Payson High School wrestling coach Rich Ormand says a busy off season program, which has just wrapped up, bodes well for the Longhorns, once the team returns to the mat in early winter.
"(The off season) was a great opportunity for our wrestlers to gain some valuable experience," he said. "They faced some adversity, which is good for showing our kids just how tough they can be."
According to Ormand, the highlight of the summer was the Camp of Champions held June 24 to June 29 on the campus of Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.
"It was a great camp," Ormand said. "It was very competitive. There were state championship teams from three states, and of the 24 teams there, all but two were extremely tough."
During the camp, the Longhorns wrestled in 15 duals and emerged with a record of 11-4.
"Three of those losses were by a difference of just one match," Ormand said.
On the final day of the camp, an individual tournament pitted 32 wrestlers in each weight class against one another.
For the Payson contingent, David Cluff, Lee Perez and Tyler Goodman turned in the best showings. All three wrestled to third place finishes.
Also for Payson, Steele Armstrong was fifth, Don Engler sixth and Dan McGee seventh.
Ormand tagged the camp "a real meat grinder," saying, "each of the kids at one time or another had to face some kind of challenge."
Among those he cited was Goodman, who lost four matches during the team dual portion of the camp, but rebounded in the individual tournament to decisively whip every wrestler who had beaten him earlier.
Freshman Brian Burke also took a huge step toward realizing his high school potential by battling several seasoned, older wrestlers to a standstill.
"He suffered some tough losses to upperclassmen, but by the end of the week, was beating kids he would have lost to early in the camp," Ormand said.
Of the 17 athletes who traveled to the camp, eight were incoming freshmen.
"That was especially exciting to have them with us," Ormand said.
In addition to the NAU camp, Payson hosted its own two-day camp attended by Mesa, Gilbert and Aztec, N.M.
Ormand called the camp a good experience for the grapplers in that they were able to compete against other athletes they might not meet in the course of a regular season. The camp wrapped up with a bit of old fashioned camaraderie during a hamburger cookout for all 55 teens who attended.
When not camping the past summer, the wrestlers have been traveling to Apache Junction and Moon Valley High Schools for USA Wrestling competition.
"Coach (Don) Heizer and I take turns driving them there on Wednesday nights," Ormand said.
While the athletes await the onset of the 2005-2006 season, some will turn their attention towards the fall sports of football, soccer and cross country.