Originally billed as a highly competitive tournament that would showcase a field of talented teams, the Rim Country Duals dwindled into a Payson Longhorn highlight film.
Battling 11 teams from a three-state area, the five-time defending state champion Horns emerged from the weekend match with a sterling 7-0 dual meet record. Payson capped its unbeaten run Saturday evening in Wilson Dome with a 68-9 manhandling of Desert Mountain. Hours earlier in the semifinals, Payson blasted Phoenix North 48-15.
Desert Mountain advanced to the championship round by virtue of a 43-36 semifinal win over Apache Junction.
The Horns also had two-time defending state champion R.C. LaHaye (140) elected the recipient of "Outstanding Wrestler" award among the lighter weights. The honor in the heavier weight classes went to Ironwood's 189-pound Tim Voeller.
Individual weight class tournament champions on the PHS roster included Larry Wilbanks (112), Aaron Bratholt (130), Zack Lee (135), LaHaye (140), Rocky Beery (171) and Bryce River (215).
Highly promising freshman Billy Bob Hoyt contributed his share to the Horns cause by finishing third in the 103- pound competition.
Cole Newbold (152) and Ingo Beck (275) earned fourth-place laurels.
In winning the outstanding wrestler citation, LaHaye breezed through the tournament undefeated before pinning a Desert Mountain opponent in the gold-medal round.
The PHS senior, who has his sights set on earning a college scholarship, has not been beaten in two seasons. Most impressive in the streak, is the fact his triumphs are usually by falls or major decisions.
In winning the 112-pound title, Wilbanks a freshman edged his Desert Mountain opponent 4-3 in the finale. Bratholt copped the gold with a 6-0 win over a North Phoenix grappler.
Facing a Punch Ridge, Utah opponent in the finale, Lee ran away with a 17-3 major decision.
A nail-bitting 3-1 overtime win over a Glendale Skyline wrestler, propelled Beery to his tournament crown. River emerged victorious by pinning his Chinle counterpart with only one second remaining in the gold-medal round.
The pair of 215-pounders entered the fray as no strangers to one another having met on the opening day of the tournament. River also won that match on a fall. Individual wrestlers who participated in the semifinal and finals were seeded into the rounds on their win/loss records in the two pool tournaments held Friday and Saturday.
The top two entries in both six-team pools, earned the right to participate in the final rounds.
In the dual meet team results, Payson took easy victories over Ironwood (70-10), Chinle (67-12), Desert Mountain (64-9), Skyline (63-9) and Punch Ridge (59-16).
Next up for the PHS mat squad will be a Jan. 5 and 6 trip to Costa Mesa, Calif. where the team will participate in the Estancia Invitational Tournament. The team travels to California as the defending tournament champions.
Coach Dennis Pirch has scheduled the team a holiday respite from practice Dec. 21 to 26. Holiday practice sessions begin at 9:30 a.m. Dec. 27 through 29 and Jan. 2 through Jan. 4.