Countless seasons of hard work and dedication to wrestling paid off Sunday for a Payson High School senior mat star and a longtime coach.
At the Arizona All-Star Red vs. Blue wrestling championships on the campus of Emery Riddle College in Prescott, Don Heizer was named the state's "Assistant Coach of the Year" and 171-pound Nate Lee, a member of the Red star team, wrapped up an illustrious prep career with a 16-6 win over Blue star Clancy Stockton of Mesa Mountain View.
Stockton, a senior, was chosen to the postseason all-star meet as the 5A state runner-up with a 36-1 record.
Lee, who first took up wrestling in elementary school, entered the prestigious competition as the 4A state champion and a two-time winner of the state tournament's outstanding wrestler award.
The all star victory in Prescott closed the door on a senior campaign in which he finished 53-0. As Payson High School's first four-time state champion, most fans can't remember the last time Lee lost a match -- it was midway through his freshmen season and by a narrow decision.
Last fall, Lee accepted a wrestling scholarship to Boise State University.
While Lee will move on next season, Heizer will probably continue his assistant coaching duties that span almost 20 years.
First hired by team founder and longtime coach Dennis Pirch, Heizer has been the coach who quietly works behind the scenes ensuring players stay eligible, teaching the basic skills and making sure the program goes off without a hitch. Prior to moving to Payson, Heizer was a highly successful wrestling and football coach in Colorado.
In addition to his coaching duties at PHS he serves as the tournament director for the Rim Country Duals, Tim Van Horn Memorial and any postseason events the Longhorns host.
He has built a reputation for hosting some of the state's finest and most well-rounded tournaments.
During his tenure, he has helped coach numerous region and state championship teams.
Heizer began his career at PHS as a classroom teacher, but now serves as a guidance counselor.