Three Payson Wrestlers Earn Tourney Honors


A highly emotional evening climaxed Saturday in Wilson dome with three Payson High School athletes winning Tim Van Horn Memorial Tournament individual weight class championships and outstanding wrestler awards.

With the Van Horn family looking on and PHS wrestling program founder and hall of fame coach Dennis Pirch in the audience, Tyler Goodman (127), Lee Perez (137) and David Cluff (154) grappled their way to tournament titles.


The children of the late Tim Van Horn were on hand at this weekend's wrestling tournament named for their father after his death in a 1988 car accident. Payson wrestler Tyler Goodman (second from left) was one of the competitors awarded a trophy for his efforts in the tournament. On hand for the award were, from left, Doyle Van Horn, Ansel Van Horn and Alicia (Van Horn) Finley.

At the conclusion of the prestigious meet, Goodman was named the recipient of the Tim Van Horn Outstanding Wrestler award and Perez and Cluff awarded a tie for the outstanding wrestler for the middleweight classes.

On hand to congratulate Goodman, Perez and Cluff were Tim Van Horn's three children, Ansel, Doyle and Angela, as well as brothers Trevor and Kurt, and his widow, Angela (Van Horn) Godac.

Ansel and Doyle are former PHS Arizona state weight class champions.

Also at the match, Pirch addressed the audience telling of Tim Van Horn's contributions to PHS wrestling during the early years of the program.

Van Horn was killed in a 1988 automobile accident, and the annual tournament was later named in his honor.

The efforts of Goodman, Perez and Cluff propelled Payson to a third-place finish overall with 393-1/2 points. Mesa Red Mountain posted 480 points to take first. Marana Mountain View (420 1/2) was second and Gilbert Highland (383), fourth.

The Horns third-place finish in the elite field of mostly class 4A and 5A teams represented a huge accomplishment in that Payson lost two starters to injuries on opening day.


David Cluff (154) defeats a Gilbert Highland opponent in the opening round of the Tim Van Horn Memorial Tournament Jan. 20-21 in Wilson dome. Cluff went on to win his weight class championship and share MVW honors in the middle-weight division.

Jordan Bucher (119) and Donnie Engler (215) were not able to earn the Horns any points due to the injuries.

The Longhorns did receive second place team points from 105-pound Taylor Byers, 132-pound Dan McGee and from Steele Armstrong in the 191-pound division.

Byers' and Armstrong's accomplishments represented huge steps on the varsity wrestling scene in that both are freshman battling against older, more experienced grapplers.

Payson also picked up third-place points from Porter Wilbanks in the 142-pound class and a fifth-place tally from 147-pound Mark McCarty.

Troy Jenkins was sixth among the 173-pounders.

The tournament's outstanding wrestler title in the lower weight classes was garnered by 114-pound Nick Mills of Gilbert Highland.

Outstanding wrestler in the heavier weight divisions was awarded to Ryan Bercerra (162), also from Gilbert Highland.

Longtime Van Horn tournament director Don Heizer tagged the Jan. 20-21 fray an overwhelming success, saying it featured some of the state's best wrestlers.

"In the championship round, we ran about 1-1/2 hours late because the competition was so good," he said.

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