Payson High wrestlers will battle in probably the most competitive section in Division III when they travel Feb. 2 to Higley High School for the S-IV championship tournament.
As rugged as the foes are sure be, the Horns appear to have the athletes and the coaching it will take to make a splash in the tournament and earn berths into the division
championships when they are held Feb. 8 and 9 at Tim’s Toyota Center in Prescott Valley.
Dallin Macnab, 120 lbs., is among the Payson stalwarts who could contend for a weight class championship and earn an advantageous seed into the divisional showdown. Just last week, Macnab wrestled his way to a gold medal finish in the Payson Invitational. In a dual match vs. Show Low on Jan. 16, Macnab won by a pin over Hunter Marsh.
At the Tucson Catalina Invitational in early January, Macnab proved he could beat foes from the so-called “big schools” by finishing undefeated and winning the 120-pound title.
Currently, Macnab is ranked fourth in the state in his weight division. Coconino Gabe Galaviz is ranked first.
Also for Payson, Conner Anderson — the state’s second-ranked 160-pounder — is on a roll of late having won the weight class crown at the Payson Invitational.
Against Show Low, he didn’t have the opportunity to showcase his talents after the Cougars forfeited the match.
At Catalina against stiff competition, he finished fifth.
For the rapidly improving Anderson to win a D-III “state” championship, as his father, Eric, once did at PHS, he’ll probably have to beat top-ranked Bryson Echols of Sabino.
Anselmo Vasquez has competed in both the 220-pound and heavyweight divisions, but appears to fare better in the lighter weight class in which he finished second in the Payson Invitational dropping a gut-wrenching 2-1 decision to Goldwater’s Danny Reyes in the championship finale. Reyes is ranked sixth in the state among D-II wrestlers.
In the 170-pound division, Payson’s Kyle Brown has shown all season long he has the determination to be a sectional title contender.
He was third at both the Catalina and Payson tournaments, but might have been at his best in the Show Low match pinning Cody Tenney.
Brown, however is aligned in a tough weight class that includes Sierra Linda’s Filipe Nava, who is state third-ranked and won the weight title at the Payson Invitational.
Blue Ridge’s Parker Kieme and Coconino’s Jerome Crowther are also top-notch 170-pounders.
Payson William McCrary (126 lbs.), who is state fifth-ranked, was fourth in the Payson and Catalina Invitationals and pinned Show Low’s Elias Day-Ortiz in the dual between the two schools. Although the weight class features some exceptional grapplers, including Tucson Amphi’s Fernando Aquilina, McCrary is projected to be a contender for sectional honors.
Trevor Anderson (132), Cayse Barry (108), Tanner Dendy (113), Chase Elmer (138), Tate Sweeney (145), Dakota Harold (152), Dakota McNeely (170), Jake Ames (195) and Tito Vega (195/220) could also battle for sectional laurels at Higley and berths a week later in the division finale.
The good news for PHS wrestling fans is that the Longhorn program, under the tutelage of coach Casey Woodall, appears to be back on track to become a state title contender as it was from its founding in the mid-1970s until the early 2000s.
At its peak, the program won five consecutive state titles and narrowly missed winning sixth straight.