It was a long day for the Page, Coconino and Flagstaff wrestling teams on Friday in Winslow -- just the kind of day they were hoping for.
Page advanced three wrestlers into Saturday's semifinals of the winners bracket of the 54th Doc Wright Invitational, with Coconino sending two. Meanwhile, the Flagstaff Eagles had one wrestler reach the quarterfinals in 120-pounder Spencer Johnson.
Taylor Nez and Kamron Whitewater recorded rare quarterfinal pins for the Page Sand Devils, who sent a total of six wrestlers to the round. Cayden Fordyce, Coconino's heavyweight, accomplished the feat for his Panthers, pinning his Sierra Vista opponent in a quick fury at 1:31.
"Impressive given a 43-team tournament," said Panthers assistant coach Mike Schmieder of Pedro Billups and Fordyce, noting that both are are underclassmen.
Whitewater and Billups, both competitors in the 106-pound weight class, owned their quarterfinal matches from the start, with both jumping out to big leads to put their opponents in nearly must-pin situations. The Page senior jumped ahead 14-4 before tallying his third pin in as many matches in 3:15 to stay in the winners bracket. Billups, a sophomore, ran away to the tech fall victory, needing two periods to seal the deal at 16-0.
Whitewater set a tone for the matches to come, as Nez and teammate Dorian Daw, both seniors, made sure the team remained in the top 10 by the time the first day ended.
"Overall, I was pleased with our effort," said Sand Devils head coach Kyran Keisling. "Nobody quit, nobody whined, nobody gassed out."
With Page teetering at No. 10 in the team standings at times late in the day, Daw locked horns with Juan Curley of Chinle on the way to the 12-5 decision win, using several takedowns and escapes to take the 160-pound bout. At 195 pounds, Nez followed up with his pin, helping Page finish the first day in seventh place at 101 points.
Coconino tied for 14th with Sierra Vista at 80.5 points, as Marcello Barreras was the third of the Panthers to reach the quarterfinals, where he lost in double overtime.
Barreras, on the mats at 152 pounds, tied up his quarterfinal match in regulation with a reverse as time nearly expired. After a scoreless first OT, a near fall put an end to his stay in the winners bracket.
Fordyce was a beast for the Panthers. He won by fall in all three of his matches and provided his team 15 points, second to only Billups, who earned 16.5. In fact, none of Fordyce's opponents got out of the first period against him.
Flagstaff ended its day in 34th place. Eagles 132-pounder Easten Skinner dropped his first match to move into the consultation bracket, where he recorded two falls before getting beat in the fourth round.
For Page, Zachery Ruiz (113 pounds), Terran Blackgoat (220) and Levi Telshaw (heavyweight) all made quarterfinals appearances in the winners bracket. Whitewater gave his team 17 points, with Daw and Nez each providing 15.
"Our team is comprised half of upperclassmen and half of lower, and they wrestled like it," Keisling said. "Our younger kids lost some really close matches and they learned some valuable lessons about the gamesmanship of wrestling, that there is a strategy to it. Those lessons are going to come in handy when the stakes get higher come sectional time."