serving as tournament director.
Admission is $5 for an all day pass.