Underclassmen dominate Payson’s wrestling team. Fittingly, a pair of freshmen led the Longhorns to a triumphant showing at the Payson Invitational held Friday-Saturday at Wilson Dome.
Brendan Macnab won the 106-pound championship and Dylan Keeney claimed the 113 crown.
The youngsters were among nine Payson medal winners, as the Longhorns finished fifth in the 17-team event. Division III Gilbert Williams Field won with 399 points. Div. II Phoenix Barry Goldwater was second with 384, followed by Division I Mesa Red Mountain (362), Div. II Yuma (315) and the Div. III Longhorns (308.5).
Only Barry Goldwater, with three, had more champions than the Longhorns. Red Mountain, Williams Field and Yuma also won two titles.
Trevor Anderson (126), Dallin Macnab (132) and Tate Sweeney (145) all finished third for PHS. Gabe Hernandez (120) and Chase Elmer (138) placed fifth and Pedro Chavez (195) and Steve Perry (285) both finished sixth.
“The kids came out and wrestled and they did a great job,” said Payson coach Zach Lee. “We placed nine out of 12 kids. This weekend was definitely a step in the right direction. We definitely dropped a couple of matches that we wish we had back. But there’s always going to be that.”
Lee said his team’s strong showing was impressive in such a challenging field.
“This tournament’s gotten tougher,” the coach said. “This is probably the toughest this tournament’s been in a few years. We’ve got some of the bigger schools that are a little bit tougher. Williams Field has a heck of a team this year. They’re probably going to win (Div. III).”
Brendan Macnab went 6-1 to win the 106 title with a 22-6 technical fall over Thatcher’s Kason Bryce to avenge an earlier two-point loss to Bryce in pool wrestling that left Bryce the No. 1 seed in the pool and Macnab the No. 2 seed. But Macnab beat the No. 1 seed from the other pool to earn a rematch in the championship bout. He performed much better in the second match with Bryce.
“It was a close match; we were right there in it,” Lee said of Brendan Macnab’s only loss of the tournament. “But he came back, wrestled a good match in the semis and was bound and determined to win the tournament and did so.
“Brendan wasn’t even seeded coming into the tournament. We got a rematch of the pool championship, really, and saw a totally different match. We went out there and teched the kid. Brendan wanted to win. He had it in his mind that he was going to win, and that’s what he did.
“It’s the power of what you’re thinking; the mental toughness. That’s the only difference.
“The first match, he probably gave the guy a little bit too much respect and wasn’t quite in the match. And after he wrestled the kid, he knew he could beat him and went out there and knew he could and did,” Lee said.
Macnab won the tournament despite dealing with a broken nose he suffered in a recent match. He has been wearing a padded facemask to protect his nose.
His previous best tournament finish was second at Camp Verde. He wasn’t happy after the loss earlier Saturday and was confident the rematch would be different.
“I was angry because he beat me,” he said. “I just really wanted to win. I wrestled smarter. I just wanted to win more than him I guess.”
Like his teammate, Keeney, too, entered the championship match determined to avenge his only loss of the weekend.
Keeney also went 6-1, edging Williams Field’s Jared Verstraten 4-2 for his first varsity title after Verstraten beat him by one point in a team dual at Williams Field on Wednesday, then beat him again in pool action on Saturday to claim the No. 1 seed in the pool. But Keeney beat the No. 1 seed from the other pool, Thatcher’s Riley Skinner, to earn another shot at Verstraten.
And it was an exciting match that went down to the wire. Keeney, who was pinned in his first meeting with Verstraten, was up 4-0 and his opponent chose the down position for the third period. But Keeney rode him out the entire two minutes to prevail.
“Both kids wrestled great, had a solid weekend,” the coach said of his two champions. “The Williams Field kid eked out a win in the last seconds over Dylan on Wednesday and we were winning against him in the pools and just made a couple of mistakes and ended up on our back and got pinned. Dylan beat the No. 1 seed from the other pool and got another shot.
“We just wrestled a way smarter match — kind of put things together. His mat awareness was a lot better in this match.
“It was the same thing as Brendan, both boys were bound and determined to win the match. I’m a firm believer that if you think you can, you can. And those boys thought they could and they did. And that’s all there is to it. They knew they could and they did it. It’s something I preach to the boys on a daily basis.”
After Verstraten pinned Keeney in the first minute of their match, the Longhorn needed to beat Skinner in the semifinals, which he did, 8-6.
“I controlled the match the whole time, but he’s a good wrestler,” Keeney said of Skinner, who wound up third.
Then it was on to the rematch with Verstraten, whom Keeney was confident he could beat.
“I was winning and I took him down and was going for a cradle and he took me to my back and I got pinned,” Keeney said of Saturday’s first meeting with Verstraten.“I was mad. It was a mistake. I thought, I’m going to see this kid in the finals and I’m going to beat him. I just have to wrestle smarter.”
Keeney led the rematch 4-0 after a first-period takedown and a second-period reverse. But Verstraten scored a reverse to make it 4-2 and chose the down position in the final two-minute stanza. Keeney never let him escape to prevail.
