It’s been a given over the past few decades that when the Payson Longhorns and Snowflake Lobos clash, no matter what the sport or the competitive level, sparks are sure to fly.
Such was the case Jan. 18 and 19 in Wilson Dome where the Horn and Lobo wrestling teams battled toe-to-toe for bragging rights, individual honors and, most importantly, the Payson Invitational championship trophy.
When the two days of almost continuous grappling on four mats in the dome finally wrapped up Saturday evening, the Lobos had outdueled runner-up Payson 400-344 to win the PI title.
Morenci, the defending invitational champion, took third with 338 points and Goldwater was fourth with 333.
During the course of the tournament, a pair of Longhorns grappled their way to weight class championships.
In the 120-pound division finale, Dallin Mcnab defeated Goldwater’s Kyle Vandall 6-0 to win the title.
Conner Anderson claimed the 160-pound crown with an 8-6 victory over a Globe wrestler in the championship match.
Payson’s final team score was bolstered by two individual silver-medal showings.
In the 145-pound division final, runner-up Tate Sweeny lost a heartbreaking 8-7 decision to a Tempe McClintock representative.
Anselmo Vasquez (220) also dropped a gut-wrenching decision in the championship round, losing 2-1 to a Goldwater wrestler.
Payson’s 170-pound Kyle Brown contributed third-place points to the Horn cause and William McCrary was fourth among the 126-pounders.
Following the fray, tournament director and PHS athletic director Don Heizer called it a complete success that allowed wrestlers from around Arizona to showcase their skills against some of high school’s finest.
In fact, the success of the tournament has prompted Heizer to consider bringing back the former Rim Country Duals that were discontinued three years ago.
Although Payson was nipped by Snowflake in the Payson Invitational, the Horns got the best of another old foe from the decades the three rivals were members of the now defunct 3A East region.
On Jan. 16 in Wilson Dome, the Longhorns wrestled to a pulsating 39-34 victory over the Show Low Cougars.
The match, which was designated “Throwback Night,” was intended to recreate to spirited atmosphere of the years when PHS won five consecutive state titles and raucous fans packed Wilson Dome for most every match.
True to yesteryear, fans turned out to cheer the young grapplers on in their efforts against the Cougars.
“The crowd was definitely a factor,” said coach Casey Woodall. “You could tell the boys were riding the tide of emotion that the big crowd provided.”
While the match score swung back and forth all evening long, the tally finally turned Payson’s way after Tito Vega pinned Show Low’s Daltin Dummonds in the 220-pound finale.
“Tito locked the dual up for us when we moved him up a weight class and he got the pin,” said Woodall.
The coach also praised 132-pound Trevor Anderson for his 15-9 win over Zack Irwin. “Trevor wrestled better than he has all year and got us a big win.”
Freshman Dakota McNeeley (170) also drew plaudits after moving up a weight class and winning his first varsity match. The Payson rookie defeated Show Low’s Willie Wyatt 4-2.
The Horns’ effort also received a boost from wins by Macnab, McCrary, Brown, Chase Elmer and Conner Anderson.
Macnab, McCrary and Brown won by pins, Elmer wrestled to an 8-6 victory and Conner Anderson received a forfeit.
The Horn matmen return to action tomorrow, Jan. 23, in Lakeside in a three-way showdown involving Blue Ridge, Chinle and Payson.