The Longhorn wrestling team tuned up for the Tim Van Horn Memorial Tournament -- an annual season highlight -- by battling a trio of the state's finest squads at a Moon Valley multi-meet.
The Horns opened the Jan. 11 clash by whipping host Moon Valley 29-28 and Scottsdale Saguaro 50-15 before losing to Apache Junction 36-35.
The skirmish against AJ actually ended in a tie but the Prospectors were awarded a one-point victory on a tiebreaker that goes to the team that records the most pins.
"Losing to AJ was a tough loss, as we did not have some key wrestlers in the lineup," coach Rich Ormand said. "We had four state placers out of the lineup."
Those missing included Tyler Goodman, Porter Wilbanks, David Cluff and Donnie Engler.
"I am amazed how we keep beating some of the teams we have this year, seeing as how we have yet to compete at full strength," Ormand said.
Moon Valley is ranked No. 2 in Class 4A Division I and Apache Junction is No. 1 rated in Class 4A Division II.
"Our kids just keep stepping up to the plate to do battle, no matter who we have in the lineup," Ormand said. "One kid gets hurt or is out for some other reason, and our young pups are eager to get in there and scrap."
Individually, Taylor Byers (103), Dan McGee (130), Lee Perez (135), Brandon Chovanec (140) and Steel Armstrong (189) compiled 3-0 records in the fray.
Nick Goodman (152), Troy Jenkins (171) and Oscar Chavez (275) were 2-1. Jordan Bucher (119), Mark McCarty (145), and Zach Rodgers were 1-2. Jonny Thompson (112) and Bryan Burke (215) finished 0-3.
Following the fray, Ormand lauded the wrestlers, saying, "The kids were enthusiastic and supported each other more than they have all season.
"The kids' attitudes are more positive than they have been in a while and that is just what we need as a team heading down the stretch."
The coach presented the Brutally Aggressive Grappler Uninhibited by Adversity Award (BAGUBA) to Perez.
"He has really become our team leader," Ormand said. "He helped keep the kids focused and is always supportive and encouraging to his teammates."
The Horns return to action Jan. 18 in an East region multi-meet in Eagar-Springerville. Payson will clash in dual meets against both Round Valley and Alchesay. Start time is 4 p.m.
The Van Horn tournament will be held Jan. 20 and 21 in Wilson dome. Expected to be in attendance are several members of the Van Horn family, including sons Ansel and Doyle. Both are PHS graduates who earned state wrestling championships while members of the Longhorn team.
Tim Van Horn, a longtime team supporter, died more than a decade ago in an out-of-state auto accident. Since his death, the tournament has been conducted in his memory.