Volunteers Key To Wrestling Tourney Success

More Than a Game

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From the weigh-ins and seeding meeting at 9 a.m. Friday morning until the final awards were presented at about 8 p.m. Saturday, this year’s Payson Wrestling Invitational was a success.

That’s because of all the people who pitched in to make it so.

So much has to happen for a wrestling tournament to run smoothly. And it all did.

There were a lot of bouts in this 17-team individual event, with most wrestlers taking the mat six or seven times. And it was right on schedule all weekend.

“This year’s tournament has been excellent,” said Payson High athletic director Don Heizer. “The level of competition was very even, which means that we have lots of good matches. Because of good table workers and officials and things like that, we stayed on schedule time-wise all the way through. We started the finals at two minutes after 5 and it was scheduled to start at 5 o’clock.”

As with any high school tournament, volunteers played a big role.

“For this tournament, we have probably 60 people that volunteer to (work) the (scorers) tables, work the head table, concession stand, the hospitality room,” Heizer said. “It’s just innumerable the hours that people donate to make this a special event.

“Once you get it organized, then you get out of the way and let the people do what they do great, which is help run good tournaments.”

The volunteers included several members of the PHS cheer squad.

“This year, for the first time, we had the Payson cheerleaders that came in and they’re helping us run our tables, helping to keep score and things like this,” Heizer said. “And this is the beginning of what we plan to have as a long-term relationship with the Payson cheer with Katie Klein as the head coach. They want to be involved with connections with our programs. The girls that did it, they absolutely loved it. They’re keeping score, running the clocks.

“We’ve got church camp this weekend and a bunch of them were there. But the ones that were in town, they were here and they were helping us. And they’re really excited about the future of working more wrestling events.”

Also among the volunteers were several members of the River family. Bryce River is a former PHS wrestler who was on hand to help. His mother, Kathy River, began volunteering for the tournament about 18 years ago when her oldest son, Blair, was a freshman on the team. He went on to win a state championship in 1999. She’s volunteered for every tournament since.

“I’m just helping the little bit that I can,” she said. “Each year I get a little bit more responsibility.”

One of her responsibilities is serving as a spotter for her son, Brett, who has been the tournaments’ public address announcer for the past five years. He’ll also work all of the state wrestling tournaments in a few weeks. When a match ends, Kathy makes sure Brett is aware of it so he can send two more competitors onto the mat and keep things moving.

Without referees, there could be no matches. And Heizer said those at this year’s even were top notch. “Having great officials is absolutely key to a smooth tournament,” he said.

Longhorns’ wrestling coach Zach Lee again did his best to make it a unique tournament for the top individuals and teams by sawing and treating pieces of wood to be used for the team and Most Valuable Wrestler awards.

“You won’t find another award anywhere in the country that are unique like that,” Heizer said. “It’s juniper. He cuts them. He works for the Forest Service in the summer. He’s a sawyer on the Hotshot crew. He came up with the idea a few years ago of doing those, something that would be unique. I mean they are, they’re just cool looking.”

Then Jane Elder, who owns Elder’s Creations in Rye, mounts the team champion and runners-up plates, as well as the two Outstanding Wrestler plates to the wood.

“Jane does the engraving for us on the plaques,” Heizer said. “She’s done that for years, even for other trophies because we had some other unique trophies we used to give. But she always uses that purple with the gold back. So when it comes out it just really is a classy looking award.”

Retired Payson Unified School District custodian Alan Lyle does his part by producing a new nameplate with the current year on the awards stand. “He pays for and puts the nameplate on the awards stand every year,” Heizer said. “He’s another person in the community that has a long-term connection and allegiance to the Payson wrestling program.”

Show Low’s Pam Ryan helped with the results.

Although Heizer was quick to heap praises on all the others who made the tournament a big hit, it couldn’t happen without someone who knows what they’re doing running the show. Somebody has to coordinate everything or it would devolve into chaos.

So take a bow, Mr. Heizer. You deserve it.

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