Longhorn wrestling coach Rich Ormand is confident his team's demanding schedule has better prepared the wrestlers for a run at East region and 3A state championships.
"I believe the boys see how much tougher it (the schedule) is going to make them at state," he said. "They have already wrestled kids day in and day out that are just as tough as what they are going to see at state."
The state-ranked teams the Horns have met include most of big school powers, including Mingus, Thunderbird, Tucson Sunnyside, Marana Mountain View, Yuma Kofa and Tempe Desert Vista.
"We have faced all the top teams from the 4A ranks and many of the top 5A teams as well," Ormand said. "It's all about facing the absolute best competition we could the second half of the season."
Among the fiercest competition on the latter part of the regular season was a five-way meet Jan. 25 in Buckeye.
Over the course of the afternoon, the Horns defeated Apollo, 54-17 and Buckeye, 57-15, but lost to Thunderbird, 34-29 and Mingus, 32-31.
"Although we went 2-2 we still wrestled fairly well," Ormand said. "We played around with our lineup a little to see how we would do in certain weight classes and to get some younger kids mat time as they did not wrestle jayvees there."
The coach is certain the Longhorn performances earned the respect of opponents.
"I am sure Thunderbird and Mingus are glad we are no longer in the 4A ranks," he said. "At full strength, which we were not (at Buckeye), I think our boys could challenge for the 4A Division one or two championships."
Having the team at full strength for the Feb. 4 East tournament and the Feb. 10 and 11 state tournament, however, will be a tough hurdle to clear.
Jordan Bucher (119) and Donnie Engler (215) are sidelined with injuries and their availability for the postseason is questionable.
Individually at Buckeye, Mark McCarty (145) and David Cluff led the Horn charge, finishing with 4-0 marks.
Others who wrestled include Blake Noriega (103; 1-0), Ryan Cox (112; 2-2), Jonny Thompson (119: 2-1), Tyler Goodman (125; 2-1), Tony Bryan (125; 0-1), Dan McGee (130; 2-1), Issac Cluff (130; 1-0), Brandon Chovanec (135; 0-2), Lee Perez (135; 2-0), Porter Wilbanks (140; 2-1), Kyle Leonard (140; 1-0), Zach Rodgers (160: 3-1), Troy Jenkins (171; 1-3), Steele Armstrong (189; 3-1), Nick Alexander (215; 2-2) and Oscar Chavez (275; 2-1).