The 10th annual Dave Work Memorial Wrestling Tournament provided the Payson Longhorns with some tough competition as the team heads into the season-ending 4A state tournament.
Some of the finest Class 4A and 5A teams in the state participated in the skirmish Jan. 2 and 3 in Cottonwood.
Tempe Desert Vista (second ranked), Red Mountain (third), Chandler Hamilton (sixth) and Mesa (seventh) represented the 5A conference. Representing the 4A conference were Tucson Pueblo (second), Prescott (fourth) and Mingus (fifth).
Payson entered the invitational third-ranked in the 4A conference.
According to PHS coach Rich Ormand, the quality of the teams participating is what drew the Longhorns to the tournament.
"We wanted a tournament where we were going to get beat," he said. "That would show us what we need to do to for state."
The coach said the tournament was the toughest one in the state for its size.
Compiling a 3-2 record in the dual-meet tournament format, the Longhorns finished sixth in the 12-team field.
During the course of the two days, Payson's 47-24 decision of host Mingus was a sign of good things to come. The Marauders are expected to be one of the teams to give the Horns their greatest competition for the Grand Canyon regular season and tournament titles.
Mingus has won the Grand Canyon regional title seven of the past 14 years. The Marauders have also finished as runners-up four times.
Last season, Mingus was 23-2 in dual meets.
The Longhorns also beat Tucson Pueblo (47-24) and Los Almos, N.M. (66-7). Payson lost to Desert Vista (40-24) and Mesa (37-27).
Wilbanks, Lee remain unbeaten
In winning their weight division championships, Larry Wilbanks (160) and Nate Lee (171) improved their season's record to 26-0.
On their way to 7-0 tournament records, both bested some of the top wrestlers in the state. Lee whipped 5A fifth-ranked Josh Weaver (Desert Vista) and Wilbanks thumped 5A sixth-rated Pedro Ballestros (Mesa).
The tournament featured 40 top-six ranked wrestlers from the 4A and 5A conferences. Also, 11 of the wrestlers were state No. 1 ranked.
As defending state 3A state champions, both Wilbanks and Lee are rapidly becoming odds-on favorites to earn similar crowns on the 4A level.
In addition to the exploits of Wilbanks and Lee, the Longhorns received a solid showing from senior heavyweight Adam Munson. By compiling a 4-1 record, Munson finished third overall.
Brad Wilembrecht (119) wrestled his way to a fourth-place showing by stringing together a 5-5 slate. Shane Hounshell (152), Porter Wilbanks (103) and Brandon Chovanec (125) all finished fifth with 4-4 credentials.
Tyler Goodman (112; 5-4), Lee Perez (130; 3-6), David Cluff (140; 2-7); and Don Engler (189; 2-5) also represented the Longhorns in Cottonwood.
The Longhorns return to the mat at 1 p.m. tomorrow (Saturday) in Wilson Dome. The event will feature a three-way showdown pitting Tucson Flowing Wells, Higley and the Longhorns against one another in dual meet formats.