Payson High School wrestlers grappled their way to a 5-2 record and a fourth-place finish in the Longhorns first visit to the Green Valley Duals in Henderson, Nev.
Contested Dec. 2 and 3, the tournament drew topnotch wrestling programs from Colorado, California, Arizona and Nevada.
Among the most heralded teams entered were Unitah of Vernal, Utah and Nevada's top four schools -- Cimarron Memorial, Mojave, Bonanza and Las Vegas.
Unitah, a 12-time state champion, is ranked No. 2 in the 3A division and fourth ranked in Utah.
Cimarron-Memorial, last year, won its third straight Class 4A state title and its fifth in the last seven years.
Mojave, Nevada's state championship favorite for 2005-2006, returned four sophomore state qualifiers and opened the season with a bang defeating Cimarron 55-16.
Bonanza has won the last five Southwest Division titles and Las Vegas the past five Sunrise Division crowns.
Overall, 16 teams were entered in the tournament.
Payson opened the duals with a 52-18 win over Las Vegas and continued with a 40-27 thumping of Bonanza. On Dec. 3, the Horns opened with a second win over Las Vegas, this time by a 53-15 margin.
In the quarterfinals, the Horns romped past Cimarron-Memorial 44-27. Semifinal action saw the Longhorns fall to Unitah 52-21.
After whipping Palo Verde, Nev. 41-28 in the consolation bracket, the Horns advanced to the third-place showdown only to lose to Mojave 53-21.
Temecula, Calif. defeated Unitah 42-20 to win the duals title.
Following the team's return to Payson, coach Rich Ormand touted the inaugural experience in Nevada as one that yielded mixed results.
"Overall, we were pleased with the kids' efforts, but we feel we need to work on some fundamentals such as controlling the tie-up situation while on our feet," he said.
If there was a positive in traveling to another state, other than the experience gained over the course of the two days, it might have been the recognition the tournament brought to the PHS program.
"Several of the coaches commented on how tough our boys were, coming from a small town and with so many young wrestlers in the lineup," Ormand said.
Individually, sophomore Mark McCarty and freshman Bryan Burke received BAGUBA (Brutally Aggressive Grapplers Uninhibited By Adversity) awards for their tenacious performances in the duals.
McCarty finished 7-0 in the fray, but was honored mostly for his improved aggressiveness as the tournament wore on, Ormand said.
Burke, who was filling in the 215-pound slot for the injured Donnie Engler, finished 4-3.
"Bryan is recognized for stepping up to a heavier weight class and always going out to win," Ormand said. "Bryan believes even though he is a freshman with little experience, he should never lose."
The trip yielded some unexpected benefits when the team members were able to attend the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational tournament, where they watched two former Longhorns in action.
Larry Wilbanks and Zach Lee, former Arizona State champions for PHS, competed as members of the Western State College of Colorado squad.
Wilbanks (165 pounds) finished 2-2 in the tournament and Lee (157) was 1-2.
The Horns return to tournament action Dec. 15 and 16 in the Rim Country Duals to be held in Wilson dome.
PHS also has a multiple meet against Holbrook and Marana Mountain View set for Dec. 14 in the dome. Start time is 4 p.m.