Van Horn Invitational Has 16 Teams Competing

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The 2006 edition of the Tim Van Horn Memorial Wrestling Invitational marks the return of a Mesa Red Mountain team that won tournament titles in 2002 and 2003.

"They left for a couple of years, went to another tournament, and now they are back," longtime tournament director Don Heizer said.

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Camaraderie will be the name of the game when some of the finest teams from around the state gather Jan. 20 and 21 in Wilson dome to participate in the Tim Van Horn Memorial Tournament. Among the championship favorites are Mesa Red Mountain, Gilbert Highland and Payson.

The Mountain Lions will be among the schools out to unseat two-time defending Van Horn champion and longtime tournament force Highland.

In all, the Gilbert school has won five Van Horn championships.

"They are a top-five-ranked school with a good program and tradition," Heizer said.

Also competing from the big school ranks will be Tempe McClintock, Camelback, Tempe, Yuma, Marana Mountain View, Basha, Mountain Ridge, Higley and Apache Junction.

Tuba City, Seton Catholic, Grey Hills, Fountain Hills and Payson will represent the small schools of the state.

"It's a great field with plenty of good teams and fine wrestlers," Heizer said.

Among the Longhorn wrestlers who could battle for Van Horn honors are Tyler Goodman (119), Lee Perez (130), Porter Wilbanks (140) and Steel Armstrong (189). All won medals last week at the prestigious Peoria Meet of Champions.

The Van Horn meet also might generate some special memories for 147-pound senior David Cluff, who last year was named the outstanding wrestler in the lightweight divisions after compiling a 9-0 record.

Fans might never forget Cluff's dynamic 8-5 win in the championship round over Window Rock's Waren Damon.

Others who could see action in the Van Horn include Taylor Byers (103), Ryan Cox (112), Dan McGee (125), Brandon Chovanec (135), Mark McCarty (145), Nick Goodman (152), Zach Rodgers (160), Troy Jenkins (171) and Oscar Chavez (275).

The tournament could also mark the return of 215-pound senior Donnie Engler to the line-up. Engler has been sidelined most of the season with a shoulder injury suffered in football. The injury required surgery, but Engler said he is ready to return to the mat.

The schedule

The first session of the Van Horn -- team round robins -- will be held from noon to 8 p.m. Jan. 20 on three mats in Wilson Dome.

The round robins will continue from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, also on three mats. Individual consolation finals will be from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on two mats. The championships are on tap from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on one mat.

At the conclusion of the tournament, Heizer will award trophies to the top four teams and medals to the top four individuals in each weight class. Souvenir T-shirts also will be given to each weight-class champion.

Other awards include three outstanding wrestler citations (light, middle and heavyweights), a medallion for fastest fall of the tournament and a coach's sportsman award.

The tournament is conducted annually in memory of former PHS wrestling supporter Tim Van Horn, who was killed in an out-of-state automobile accident in 1988.

Expected to attend the tournament are three of Van Horn's children, two brothers and other family members.

Two of his children, Ansel and Doyle, won weight class state championships while at PHS.

At the conclusion of the fray, a trophy to the wrestler who best exemplifies the spirit of Tim Van Horn will be awarded.

No admission will be charged for any of the sessions.

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