Junior High Wrestler Takes Top Honors

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Christopher Pirch, Kyle Hilton, Beau Robertson, Ray Sharp, Dan Rackley, Scott Clifford, R.C. LaHaye, Ben Sandoval.

Ben Sandoval?

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Ben Sandoval

Why's a Rim Country Middle School eighth-grader's name included on a list of some of Payson High School's finest past state wrestling champions?

The answer is simple; Sandoval might some day be considered a mat equal to those legendary wrestlers who helped build the storied Longhorn program.

Sandoval took a giant stride along the path toward becoming a Longhorn great by winning the Arizona State Junior High/Middle School 111-pound weight division wrestling championship.

In the Arizona tournament held Jan. 27 and 28 at Tempe Marcos de Niza high school, Sandoval -- who entered the tournament seeded No. 4 -- received a first round bye, then went on to compile a 4-0 record.

In the semi-finals against a No. 1 seeded opponent from Yuma, Sandoval edged out a 3-1 victory that propelled him into the gold medal round to face a Safford opponent with a 30-2 record.

With the score tied 0-0 midway through the third and final period, Sandoval executed a reversal and a near fall, to earn a 3-0 victory and the state title.

In addition to winning the Arizona crown, Sandoval is a White Mountain League weight class runner.

In compiling a 21-1 record this season, his only loss was an overtime decision to a St. Johns opponent.

Ben's father, PHS principal Roy Sandoval, credited his son's success at state to the coaching of Doug Eckhardt and Homer Sanders.

"They put a lot of time in coaching Ben," he said.

In addition to excelling in wrestling, the young Sandoval was a member of the RCMS football team.

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