Matt McCarty, a heady tough guy on the Longhorn wrestling roster with a 38-2 record, seldom suffers the agony of defeat.
But that's exactly what happened to him in the championship round of the Tim Van Horn Memorial wrestling tournament.
After advancing through the 152-pound class undefeated, McCarty lost a 10-9 heartbreaker to Tempe Corona del Sol's Ty Felton in the championship round contested Saturday evening in Wilson Dome.
In losing, McCarty gave up a takedown with less than 20 seconds remaining on the match clock.
Early Friday, the first day of the wrestling, McCarty realized the Tempe school had a state championship contender waiting in the opposite bracket of the weight class.
"I hear he is real good," McCarty said.
The teen's background information was valid- Felton entered the tournament as last year's class 5A state runner-up.
McCarty, a senior honor student with an affinity for the higher levels of mathematics, battled his big school foe tooth and nail before losing late.
He did, however, win one of two silver medals garnered by the Longhorn wrestling team. Nick Goodman, a 160-pounder, took the other.
Goodman, who was undefeated entering the championship finale, lost to Gilbert Highland's Ty Johnson on a fall in the second period.
As exciting as McCarty's and Goodman's ascending to the final round was, the highlight of the two days of wrestling might have occurred in the championship round of the 125-pound
division. In it, 3A Coolidge's Anthony Garcia pinned defending 5A state champ Ryan Miller of Corona del Sol.
For Garcia's effort, he was awarded the prestigious Tim Van Horn trophy that has gone annually to the individual grappler who best exemplifies the traits of fair play, sportsmanship and aggressive wrestling.
Garcia also was named the outstanding wrestler in the middleweight classes.
The outstanding wrestler in the heavyweight divisions was awarded to Corona's 215-pound Luke Macchiaroli who was undefeated and is a strong candidate for a state championship title.
The presence of numerous defending state champions and 2008 title contenders in the Van Horn prompted tournament director Don Heizer to call the mat showdown one of the most competitive in its 20-plus year history.
"As good as most state tournaments," he said.
Tournament placers for Payson in addition to McCarty and Goodman were Ben Sandoval (third; 130), Isaac Cluff (third; 140), Kevin Bryan (third; 171), Ryan Cox (fourth; 135), Jeb Ward (fifth; 103) and Bryan Burke (fifth; 215).
The efforts of the Payson contingent earned the Longhorns a third-place finish behind tournament champ Corona and runner-up Highland.
Corona finished with 369 points, Highland had 293.5 and Payson 235.5 in the 14-team field.
Heizer called the Van Horn -- one of the prep highlights of the winter sports season -- an overwhelming success, mostly due the efforts of the throng of volunteers.
"They worked the concession stand, hosted a very fine hospitality room and helped feed about 130 people at a pancake breakfast," he said. "All their efforts helped create a great atmosphere for the visitors."
Also volunteering were a bevy of PHS students, including those involved in the wrestlerettes program.
Heizer also lauded the management efforts of retired New York state teacher and coach Chuck Yale who helped oversee the myriad of matches that were conducted in the opening rounds on four separate mats.
The tournament also marked the return of one of Payson's finest wrestlers, George Coleman, who is now an assistant coach on the Flagstaff Coconino team.
"I'm glad to be back," he said.
Jim Hurt, a 189-pound state champion in 1992, also traveled to the tournament from his home in the Midwest.
Dennis Pirch, the founder of the Longhorn wrestling program in 1973 and a former National High School Coach of the Year, also was on hand.
Next up or the Longhorns is the Mingus Marauder Duals tomorrow, Wednesday at Mingus High School.
Also on the mat agenda is the team's annual spaghetti dinner benefit, which will be held 5 to 7:30 p.m. Jan. 24 in the Rim Country Middle School cafeteria.
Tickets, which are available at the door or from any PHS wrestler, are $3 for children, $6 for adults and $20 for a family pass.