Horns Poised For Another Championship


When the Longhorn wrestling team travels to Lakeside Jan. 12 to challenge East rival Blue Ridge, the Rim grapplers will sport a perfect 3-0 divisional record and teeter on the verge of capturing the school's 22nd divisional championship.

A win over the homestanding Yellow Jackets would also represent another workman-like victory in a season that has produced East triumphs over Round Valley (50-12), Show Low (56-21) and Alchesay (60-18).

Payson would then have only Holbrook (Jan. 16) and Snowflake (Jan. 26) to dispatch of before claiming the East title.

If any of Payson's three remaining East opponents harbor any hope of slowing the hard-chargin' Longhorn express, they'll have to uncover some way to derail a team that is on a roll.

On their way to an undefeated season, the Longhorn effort was never better than in the 42-point victory march over the Alchesay Falcons Dec. 15 in Wilson dome.

Of the 14 matches contested during the course of the evening, Payson emerged triumphant in 11, losing only the 112-pound and a pair of heavyweight contests.

In those matches, all three Payson wrestlers -- Craig Connolly, Dustin Attebury and Matt Walker --lost by falls.

The victory run

The Payson onslaught began early when Josh Papp won by a fall in the 103-pound opener.

After the Falcons deadknotted the score 6-6 in the 112-pound battle, the Horn's win streak began with a forfeit awarded to freshman Zack Lee (119).

Following the forfeit, Payson strung together four consecutive wins by falls before senior Doyle Van Horn (160) had to go the distance to win a 7-3 decision.

The victors by falls were recorded by Jerry Baker (130), Dominic Palandri (140), Justin McCarty (152) and Caleb Miller (152).

Only minutes after Van Horn's four-point decision, the Horns began another string of wins on falls by Taylor Walden (171), Mike Wright (171) and Jimbo Armstrong (189).

Freshman Bryce River wrestled his way to a 12-7 win in the 215-pound competition.

Rendering the Longhorn future particularly rosey were the wins by Walden and River. Both are untested freshmen who weren't expected to contribute to the varsity cause this early in their careers. Both, however, have been a more than pleasant surprise for coaches and fans.

The schedule

In addition to the upcoming East division matches against Blue Ridge, Holbrook and Snowflake, the Horns have a home date Jan. 5 against the Winslow Bulldogs. In years past, the battle would have been a East clash, but in a conference realignment last spring, Winslow was sent from the East to the North division.

Also on the Horns' agenda is the traditional visit to Southern California Jan. 7 and 8 where Payson will attempt to defend its Bolsa Grande Invitational Tournament title.

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