Horns Win 23rd Regional Crown

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The hoopla and drama that led to the East regional season-ending wrestling clash between state top-ranked Payson and third-rated Snowflake fell by the wayside in the Longhorns 54-9 win.

What made the old-fashioned butt-kicking even more painful was the fact that it was administered in front of a gym full of homestanding Snowflake's enthusiastic fans.

Because both teams entered the match undefeated in East action and state ranked, the Lobos were expected to give the powerful Horns all they could handle. But Payson ran roughshod to finish as the East regular season champion with a 7-0 record. The regional crown is the Horns' 23rd title in 28 years of prep wrestling competition.

Now that the regular season has ended, the Rim wrestlers will set their sights on the East tournament Saturday, Feb. 3, in Wilson Dome.

Top four individual finishers there earn berths into the state championships to be held Feb. 9 and 10 at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix.

At state, the Horns will be in search of their sixth consecutive 3A championship and 11th in the history of the PHS mat program.

In the regional tournament, PHS coach Dennis Pirch who also founded the team expects Show Low to provide the Longhorns their greatest competition.

"They have a good lineup top to bottom," he said.

At the state tournament, the coach is anticipating a strong challenge from Rio Rico and Show Low.

Thriving in Lobo land

In the title clinching win over Snowflake, the Horns jumped out to a 3-0 lead with a match opening 12-6 win by freshman Billy Bob Hoyt.

Following that triumph, the Horns continued to build on their lead, never looking back.

PHS athletes winning by falls were Daniel Reisdorf (119), Zack Lee (135), Levi Armstrong (145), Caleb Miller 152), George Coleman (189) and Ingo Beck (heavyweight).

Winning by decisions were Larry Wilbanks (112; 6-3), Matt McCarty (125; 19-8), Aaron Bratholt (130; 12-6), Cole Newbold (160; 10-5) and Rocky Beery (171; 7-5).

In the win, the Horns were without the services of two-time state champion R.C. LaHaye (140) who was nursing a bad back and illness. LaHaye currently building on a 107 match winning streak also did not participate in Saturday evening's 34-30 loss to Aztec, N.M. He is expected to return to action for the East tournament.

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