Two days of exciting high school wrestling at the Glendale Arena decided the 2007 3A state championships.
With day one's completion the Safford Bulldogs appeared to have a lock on the team title, having put 11 of their grapplers in the semifinals and two others still wrestling in the consolations.
On day two, Sahuarita, Winslow, Holbrook, Payson and Blue Ridge were in a heated battle for the state runner-up honors and the AIA trophy for second place.
The Longhorns of Payson were in the sixth spot and needed a strong performance to move up in the ranks. With eight wrestlers still in the hunt for state medals, the stage was set.
Porter Wilbanks earned a spot in the finals at 145 pounds with three convincing pins in a cumulative time of less than four minutes of wrestling. The other seven Longhorn grapplers were wrestling in the consolations where valuable team points can be earned by just moving on to the next round.
In the state tournament every point is valuable, so major decisions, technical falls, and pins are important because they earn a team a bonus point or two.
Mark McCarty, at 152 pounds, recorded a pin over his Chino Valley opponent and earned two additional team points for the fall, as well as the bronze medal for his efforts. He will be returning next year for his senior year and a shot at the state title.
Zach Rodgers also earned a third place with a hard-fought 11-9 victory over his Snowflake opponent.
Nick Goodman, at 160, and Bryan Burke, at 215, scored big points with their fourth-place finishes. Both are only sophomores and certainly have a bright future for the Longhorns in the next two years of high school wrestling. The heavier weights are traditionally dominated by upperclassmen and both of these sophomores raised some eyebrows of opposing coaches for their strong finishes.
Three more Longhorns finished their seasons on a positive note by winning their final match at the state tournament for a fifth-place medal. Ben Sandoval at 119, and a freshman, won a 3-0 bout against his Round Valley opponent. Isaac Cluff, a junior, followed at 140 pounds, with a 12-6 victory over Monument Valley and Oscar Chavez recorded a pin at HWT, which gave the Longhorns two additional team points. This victory was especially sweet for Oscar because he had lost to the same Window Rock wrestler the previous day.
The Payson Longhorns had a very strong round in the consolation finals and were moving up the leader board from sixth to fourth with only Porter Wilbanks left in the championship round.
Porter again showed his dominance on the mat with a convincing technical fall, which gave the Longhorns an extra point-and-a-half that moved the Payson team into third place over the Winslow Bulldogs. Porter has his state title and he will be added to the legacy of previous heroes for the Payson Longhorn wrestling team.
Three seniors have left their mark on Longhorn wrestling and will be certainly missed next year: Porter Wilbanks, Zach Rodgers and Oscar Chavez.
Next year's squad will be led by the five returning state placers in their quest for the state title.