Big or small, they all soon fall to the powerful Payson Longhorn wrestling team.
In early season competition, the five-time defending state champion Longhorns have consistently manhandled the rural Class 3A high school teams they've taken on.
Last Saturday, the Horns took a break from the small-town foes and traveled to Tucson to challenge Class 5A Flowing Wells.
The switch to a big school opponent did little to slow the hard-charging Horn mat express. With a 38-30 victory, Payson kept its season record unblemished and stamped the Rim country program more than the equal of the Tucson schools.
Most impressively, the Horns nailed down the win without 145-pound Levi Armstrong who has been a stalwart in the Horn lineup for the past two seasons. Without Armstrong, coaches shifted athletes in several weight classes. However, the team still had to forfeit the 171-pound division for lack of an entry.
Forfeiture is common in many high school programs, but for the nationally ranked Longhorns, it's a rarity.
The Horns also competed without 119-pound Craig Connally who was replaced by freshman Daniel Reisdorf.
Lacking the experience of varsity competition, Reisdorf was pinned in the first period.
By winning seven of 14 matches, four of which were by falls, Payson was able to build the eight-point winning margin.
The falls were posted by Matt McCarty (125), Brett Williams (145), Caleb Miller (152) and Cole Newbold (160).
The surprises in the foursome of pins were those turned in by Williams and Newbold. Because McCarty and Miller are seasoned varsity veterans with state tournament experience, they are expected to show well. But, Williams and Newbold are relatively untested varsity newcomers who are still mastering the fundamental skills of the sport.
Wrestling in the 145-pound division, Williams a sophomore built a 14-9 lead over his Tucson foe before pinning him in the third period.
Newbold, who wrestled earlier this season in the 171-pound slot, dropped down to 160. The switch paid dividends when the junior who was a squad member last season pinned his opponent with 43 seconds remaining in the third stanza.
His win propelled the Horns out to a 35-12 lead with four matches remaining.
The forfeit in the 171-pound class coupled with George Coleman's (189) loss by a fall cut Payson's lead to 35-24. Narrowing the lead fueled Flowing Wells hopes for a come from behind victory.
A pair of wins by pins in the 215- and 275-pound class would have pushed Tucson to a one-point victory.
However, sophomore Bryce River (215) dashed all FW hopes by winning a 12-8 decision.
River, whose older brother Blair was a four-year letter winner and heavyweight state champion for PHS, fell behind early in the match 5-3. In the second stanza, he rallied to take an 8-6 lead.
With the match on the line, River scored on a near fall and reversal in the final period to claim the four-point win.
Last season, River turned in several come-from-behind victories, prompting team members to good naturedly tease him that he must believe the first period was simply a warm-up.
Following River's win, Payson's Ingo Beck lost the heavyweight battle on a fall but the six FW points weren't enough to overcome the cushion built during earlier PHS victories.
One of the most exciting of those triumphs was turned in by 140-pound R.C. LaHaye. A two-time defending state champion and All-Arizona team member, he found himself locked in the mother of all mat wars.
After taking a 4-1 lead in the first period, LaHaye was blanked in the second stanza.
With the contested dead-knotted 4-4 as action opened in the final period, LaHaye scored on an escape and a reversal. His opponent, meanwhile, could cash in on only a single takedown.
LaHaye's 7-6 victory was easily the most difficult test of this season.
Although the 103-pound clash wasn't as exciting as LaHaye's rock 'em sock 'em tiff, it did give freshman Billy Bob Hoyt the opportunity to showcase his rookie skills in the city.
After assuming a 7-1 lead early in the match, the frosh cruised to a 22-6 triumph primarily on points tacked up on five take downs and three near falls.
Next up for the Longhorn grapplers is the annual Rim Country Duals to be contested today (Dec. 15) and tomorrow in Wilson Dome.
The annual clash pits the field of 10 teams against one another in a series of dual matches on two mats. Action culminates about 7 p.m. this evening and resumes at 10 a.m. Saturday. The fray is scheduled to wrap up with championship rounds at 5 p.m.