The undying commitment of the celebrated Payson High School wrestling team leaves little doubt why they're on the verge of being ranked one of the nation's 25 best by USA Wrestling magazine.
Following the grueling state championship title run two months ago, the athletes had the option of relaxing in the splendor of their accomplishments.
Video games and after-school cruising of the school parking lot could have been their most challenging activities. Instead, the mat men chose to dive singlets first into a rugged off-season program designed to help prepare them for a sixth consecutive run at the state title.
Last weekend, the athletes continued their off-season quest for athletic excellence by traveling to Mingus High School where they competed in a USA Wrestling freestyle tournament.
Six of the eight athletes who made the jaunt returned to the Rim country with gold medals. They included Matt McCarty, Zack Lee, R. C. LaHaye, Nathan Lee, Mark McCarty and Porter Wilbanks.
LaHaye (143 pounds) won his medal in the juniors (17-18 years) age group.
Zack Lee (143 pounds) and Matt McCarty won in the cadet (14-15) division.
Nathan Lee (145 pounds) and Mark McCarty (80 pounds) were school boy (13-14) crown bearers.
Porter Wilbanks (90 pounds) was a novice (11-12) champion.
In the 112-pound cadet competition, Larry Wilbanks was second and Jason Amon third.
Aaron Bratholt was fourth among the 132-pound juniors.
The youngsters were accompanied to Mingus by PHS coach Dennis Pirch. The freestyle wrestlers return to action, tomorrow, at Tempe Marcos de Niza High School in a continuation of the USA Wrestling off-season program.