Although the Longhorn wrestling team does not have a stable full of wrestling thoroughbreds to enter in the Division III, Section I tournament, the team has some strong finishers who could make a name for themselves in prep grappling circles.
The tournament will be contested Saturday, Feb. 4 at Winslow High School.
Among Payson’s top contenders for section honors are Jacob Spear (138), Dallin Macnab (112), and Anselmo Vasquez (195).
Zac Wilson (120), Conner Anderson (152), William McCrary, (128), Cody Shepard (106), Trevor Anderson (132), Brett Royer (182), Denny Clinton (170) and Kyle Brown (145) could also make some noise now that they have a full season of wrestling moxie to buoy them.
Spear is a strong candidate to win a medal, possibly a gold, because he has been rock solid all season long, finishing 7-0 in the Tucson Catalina Invitational, 2-0 in the Show Low Duals and 5-0 at the Payson Invitational tournament. Also in the PI, coaches voted Spear the Outstanding Wrestler among the lighter weights and he was a weight class champion.
Spear is currently ranked third in D-III in his weight class, but will not have to face one of the two rated ahead of him, Christopher Mata of Youngker, because he represents a school outside Section I. He might, however have to face the section’s top ranked wrestler, Taylor Martin of Coconino.
Macnab left little double he will be a medal candidate at sectionals with a third-place finish at the Payson Invitational.
His efforts drew praise from PHS coach Casey Woodall, who said the teen had “definitely made a name for himself in a tough weight class.”
Macnab’s stiffest competition at state could come from Show Low’s Blake Schweigart.
Vasquez was fourth at the PI, proving he can battle on even terms with some of the state’s finest matmen.
With only two seniors on the PHS roster, the wrestlers are a young group still learning the nuances of the sport.
But their wrestling performances in the PI drew the praise of boosters and fans who have followed the team since the onset of the season.
Among those taking notice was tournament director and former longtime assistant wrestling coach Don Heizer.
“There has definitely been an overall improvement,” he said.
Those who finish among the top wrestlers at sectionals will advance to the Division III state tournament on Feb. 10 and 11 at Tim’s Toyota Center in Prescott Valley.