Payson High School senior Jacob Spear wrestled his way to a gold medal and a prestigious outstanding wrestler award while battling some of Arizona’s finest grapplers entered in the Payson Invitational.
In the 22-team fray, which was held Jan. 20 and 21 in Wilson Dome, Spear (138 lbs.) compiled an unbeaten record that included a decision over Camp Verde’s Derrick Brown in the hotly contested championship round.
Brown entered the tournament highly regarded with a 39-6 record and a weight class championship with a 6-0 mark earlier this month at the Joseph City Invitational.
At the Blackford ASU Invitational while competing against some of the state’s finest “big school” wrestlers, Brown was 5-1 with three pins.
Last season Brown was third in the Division IV championships and was the Class 2A runner-up a year earlier.
Spear entered the PI fresh off a gold medal performance at the Catalina Invitational and a 2-0 record at the Show Low Duals. In the 2011 Payson Invitational he was third.
As acclaimed as Brown was, he was no match for Spear, who dominated in the 6-2 victory. In racking up the points, Spear scored on a takedown in the first period and later on a reversal and a two-point near fall.
Brown scored his only two points on a reversal with about one minute remaining.
For the tournament, Spear gave up a miniscule four points which was probably one of the reasons coaches selected him outstanding wrestler in the lower weight classes.
“Jacob’s performance was nothing short of dominating,” said coach Casey Woodall.
“The lightweight division was stacked at this tournament, so for him to win OW was a testament to how other coaches saw his performance.”
Gilbert Highland’s Christian Allen (182) received the outstanding wrestler award in the upper weights.
While Spear was the only Payson wrestler to finish first, the Horns had two other medalists — Dallin Macnab and Anselmo Vasquez.
Macnab was third in the 112-pound class and Vasquez took fourth among the 195-pounders.
Macnab’s performance drew the coach’s praise, “I was very impressed by Dallin. He definitely made a name for himself in a weight class that had some of the best kids in the state at any division.”
In the team scoring, Payson posted 143 points to finish sixth overall in the 22-team field.
“I was pleased with the performance of our boys this weekend,” Woodall said. “Obviously sixth place is not our goal and we are not satisfied with that, but I feel we saw serious progress from every individual.
“The boys hustled, battled and tried to listen and correct mistakes in every match.”
Probably most importantly at the tournament is the focus the individual athletes had in wanting to return PHS wrestling to what it was in the 1980s and 1990s glory years.
“They want to get this program back to what it should be, so seeing that is exciting,” said Woodall.
In the final team standings, Morenci and Durango, Colo. tied for the tournament title racking up identical scores of 352 points each. Camp Verde posted 332 to finish third and Round Valley’s 295.5 points earned the Elks a fourth-place finish.
Gilbert Highland, a Division I school, was fifth at 278.
Next on the PHS agenda is the Mingus Junior Varsity Invitational Jan. 28 in Cottonwood.
On Feb. 4 the team travels to Winslow High School for the Division III, Section I championships.
The Division III state championship is set for Feb. 10 and 11 at Tim’s Toyota Center in Prescott Valley.