All Eyes On Wilbanks Vs. Pavelenko

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A pair of Arizona's finest wrestlers -- Larry Wilbanks of Payson and Alex Pavelenko of Marcos de Niza -- will clash in the Arizona Coaches Association All-Star match tomorrow (Saturday) at Casa Grande High School.

Start time for the celestial competition is 1 p.m.

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Payson High School senior Larry Wilbanks will battle Tempe Marcos de Niza's Alex Pavelenko in the Arizona Coaches Association All-Star match tomorrow (Saturday) in Casa Grande.

At stake in the match will be an undefeated record and the prestige of being the best 160-pounder in the state.

Pavelenko might be the most acclaimed wrestler of the two, having earned a scholarship offer from Arizona State University. He also is a two-time defending 5A champion who posted a 45-0 record as a senior. His sophomore season at Marcos, Pavelenko finished second in the state. As a freshman he was third.

Wilbanks doesn't receive the statewide publicity Pavelenko musters mostly because he represents a 4A small-town high school rather than a 5A Tempe school like Marcos de Niza.

Although Wilbanks will probably enter the match as an underdog in the eyes of some spectators, he has the opportunity to prove he's every bit as good as the Marcos star.

Wilbanks enters the celebrated fray as a two-time defending state champion, having won the 3A title as a junior and the 4A crown last season as a senior. During the year, Wilbanks posted a 51-0 record and built a reputation as a skillful wrestler who used his lanky build to his advantage. As a sophomore, Wilbanks was second in the state. He finished sixth as a freshman.

Payson High School coach Rich Ormund is predicting an outstanding match when Pavelenko and Wilbanks meet.

"It'll be a war out there," he said. "Larry is preparing for it and everyone knows he's a great wrestler."

The two have met only once. Several years ago, Pavelenko earned a decision over Wilbanks in freestyle USA Wrestling off-season competition.

In addition to excelling in wrestling, Wilbanks was an award-winning player for the Longhorn football team last season.

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