Gutsy Rookie Leads Longhorn Charge

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The individual surprise of the Tim Van Horn Memorial Tournament was the yeoman-like performance of 14-year-old, 105-pound freshman Porter Wilbanks.

Undaunted by the fourth seed he was given in the 11 wrestler weight division, Porter -- who opened the tournament with a 28-6 record -- dominated his weight class winning all seven of his matches.

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Freshman Porter Wilbanks won the 103-pound weight division championship at the Tim Van Horn Memorial Tournament.

In the championship round against a Tuba City foe, he pounded out an 11-3 major decision.

In a polling of coaches at tournament's end, Porter was named the outstanding wrestler in the lower weight classes.

Although he is an untested freshman, Wilbanks has long been a force on the youth wrestling scene at Rim Country Middle School and on the USA Wrestling circuit.

The freshman was one of four Longhorn grapplers who took first place in the Van Horn mat skirmish Jan. 23 and 24 in Wilson Dome.

Brad Wilembrecht, Larry Wilbanks and Nate Lee also claimed crowns for Payson High.

Wilembrecht entered the 121-pound competitions as a first-place seed with a 27-9 record. He reached the championship round, and in the finale, he defeated a Fountain Hills opponent by a 6-3 decision.

Senior Larry Wilbanks, Porter's older brother, has been almost unstoppable for the past two seasons. This year, his 34-0 record easily earned him the tournament's top 160-pound seed. He took an early 7-0 lead before pinning his opponent in the second round. He was awarded the Tim Van Horn trophy that is given each year to the wrestler who turns in the best all around performance.

Lee (171) also entered the tournament with a 34-0 mark and a top seed.

In the championship round against a Higley wrestler, Lee took a 9-0 first-period lead and expanded it to 17-0 midway through the second. Only seconds after building the cushion, Lee pinned his foe. He also recorded one of the fastest falls of the fray, pinning an opponent just 11 seconds into the match.

Lee was later named the tournament's outstanding wrestler in the upper weight classes.

Sophomore Tyler Goodman joined his four teammates in the championship round but lost a 7-2 decision to a Coolidge foe.

Goodman opened the tournament as a No. 4 seed with a 24-11 mark.

As a team, the Longhorns received top-six finishes in every weight class except 147, 154 and heavyweight.

In the heavyweight division, senior Adam Munson -- the usual starter -- did not wrestle due to a rib injury.

At the Jan. 27 after-school practice session, Munson said he was on the mend.

"I'll be back and ready for regionals (Feb. 6 and 7 in Mingus)," he said.

More medals at Van Horn

The Longhorns earned valuable third-place team points from a trio of wrestlers -- Lee Perez (132), David Cluff (137) and Chad Simmons (217).

Perez surprised many with his finish mostly because he entered the tournament unseeded and sporting a 23-12 mark.

Like Perez, Simmons --ho did not have a varsity match at that weight --pened the tournament unseeded but managed to grind out a bronze-medal showing.

Cluff earned a No. 3 seed mostly because of his 22-11 record.

As expected by the coaches who did the seeding, Cluff finished third.

Donnie Engler's 15-17 record wasn't good enough for a seed but the sophomore strongman rose to the occasion to finish fourth in the 191-pound class. In the 127-pound battles, Brandon Chovanec was given a fourth seed on the merit of his 15-10 record. He eventually finished fifth.

Unseeded freshman Zack Rodgers (142) managed to stake claim to sixth place in a tough 12-wrestler field.

The next challenge for the Longhorn grapplers will be to earn a top-three finish in their weight divisions at the Grand Canyon regional championships.

Those who do so will be awarded a berth into the Class 4A state championships Feb. 13 and 14 at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix.

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