Horns Come Up Short At Rim Duals

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A depleted roster spelled the demise of the Payson Longhorns in the championship round of the Rim Country Duals wrestling tournament.

Pitted against powerful Gilbert Highland Saturday afternoon in Wilson Dome, the Longhorns succumbed in the finale 43-30. During the mat skirmish, Payson was forced to forfeit both the 147 and 277 (heavyweight) pound classes.

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Payson High School junior Nate Lee showcases the form that has made him one of the top 173-pound wrestlers in the nation. Lee is shown in action during the Rim Country Duals Dec. 19 and 20 in Wilson Dome. Lee won the weight-division crown.

The Horns were without 147-pound starter Troy Jenkins who did not make the minimum weight standard for the division.

In the 277-pound class, senior Adam Munson could not participate due to a knee injury suffered earlier in the tournament.

The 10 forfeit points the Horns gave up, which actually represents a 20-point swing, was too much for the remainder of the PHS lineup to overcome.

Although Highland departed Payson with the duals tournament championship, the Longhorns did produce three weight class champions.

Tyler Goodman (114), Larry Wilbanks (162) and Nathan Lee (173) all capped their efforts with individual championships.

In addition to Wilbank's weight class victory, he was named the outstanding wrestler of the tournament in the middle and heavyweights (147-277).

In the lightweights divisions (103-140), Apache Junctions Mike Armagost (103) won the outstanding wrestler title. Armagost edged PHS freshman Porter Wilbanks 10-6 in the championship round of the mini-tournament. The individual mini-tournament was held at the conclusion of almost two days of dual meets.

Goodman won his weight title with an 8-4 victory over a Highland opponent.

Wilbanks thumped a San Manuel foe 16-0 to stake claim to his crown.

Lee chalked up a takedown in the first period and an escape in the third to defeat a Skyline opponent 3-2 in the gold-medal showdown.

Sophomore Donald Engler advanced to the consolation round of the 191-pound class, but lost by a pin to a Phoenix North wrestler.

Duals results

The Longhorns opened the duals portion of the tournament with a convincing 58-18 win over Skyline High School.

In the duals competition, the 16 teams were divided into two pools -- A and B. Payson was aligned with the B teams. Eventual tournament champ Highland was seeded into the A pool.

In the second round of the B pool action, the Horns easily disposed of Phoenix Christian 69-12.

Next on the Horns' list of holiday feasts was Pusch Ridge. The Tucson school fell to the PHS juggernaut 75-6. Armed with a 3-0 record, the Horns wrapped up duals competition with a 49-24 triumph over Phoenix North.

With an unblemished record in the B pool, the Longhorns were seeded into the semifinals against the A pool's No. 2 finisher, San Manuel.

In a hotly contested match, the Longhorns eventually survived 45-31 to advance to the championship finale. Highland earned a berth in the gold-medal match by virtue of an unbeaten record in pool action and a 64-21 semifinal win over Skyline. Although the Horns eventually dropped a 13-point decision to Highland, PHS gave the Class 5A power all the competition it could handle.

At the conclusion of Brad Wilembrecht's (121) win, the Horns held a 12-6 advantage. Highland tied it up with a pin in the 127-pound battle. When Payson forfeited at 147, Highland forged ahead 25-15.

Minutes later, Larry Wilbanks' (162) win by a pin pulled the Longhorns to within a point (25-24).

Lee (173), a defending 3A state champion, gave the Horns a 30-25 lead with his victory by a fall.

Although the Horns had come from behind to take the lead, losses in the 191- and 217-pound class coupled with the forfeit in the heavyweight division ended any hopes the Longhorns had of winning the duals title.

Following the tournament-ending awards ceremony, assistant coach Don Heizer, also the tournament director, proclaimed the event a total success. He also thanked the many parents, fans and supporters who volunteered countless hours to ensure the event was conducted without a hitch.

The Longhorns will take a break for the holidays before returning to action Jan. 2 and 3 in the Mingus Marauder Invitational in Cottonwood.

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