“I was confident in the third period,” he said. “I knew in my head I could do it. It was tough. He stood up a couple of times and I had to re-drop and take him back down.”
Thatcher’s Caleb Radley won the 138 crown and was voted Outstanding Wrestler in the light weights. Troy Vandall won the 145 title and was voted Outstanding Wrestler in the heavy weights.
Lee said Dallin Macnab and Sweeney both had a shot at reaching the finals and perhaps winning titles.
“We would have really liked to see Dallin in the finals and I think he was capable of winning the tournament,” his coach said. “He just dropped a couple of tight matches to the guys that ended up in the finals.
“Tate Sweeney had a good weekend. He probably could have been in the finals. He lost to the eventual champ and he dropped a close one.”
The Longhorns return to the mat with dual matches against Blue Ridge, Cottonwood Mingus and Page beginning at 4 p.m. on Wednesday at Wilson Dome in the home finale.
Team standings: 1. Gilbert Williams Field 399; 2. Phoenix Barry Goldwater 384; 3. Mesa Red Mountain 362; 4. Yuma 315; 5. Payson 308.5; 6. (tie) Durango, Colo. and Gilbert Highland 240; 8. Thatcher 197; 9. Apache Junction 194.5; 10. Fountain Hills 191; 11. Tempe McClintock 163; 12. Florence 148; 13. Goodyear Estrella Foothills 112; 14. Coolidge 101; 15. Eloy Santa Cruz 88; 16. Phoenix Sierra Linda 64; 17. Globe 58.
106 — Brendan Macnab (P) tech. fall Kason Bryce (T) 22-6; 113 — Dylan Keeney (P) dec. Jared Verstraten (WF) 4-2; 120 — Daniel Ramirez (RM) dec. Gabriel Cobb (WF) 4-2; 126 — Ronnie Reed (BG) dec. Kiwan Lear (RM) 11-5; 132 — Steven Franco (C) dec. Victor Misuraca (RM) 6-0; 138 — Caleb Radley (T) major dec. Josh South (EF) 20-6; 145 — Troy Vandall (BG) major dec. Justin Darlington (WF) 11-3; 152 — Kade Kottenbrook (Y) dec. Chandler Follett (WF) 4-3; 160 — Jacob Anderson (WF) dec. Daniel Frederick (AJ) 7-3; 170 — Prescott Conway (WF) dec. Elijah Halim (M) 5-3; 182 — Bryan Zobeck (RM) fall Patrick Cunnion (D) 4:24; 195 — Peter Carillo (FH) fall Kevin Figueroa (AJ) 5:05; 220 — Danny Reyes (BG) fall Daniel Gustavson (D) 3:07; 285 — Humberto Cortez (Y) dec. John White (BG) 3-1.
106 — Tyler Lobenberg (BG) dec. Ray Ramirez (RM) 3-0; 113 — Riley Skinner (T) dec. Roman Vidal (SC) 12-9; 120 — Matthew Lavengood (D) fall Nathan Yellowhair (H) 3:15; 126 — Trevor Anderson (P) major dec. Hunter Hall (D) 9-1; 132 — Dallin Macnab (P) fall Zach Yeary (BG) 3:49; 138 — Lenard Cornelius (BG) dec. Isaac Reyes (Y) 3-1; 145 — Tate Sweeney (P) dec. Ahmad Oden (H) 8-3; 152 — Josh Vaught (FH) d. Osbaldo Contreras (G) by forfeit; 160 — Jack Darveaux (H) major dec. Austin Peeler (T) 17-7; 170 — Isaac Morales (H) dec. George Arce (Y) 8-3; 182 — Tyler Becerra (H) d. Kavika Reid (FH); 195 — Raymond Vargas (H) fall Ramsey Garcia (F) 3:25; 220 — Austin Scoggin (RM) fall Austin Carter (WF) 2:42; 285 — Bradie Hendrix (M) d. Esequiel Valles (RM) inj. default.
106 — Jackson Gissel (WF) dec. Carlos Alcantar (Y) 5-2; 113 — Kodi Doerr (Y) fall Casey Cagle (BG) 3:29; 120 — Gabe Hernandez (P) fall Nathan Lamas (F) 1:30; 126 — Nick South-Prowell (WF) dec. Jeremiah McDonald (F) 4-0; 132 — Noah Bello (M) dec. Logan Lamoreaux (WF) 9-5; 138 — Chase Elmer (P) fall Jack Reilly (FH) 4:39; 145 — Julio Andres-Ortega (RM) fall Trenton Haile (Y) 3:35; 152 — Dillion Anthony (D) fall John Eide (F) 4:07; 160 — Phil Shambre (RM) fall Mark Garcia (EF) 3:52; 170 — John Saldivar (AJ) major dec. Kyle Duran (D) 17-5; 182 — Ruben Lazano (BG) fall Richard Matthews (AJ) 4:37; 195 — Sebastian Yarnall (BG) dec. Pedro Chavez (P) 5-3; 220 — Yosuke Hazel (M) dec. Connor Moore (EF) 4-0; 285 — Michael Uehling (AJ) fall Steve Perry (P) 2:52.