The challenge of taking on a big-school wrestling power will be nothing new for the Longhorn wrestling team, when Tucson Flowing Wells comes to town. The Horns take on Flowing Wells for a dual meet showdown.
Only last weekend, the Horns were battling in a tournament the Dave Work Memorial in Mingus that drew Class 5A second-ranked Tempe Desert Vista, fourth-ranked Mesa Red Mountain and seventh-ranked Chandler Hamilton.
Tempe (ninth-ranked) and Mingus (10th-ranked) both 4A powers were also in the field.
In a preliminary round Friday morning which was used to seed the teams into a dual tournament round robin later that day the Horns finished 1-1.
Battling in the duals against other teams that had finished 1-1 in their respective preliminary rounds, the Horns compiled a 4-1 slate.
That showing was good enough to earn Payson a fifth-place finish overall.
Coach Dave LaMotte said he liked the unusual tournament format of a preliminary round and a round robin all in the same day.
"Those (formats) come from the Midwest and they allow teams and individuals to (participate in) matches at their own level," he said.
During Friday afternoon's duals, the Horns churned out several impressive team victories including a 64-12 walloping of 3A eighth-ranked Camp Verde, a 42-30 win over Tucson Canyon del Oro, a 52-21 thumping of Tempe and a 41-27 triumph over Yuma Kofa.
Payson lost only to Hamilton 38-26.
Weight division showdowns
Saturday in Marauder gym, the format switched to an individual championship showdown that pitted each weight division's eight best wrestlers based on the records they compiled on Friday against one another.
By racking up 8-0 slates, a trio of Longhorns Zack Lee (145), Nathan Lee (152) and George Coleman (215) earned tournament championships.
In winning their weight divisions, all three PHS wrestlers had to survive rugged final matches.
Zack Lee came from behind to edge his Tempe foe 8-6, Nathan Lee won 8-4 over a Chino Valley opponent and Coleman decisioned a Yuma Kofa wrestler 3-1.
Although all of Payson's gold-medal brawls were barn burners, Zack Lee's win was probably the most dramatic.
Trailing 4-1 early in the third period, Zack strung together two takedowns and a near fall to salvage the thrilling victory. Five of his points were scored in the last 15 seconds.
Younger brother, Nathan, who is only a freshman, entered the final stanza locked in a 4-4 dead knot. A late takedown and near fall catapulted him to the championship.
Coleman, wrestling defensively, scored all of his points in the second period before giving up an escape in the third.
"His (opponent) was waiting for him to make an escape and he didn't," LaMotte said.
The Horns also had a pair of grapplers Matt McCarty (130) and Ingo Beck (heavyweight) finish fourth in the final standings.
In the battles for the bronze-medal slot, McCarty lost by a fall to a Tempe grappler and Beck was edged 1-0 by Mingus' 275-pounder. Beck finished 7-2 and McCarty was 5-4.
Earning fifth-place honors for PHS were Cole Newbold (160; 4-5), Larry Wilbanks (135; 5-4) and Bryce River (189; 7-2).
With a 3-5 mark, Brad Wilembrecht finished sixth.
The Horns also had five wrestlers participate in a consolation tournament for grapplers who didn't qualify for the championship round.
They included Brian Papp (103), Ryan Holland (119), Shane Hounshell (125), Daniel Reisdorf (140) and Tyler Williamson (171).
Tomorrow's varsity match against Flowing Wells, which is expected to start about 1:30 p.m., will be preceded by a jayvee showdown at 12:30 p.m.
Flowing Wells is expected to bring to Payson a quality team that could give the 3A sixth-ranked Horns a tussle.
But with the Lee boys and Coleman in the lineup, the Horns can light up the scoreboard for 18 team points at a moment's notice.
The unbeaten trio enter tomorrow's mat battle with two tournament championships to their credit.
In addition to winning the Mingus title, the three captured the weight division crowns at the Rim Country Dual earlier this season.
Wilbanks, McCarty and Beck are also threats to win by a fall anytime they take to the mat.
Following tomorrow's clash, the Horns return to action Jan. 16 in Whiteriver against Alchesay.
Because the match is against an East rival, it's a duel the Horns must win if they are to stay in the regional title chase.