Jacob Spear, a hard-nosed senior ranked fifth in the state in the 138-pound weight class, leads the Longhorn charge into the Payson Invitational against some of the finest wrestlers and teams in Arizona.
The tournament begins at 10 a.m. today, Jan. 20 in Wilson Dome and continues tomorrow also in the dome.
Spear will be out to improve on his third place invitational finish last season and add to his impressive 2011-2012 credentials that includes a 2-0 record at the Show Low Duals and a gold medal effort at the Tucson Catalina Invitational where he was a dominating 7-0 on five pins and two technical falls.
In the invitational none of the Division III individual wrestlers ranked ahead of him are entered.
However, he might meet up with a hard-charging tough guy in Chandler’s Dalton Mora who is ranked No. 3 in Division I.
In addition to Spear representing PHS in the Invitational, the Horns have several others including Dallin Macnab (113), Zac Wilson (120), Conner Anderson (152), Anselmo Vasquez (195) and William McCrary (128), who will be strong medal contenders.
Cody Shepard (106), Trevor Anderson (132), Brett Royer (182), Denny Clinton (170) and Kyle Brown (145) lend much-needed depth to the team.
The Payson cause, however, is expected to be handcuffed by the forfeiture of the 160, 220 and heavyweight classes due to a lack of entrants.
While PHS coach Casey Woodall would like to have a full lineup for the PI, he is praising his individual wrestlers for “Definitely showing some progress,” but also says, “We need to be more consistent.”
While most local fans will attend the PI to watch Longhorn matmen, onlookers will also have the opportunity over the course of the two days to see some of the finest wrestlers around the state.
Among them 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.
Dion Romero (103) of Coolidge, Williams Field’s Gabriel Cobb (106), Ivan Komerdeji (145) and Jordon Trulson (152) of Fountain Hills, Snowflake’s Jacob Lucas (160), Goldwater’s Troy Vandall (122) and Trent McMinn (140) of Apache Junction are also expected to compete.
In the team competition, all eyes will be on defending invitational champion Chandler — a high-octane team expected to return with another roster of top-notch wrestlers.
Gilbert Highland, which finished second last year, is also considered a threat to win the invitational and possibly section and division titles down the schedule road.
From Division IV, Camp Verde could make things interesting for the so-called “big schools.”
At last year’s invitational, the Cowboys were third.
Don Heizer, perhaps the state’s finest tournament director, has scheduled yet another action-packed Payson Invitational schedule fans are sure to enjoy.
Wrestling action tips off at 10 a.m. today, 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 lightweight (108-128), middleweight (134-162) and heavyweight (172-hwt.).
Admission is $5 for an all-day pass.
Payson coach Casey Woodall is certain the tournament will be a gem and well worth the admission price, “It is shaping up to be a good tournament — it should be a lot of good wrestling.”