USA wrestling, an off-season amateur mat program, has long been the foundation on which highly successful Longhorn wrestling teams are built.
In it, fledgling wrestlers of all ages have the opportunity to improve their skills and physical condition during the spring and summer months.
With the prep mat season at an end, Longhorn coaches are gearing for another USA Wrestling campaign.
Youngsters participating can do so as a member of the Payson Wrestling Club which is affiliated with USA Wrestling.
Each Tuesday and Thursday from Feb. 22 to June 4, practice sessions will be in the Wilson Dome wrestling room. From 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., wrestlers in second- through sixth-grades will train. The 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. training sessions will be designated for wrestlers in seventh-grade and older.
The fee is $30 which is used to purchase each individual a USA Wrestling participation permit. In USA wrestling, entrants participate in age/weight groups similar to middle school and high school competition. Wrestling styles differ at each event but can include Folkstyle, Greco-Roman and Freestyle.
The first competition will be Feb. 26 at Mingus High School.
When the winter wrestling campaign rolls around, Horn grapplers have the advantage of a running start on most of their competitors because of the off-season program.
The success of off-season wrestling has led to a cliche among coaches: "Championships are won in the winter, but built in the spring and summer."
High school wrestlers who perform well during the season become eligible for the USA Junior Regional Championships this spring around the country. The championships provide wrestling stars with an opportunity to test themselves against athletes from other states.
Many former Longhorn greats, including Nate Lee, Zack Lee, Larry Wilbanks, R.C. LaHaye and Christopher Pirch, have qualified for, and done well, in the junior regionals.
This year, the Western Junior Regionals will be April 26 to 29 in Las Vegas. A Rocky Mountain Junior Regionals is slated for May 24 to 26 in Laramie, Wyo.
Local wrestlers have the additional opportunity of tuning up for the USA campaign Feb. 19 at the Grand Canyon State Games at Apache Junction High School.
For more information, call Rich Ormand at (928) 476-2052.
USA Wrestling schedule
- National Qualifier (Cadets/Juniors)
Red Mountain High School; all other age groups wrestle Freestyle 7301 E. Brown Road, Mesa
Folkstyle - Sunrise Mountain High School, 21200 W. 83rd Ave., Peoria
Folkstyle - Flagstaff High School, 400 W. Elm Ave., Flagstaff
Folkstyle - TBA
State Folkstyle - Mingus High School, 1801 E. Fir St., Cottonwood
Greco - New Wrestling Facility, ASU, Tempe
- Kids Western Regional Qualifier Desert Vista High School, 16440 S. 32 St., Phoenix
Freestyle - Westwood High School, 945 8th St., Mesa
Freestyle - Mesquite High School, 500 S. McQueen Road, Gilbert
State Greco Championships, Sunrise Mt., 21200 W. 83rd Ave., Peoria
- State Greco Championships, TBA
- State Freestyle Championships, TBA
Club Championships, New Wrestling Facility, ASU, Tempe
Grand Canyon State Games (Freestyle/Greco) - Apache Junction High School, *Kids & Cadets Western Regionals Winnemucca, Nev. June 20-25, 2005