The one-two punch of brothers Zack and Nathan Lee wrestled their way to the pinnacle of prep success at the Arizona State Championship tournament held last weekend in Phoenix.
Zack, a junior, captured the 145-pound title by posting a 4-0-tournament record. Nathan, a freshman, also finished 4-0, and won the152-pound crown.
Other Payson wrestlers who earned state medals were Larry Wilbanks (135; second), George Coleman (210; second), Matt McCarty (130; fifth), Nelson Beck (hwt.; fifth) and Bryce River (189; seventh).
Zack Lee's state win marked the culmination of a banner season in which he posted a 47-0 record. One of the stiffest tests he received during the course of the campaign occurred in the state championship finale against Safford's Paul Polma.
The two, both No. 1 seeds by virtue of winning their regional championships, battled toe-to-toe before Zack rallied for a 5-3 victory.
As the South champ, Polma wrapped up the season with a 56-3 record two of his losses to Zack.
In winning a state title as a first-year wrestler, Nathan (43-3) stamped himself one of the most promising athletes in high school sports.
Although he lacked state tournament experience, Nathan dominated in the early rounds of the tournament winning two matches on falls and one by a decision. In the finale against Chino Valley's Jackson Campbell, Nate won a 9-3 decision.
Campbell (36-6) entered the state tournament as the West region champion.
Both Wilbanks (40-7) and Coleman (44-3) battled their way to the championship round only to suffer the agony of defeat.
Wilbanks, the East region weight-division champion, lost by a fall to Rio Rico's Gordo Villaescusa.
The Payson grappler reached the championship showdown in impressive fashion winning two bouts by falls and the other by a 13-3 major decision.
Coleman, an East runner-up, was defeated 8-5 by season-long rival Jon McQuillan of Show Low.
In the regular season, Coleman defeated McQuillan, but lost narrow decisions to him in both the regional and state tournaments.
McCarty opened at state as the East region champion but had to settle for fifth place after posting a 3-2 tournament record.
In the early rounds, McCarty won two major decisions before losing a 16-0 technical fall to eventual weight-division champion Tony Bustamante of Rio Rico.
With a 46-1 record, Bustamante was almost unstoppable all season.
Beck, the East heavyweight runner-up, was sent to the consolation bracket by an 8-4 quarterfinal loss to Coolidge's Deric Torrio. In the battle for fifth place, Beck decisioned James Stalcup of Camp Verde, 7-5.
An East region bronze medallist, River compiled a 3-2 state slate.
Other Longhorn state qualifiers were Brian Papp (103; 0-2 at state), Daniel Reisdorf (140; 1-2), Cole Newbold (160; 1-2) and Tyler Williams (171; 1-2).
With the 2002 campaign at an end, wrestlers will gather Feb. 27 at Payson Elementary School for the traditional potluck and season-ending awards ceremony.
The time of the event will be announced next week.
Senior members of the team will anxiously await Arizona Coaches Association voting to learn if they are selected to participate in the all-star match when it is contested this spring.
Underclassmen will soon begin preparations for the spring and summer USA wrestling season in which they can participate in both freestyle and Greco-Roman events.