Due to a late schedule change, the defending state champion Longhorn wrestling team will host Show Low at 6 p.m. Dec. 8 in Wilson dome, rather than travel to Cougarland.
Original schedules -- ones that most fans have in their possession -- show Payson will be visiting Show Low for the all-important 3A East divisional match.
However, late last week --following the Horns season-opening 50-12 Dec. 1 thumping of Round Valley --PHS coach Dennis Pirch announced the schedule change.
Pirch said he didn't know the reasons why Show Low asked for the change, but he was delighted to have the match contested on Payson's home floor.
The clash is expected be a pivotal match in both team's quest for a regular season divisional crown. In pre-season predictions, the Cougars, along with Snowflake, were one of the teams projected to battle the Horns for the East title.
Thanks to the efforts of a trio of Payson standouts, the grapplers opened the 1999-2000 East division campaign with the win over Round Valley.
Longhorn coaches tapped the performances of Matt McCarty (112), Aaron Bratholt (125) and Levi Armstrong (145) as keys to the PHS win.
McCarty took an 8-3 decision over a 1999 state placer, Bratholt edged out a three-time state placer 12-10 and Armstrong pinned the Elks most acclaimed wrestler, Garrett Finch, after falling behind 7-5 in the first period and 10-6 at the end of the second.
The three, coach Dennis Pirch said, turned in very strong performances against tough opponents. The coach also lauded the contributions of the entire team saying "we have a group that appears to have the willingness to go hard."
The Horns will spend the early practice week leading up to Wednesday's show down in Show Low and the Tucson Salpointe multi-meet Dec. 8 trying to shore up some of the weakness which became apparent against Round Valley. Most of those involve technique and each wrestler getting the most from his abilities, Pirch said.
Before a raucous, enthusiastic crowd in Wilson dome, the Horns jumped out 39-0 lead before an Elk grappler finally bugled in three team-points by whipping Mike Wright 12-9 in the 160-pound competition. Wright held 3-2 and 7-5 leads early in the match, but was outscored 7-2 in the crucial third period.
Minutes later in the 171-pound match, the Elks scraped together three more points when Doyle Van Horn was decisioned 7-2.
Dustin Atteburry's loss by a fall in the 215-pound match was the Horns' only other loss.
Victorious Longhorn wrestlers included Josh Papp (103; forfeit), Justin Cline (119; 12-8), Jerry Baker (130; 8-4), Dominic Palandri (135; fall), R.C. LaHaye (140; 18-3), Caleb Miller (151; 10-2), Jimbo Armstrong (189; fall) and Matt Walker (275; fall).
There's a schedule full of wrestling on the month's agenda, but Payson coaches are pointing to the Rim Country Duals Dec. 17 and 18 as a fan's delight.
The tournament, which pits high schools from around the state against one another in toe-to-toe dual matches, will allow the local wrestlers to showcase their talents against athletes representing both Class 4A and 5A schools.
In the course of the regular season, the prepsters normally wouldn't have the opportunity to battle big-school athletes.
Also on the horizon is the Jan. 7 and 8 visit to Southern California where the Horns will try to repeat their championship win at the Bolsa Grande Invitational Tournament.