Undaunted by the challenge of competing in the 4A ranks against schools boasting student bodies twice the size of PHS, the Longhorn wrestling team was the most successful Horn squad during Payson's short stay in the "big school" conference.
With the team's final season in 4A now at an end, members of the 2004-2005 Horn wrestling team gathered April 11 at Frontier Elementary School for its annual season-ending awards ceremony.
The accomplishments of the matmen included back-to-back Grand Canyon region titles, an 11-1 GCR record and a pair of 4A state fourth-place finishes.
Next year, PHS will return to the 3A conference East region following its the two-year stay in 4A. As the smallest school in 4A, the PHS administration petitioned the Arizona Interscholastic Association last fall to return to 3A. The request was granted.
In honoring the individual wrestlers, coaches selected Tyler Goodman and David Cluff as the co-Most Improved Wrestlers of the year.
Junior Donnie Engler -- known for his quiet demeanor off the mat but tenacity during competition -- received the BAGUBA of the year award. The citation, begun more than a decade ago by team founder Dennis Pirch, is awarded each year to the athlete deemed a "Brutally Aggressive Grappler Uninhibited By Adversity."
Lee Perez was tapped the most inspirational team member and senior Nate Lee was acknowledged as the Horns' Most Outstanding Wrestler.
David Cluff, Issac Cluff and Nate Lee were honored as Ironmen for not missing a practice all season.
Seniors Shane Hounshell, Sammy Perez, Chad Breen and Lee received the Cut Above award for competing in the sport four consecutive years.
Throughout the evening, it was Lee who continued to rake in the honors. Among them were citations for being selected the 4A wrestler of the year for two consecutive years, and the Arizona Wrestling Coaches Association Wrestler of the Year honor. At the AWCA postseason all-star tournament, he also was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler.
Veteran coach Don Heizer was honored by the AWCA as Arizona's Assistant Wrestling Coach of the Year. Heizer is now in contention for the U.S. Western Division Assistant Coach of the Year award.
Head coach Rich Ormand was acknowledged as the GCR Coach of the Year for two consecutive years.
As a team in 2004-2005, the Horns finished 25-9 overall, 5-1 in the region, and won the Rim Country Duals. The team also was fourth at the Tim Van Horn Memorial, sixth at the Westwood Warrior Classic and seventh at the Mingus Dave Work Invitational.
First team all-GCR wrestlers included Engler, Lee and David Cluff.
Porter Wilbanks, Lee Perez, Zach Rogers and Shane Hounshell were second team honorees.
Third team selections included Zach Petty, Brandon Chovanec, Mark McCarty, Sammy Perez and Breen.
State placers included Lee (first, 171), David Cluff (second; 145), Goodman (fourth; 119), Lee Perez (fifth; 135) and Engler (sixth; 215).
With the prep season at an end, many of the team members will continue to compete in the USA Wrestling spring and summer circuit.
Lee is bound for Boise State University where he has earned a wrestling scholarship.