Dynamic Duo Tapped Arizona's Finest


Proof that Larry Wilbanks and Nathan Lee form the best one-two punch in Arizona High School wrestling turned up Friday morning.

The two were chosen to the All-Arizona wrestling teams -- teams that are made up of wrestlers representing schools of all size classifications 1A to 5A.


This season, Longhorns Larry Wilbanks (left) and Nate Lee formed the best wrestling duo in the state.

Both PHS wrestlers where chosen to the prestigious Arizona first team. Second teams and honorable mentions in most weight classes also were announced, but no Payson wrestlers were selected to either.

Wilbanks, the 4A state champion who finished with a 51-0 record, edged heralded Alex Pavelenko of Tempe Marcos DiNiza for 160-pound first team honors. Pavelenko, the 160-pound 5A state champion was named second team.

Wilbanks might have assured himself first team honors with his 3-1 victory over the Arizona State-bound Pavlenko at the Arizona Coaches Association Red vs. Blue All-Star match last week in Casa Grande.

At the conclusion of the celestial showdown, coaches selected Wilbanks the outstanding wrestler of the meet.

A few weeks earlier at the Class 4A state championships in Phoenix, Wilbanks decisioned Pinnacle's Brett Peters 4-1 for the Arizona title.

The state victory was the second consecutive Wilbanks has won. As a junior, he captured the 3A state championship when Payson High was a member of the East region. At the 4A Grand Canyon Region finals held at the conclusion of the past regular season, coaches voted Wilbanks and teammate Lee Perez co-wrestlers of the year.

Next month, Wilbanks will travel to Cleveland, Ohio, where he will compete in the Senior National High School championship.

Following the national clash, he will graduate with the class of 2004 as one of the most acclaimed wrestlers to ever don a Longhorn singlet.

All that remains for the lanky, hard-nosed senior is to pick up an athletic scholarship so he may continue his career on the next level.

The 18-year-old spent the past weekend on a recurring visit to Western State University in Gunnison, Colo. If he opts to attend Western, he would join former PHS standouts R.C. LaHaye, Zach Lee and George Coleman on the WSU wrestling team. Wilbanks said he'd like to hold out to see if he attracts any Division 1 offers.

Lee has another season

Lee, a junior, was named first team in the 171-pound slot. Second-team honors went to Maryvale's Jose Cortez.

At the 4A state championships last month in Phoenix, Lee whipped Tucson Catalina Foothills' Lance Contento 16-8 to win the state title.

After winning the crown, coaches selected Lee the state meet's outstanding wrestler.

The 4A gold medal capped a season in which Lee posted a 50-0 record. The state crown also was the third that Lee has won and keeps him on track towards becoming the Horns' first four-time state champion. In his career, Lee has a 143-3 record.

Next season, Lee will undoubtedly be one of the state's most celebrated wrestlers. A fourth consecutive 4A title and a win in the ACA All-Star match might be the ticket he's looking for to earn a Division 1 scholarship offer.

Only three Class 3A small-school athletes were selected to the first and second teams.

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