Some of the best teams and athletes in the state will showcase their mat skills this weekend in the Tim Van Horn Memorial Wrestling Tournament.
Slated to begin at 2 p.m. today (Friday) and continue through tomorrow in Wilson Dome, the mat showdown will feature Class 5A second-ranked Red Mountain, 4A top-ranked Tempe, 3A seventh-rated Safford and a Payson squad that could be rolling toward a state championship.
Tempe enters the tournament fresh from having won the Buckeye Invitational. Red Mountain is red hot, having whipped rival Mesa Mountain View in a dual meet that was decided in the last match by a pin.
Host Payson is currently the 3A second-ranked team, but all that will change when new rankings are released this weekend.
The Horns' 40-34 win over No. 1 Show Low Jan. 8 is expected to vault Payson past the Cougars into the top 3A spot.
Globe, Tuba City, Glendale Mountain Ridge and Valley are also in the tournament field.
Tournaments such as the Van Horn typically draw the top athletes from the area. Among Payson's standouts will be five teenagers who were ranked first in their weight division by the Dec. 31, 2002 edition of the Arizona Wrestling Newsletter -- Zack Lee (152), Matt McCarty (140), Larry Wilbanks (160), Nate Lee (171) and George Coleman (215).
Although Bryce River (189) is not ranked by AWN, he has shown the ability and moxie to wrestle his way to Van Horn weight division titles.
At 130 pounds, Shane Hounshell also could be a threat. At the Dave Work Memorial in Mingus Jan. 3 and 4, he turned in an impressive fifth-place finish, compiling a 4-4 record against tough competition.
If there is a true tournament championship favorite in the field, it might be Red Mountain or Tempe. Both teams sport six wrestlers who are currently ranked in the state's top-six.
The Mountain Lions' lineup includes Nathan Sare (189 pounds; 2nd-ranked), A.J. Bartles (112; 3rd), Robert Galvin (130; 3rd), Jeff Ramsey (145; 3rd), Steve Neff (125; 4th) and Adrian Gettler (171; 6th).
The Buffalo roster features Elery Tarazon (215; 1st), Daniel Rivera (130; 2nd), Ethan Hillis (152; 2nd), Billy Cobb (140; 4th), Nathan Bodily (160; 4th) and Tony Cuevas (145; 5th).
Safford will bring to the tournament eight 3A ranked wrestlers including Sonny Ceballos (119; 1st), Eric Romero (112; 1st), John Nunlery (189; 2nd), Kasey Kempton (125; 3rd), Ian Bodine (160; 3rd), Michael Moore (135; 4th), Abe Bejarano (215; 4th) and Gabe Dominguez (275; 5th).
The 215-pound competition could be one of the most highly contested divisions having drawn the 3A and 4A top-rated wrestlers: Coleman and Tarazon. The 3A conference's No. 3 (Nathan Lockhart; Globe) and No. 5 (Dominguez) grapplers are also featured.
Although Mountain Ridge enters the tournament unranked, the team does feature the top-rated 5A heavyweight, Trey Jones.
Globe could have a 275-pounder capable of going the distance with Jones -- 3A second-ranked Chet Huelskamp.
Today's agenda features the tournament teams competing in dual matches on three mats in Wilson Dome. Teams will compete in two four-team pools. The final round will seed the teams from the two pools against one another. Action should wrap-up at about 7 p.m.
Tournament action resumes tomorrow at 9 a.m. with an individual tournament on three mats. It will continue until about 2 p.m.
The third session, from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., will be the consolation finals on two mats.
The championship rounds will be from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on one mat.
The results of the day's individual tournament will be used to seed the wrestlers into the consolation and championship finals.
At the conclusion of the tournament, trophies will be awarded to the top three teams. The top four finishers in each weight division also will receive medals. Champions will be given T-shirts with the tournament insignia.
Other awards include a medallion for the fastest fall of the tournament, the outstanding sportsman trophy (coach) and three outstanding wrestlers citations -- lightweights (103-125), middleweights (130-152) and heavyweights (160-275).
The tournament is conducted annually in memory of former PHS wrestling supporter Tim Van Horn who was tragically killed in an automobile accident. Admission is free.