One of the highlights of the wrestling season is upon us.
Schools from across the state have converged on Payson for the annual Payson Invitational, which runs today through Saturday at Wilson Dome on the high school campus.
There are six Division I or II schools in the 17-team field.
“It’s a quality tournament,” said Payson head coach Zach Lee. “There’s gonna be some bigger schools, just like we always have here. The upper echelon of the tournament is definitely going to have some hard-nosed wrestlers. It’ll be fun to watch.”
There are a pair of Division I schools in Gilbert Highland and Mesa Red Mountain. The tournament features four Division II schools: Phoenix Barry Goldwater, Phoenix Sierra Linda, Tempe McClintock and Yuma.
The six Division III schools in the field include: Apache Junction, Coolidge, Florence, Gilbert Williams Field, Goodyear Estrella Foothills and Payson.
Also participating are Div. IV schools Eloy Santa Cruz, Fountain Hills, Globe and Thatcher.
The Durango, Colo. High Demons are also in the field.
It’s an individual tournament, with the top four placers at each weight in each of the two pools advancing the quarterfinals.
Pool matches begin at 11 a.m. today; with wrestling continuing through 7 p.m. on four mats. Action kicks off at 9 a.m. Saturday, with round robin brackets continuing through 2 p.m. on four mats. Consolation finals are scheduled for 3 p.m. to 4:40 p.m. Saturday on two mats. The championship bouts begin at 5 p.m.
Payson finished second to Snowflake in last year’s tournament. The Lobos aren’t in the event this year.
Payson’s Dallin Macnab is the defending 120-pound tournament champion. The senior wrestles at 132 this season. Senior Tate Sweeney finished second at 145 in last year’s event, losing 8-7 in the final to a Tempe McClintock opponent. He’s at the same weight this year.
This is the first event the Longhorns have hosted since opening the season against Winslow and Show Low on Dec. 4. They wrap up the home schedule by taking on Page, Blue Ridge and Cottonwood Mingus beginning at 4 p.m. Wednesday.
Lee said the kids will enjoy being at home for matches for the first time in six weeks.
“It’s always good to wrestle in front of your home crowd,” the coach said. “That hometown, home court advantage, it helps. I mean the kids always want to perform best in front of their friends and family. And, hopefully, it inspires the boys a little bit this weekend.”
The top four finishers in each weight class receive a medal. Each champion gets a T-shirt with tournament insignia and a photo of them on the podium. First- through sixth-place wrestlers earn team points. The top two teams get a trophy.
Awards will be given for the Outstanding Lightweight (106-145 pounds) and Outstanding Heavyweight (152-285).
Admission is $5 per day or $8 for a tournament pass.