Sporting one of the finest wrestlers in Arizona, senior Nathan Lee, and the Longhorns travel Friday to Mesa where they will participate in the Mesa Westwood Warrior Classic Tournament.
In the two-day mat skirmish, Lee and his teammates will take on some the best grapplers from the 4A and 5A conferences.
"Mesa Mountain View, Gilbert and most of the ranked schools will be there," longtime Longhorn assistant coach Don Heizer said.
For Lee, the tournament is another step toward becoming the most accomplished wrestler in the storied history of the program.
To achieve that lofty position, he'll need to wrestle his way to a feat no other Payson High School grappler has done -- win four consecutive state weight class championships.
Although Lee has not yet wrapped up his prep career, he's indicated where he wants to continue wrestling on the collegiate level. In mid-November, he signed a national letter of intent to Boise State University, calling the school a perfect fit for his athletic and academic aspirations.
In Mesa, Lee will anchor a Payson team that has several other matmen who could contend for tournament honors. Among them are returning letter winners, Porter Wilbanks, Zack Rodgers, Lee Perez, Tyler Goodman, David Cluff, Chad Breen, Sammy Perez and Troy Jenkins.
In that crew, Wilbanks and Perez are the most seasoned, having wrestled their way to Grand Canyon region weight class championships last season.
In the state championships, Wilbanks finished fourth and Perez was third.
The Horn coaching staff is also expecting good things this season from junior Andy Sanders who wrestled as a freshman, but set out last season.
Freshman Mark McCarty is another athlete who could contribute to the Longhorn cause.
As a junior high and USA wrestling champion, he's been a part of the Rim country mat scene for the past six years.
Another freshman who could contribute is heavyweight Kyle Allen. The rookie is expected to share mat time with Sammy Perez.
An unknown in the lineup could be 215-pound Chad Simmons. At the Tim Van Horn Invitational last season, he wrestled to a third place finish. That showing had fans and teammates lauding his potential
Weeks later, however, the home-schooled student didn't participate in the regional meet due to a family commitment.
Although the Horn cupboard appears to be full, the team will be without an entrant in the 103- and 112- pound classes.
"We hope to have those filled by Christmas," Heizer said.
The Horns will also be without the services of 2004 state qualifier Donnie Engler who injured a knee in preseason.
Engler is expected to be sidelined for the next few weeks.
Following the Warrior Classic, the Horns return to Payson Dec. 17 and 18 to host the Rim Country Duals in Wilson Dome.