A three-way meet Dec. 10 in Wilson dome turned into a nostalgic step back into the days when Payson, Blue Ridge and Show Low were fierce competitors in the Class 3A conference's East region.
Over the course of the evening, the trio of long time foes battled as if the regional title was at stake.
When the curtain finally fell on the mat showdown, the Longhorns once again proclaimed them selves to be the king pins of Arizona small town wrestling by defeating Show Low 44-36 and Blue Ridge 48-17.
In past years, the Longhorn victories might have meant the team was well on its way toward a regional or conference crown.
But now that Payson High is a member of the 4A conference Grand Canyon region, all the triumphs bring with them are two "Ws" in the Horns' regular season victory column.
This year, Payson will have to battle the likes of 4A GG region members Mingus, Flagstaff and Coconino for post season honors.
In whipping both the Cougars and Yellow Jackets, the Horns had to overcome the loss of six forfeit points in the 125-pound weight division.
The roster has wrestlers to fill the slots but the prospects have been sidelined by academic problems.
"The eligibility dog has them by the leg," assistant coach Don Heizer said. "But they are struggling to get back on board."
Without a 125-pounder, Payson relied on pins by Tyler Goodman (112), Brad Wilembrecht (119), Troy Jenkins (145), Larry Wilbanks (160), Nate Lee (171), and Adam Munson (275) to earn enough team points for the dual win.
Also for Payson, freshman Porter Wilbanks (103) contributed five team points with a 21-4 win on a major decision. Lee Perez (130) won an 8-2 decision.
Probably the hardest fought encounter of the match occurred in the 140-pound division. There, Payson's David Cluff fell behind early 6-3 but battled back to tie the match 7-7 at the end of three periods. In OT, Cluff lost by a fall.
Stinging the Jackets
As tradition has long dictated, the dual against Blue Ridge was not nearly as fierce as the Show Low clash.
After the match tipped off with Cluff's (140) win by a 7-5 decision, the Longhorns upped the team lead to 27-6 on Munson's (275) win by a 10-6 decision.
In the 119-pound battle, Wilembrecht posted a fall to increase the PHS cushion to 42-6.
Lee Perez scored a fall in the 130-pound match to give the Horns their largest lead (48-12) of the evening.
The Payson cause also received significant contributions from Porter Wilbanks (103; fall), Goodman (112; 11-7 decision), Shane Hounshell (152; 8-6 decision in OT), Larry Wilbanks (160; fall), Nate Lee (189; fall) and Sammy Perez (215; fall).
The freshmen and jayvee teams will return to action tomorrow (Wednesday) when they travel to Flagstaff Coconino for a junior varsity clash. The varsity resumes mat play Dec. 19 and 20 in the Rim Country Duals to be held in Wilson dome.