If the Longhorn wrestling team is to continue to claim to its familiar spot as the kingpin of the 3A East region, it must find a way to upset longtime rival Show Low.
Evidence the Cougars will be the team to beat in the region title chase surfaced Dec. 5 during a four-team match held in Wilson Dome. There, the Cats finished 3-0 and took an impressive 45-33 win over the Horns.
Although the results of regular season matches don't mean a great deal in the battle for state seeding -- which is done at a season-ending region tournament -- Show Low's victory sends a message that the White Mountain mat team is for real.
Also in the multi-match, the Horns soundly thumped two other East region foes. Payson beat Snowflake 45-12 and Blue Ridge 56-18.
The Horns have another shot at Show Low and the opportunity to battle two other East foes, Round Valley and Alchesay, Jan. 16 in the ensphere in Eagar-Springerville.
The team will take five wrestlers who finished the Dec. 5 match undefeated. They are freshman Ben Lee (112), Issac Cluff (140), Mark McCarty (152), Oshay Chovanec (171) and Bryan Burke (215).
Those grapplers are also being counted on to carry the Longhorn banner throughout the postseason.
In addition to Cluff compiling an unblemished record this year, the senior honor student also is celebrating his appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Last week, he received confirmation that he would be only the third PHS student to ever attend a military academy.
Editor's note: Look for the complete story on Cluff's appointment in an upcoming edition of the Payson Roundup.