The Longhorn wrestling team returned to the 3A conference, after two years among the 4A ranks, with a bang, spanking Fountain Hills 51-15.
In the season opener Nov. 29, the Horns relied on a solid mix of youthful enthusiasm and spirited senior leadership to pin a loss on the home standing Falcons.
Freshmen Taylor Byers, Bryan Burke and Steel Armstrong supplied the buoyant fervor by winning in their varsity debuts.
When the rookies weren't dominating, the seniors were having their way on the mat. Tyler Goodman, Lee Perez, David Cluff and Troy Jenkins joined forces for three wins by falls and another by a major decision.
The team was without the services of senior Donnie Engler, a state placer last season, who is rehabilitating following a shoulder injury suffered in football.
"We hope to have him back in the lineup for the Rim Country Duals (Dec. 16 and 17)," Coach Rich Ormand said.
Also, Payson forfeited the heavyweight class while sophomore Kyle Allen gets his weight below the 275-pound maximum.
The Horns also were forced to forfeit the 112-pound class when the PHS entrant didn't make weight.
"When we left Payson, he was on weight on our scale," Ormand said. "Fountain Hills scale was a full pound off our scale."
The difference in the two scales was cause for a miff among coaching staffs.
"The major controversy is that Fountain Hills' scale has not been certified in at least three years," Ormand said. "We get ours certified every season."
In assessing the performance of the wrestlers in their first outing, Ormand said, "We were pleased with the aggressiveness of the boys and it was a good indication of where we are at this point in the season."
The coach admits, however, there is plenty of room for improvement.
"We noticed that the boys need to work on taking advantage of scoring opportunities," Ormand said. "We missed chances to put people on their back from a take down all throughout the meet."
The Horns did, however, chalk up the first take down in nine of the 12 matches. Following the match, the Horn coaching staff awarded sophomore Dan McGee the BAGUBA (Brutally Aggressive Grappler Uninhibited By Adversity) award.
"He never stopped working and won his match decidedly due to his work ethic," Ormand said.
Next up for the Longhorns is the Green Valley Duals Dec. 2 and 3 in Henderson, Nev.
"This is an extremely tough outing and it will show our boys exactly where they are in relation to other good wrestling programs," Ormand said. "It's a big test."