Winning four state and regional weight class championships at Payson High School were only building blocks to a collegiate career for Nate Lee.
The former Longhorn mat sensation used the experience he gained on the prep scene to capture the 174-pound Pac-10 championship last week.
Lee, a member of the PHS graduating class of 2005 and now a student-athlete at Boise State, won the title at the Pacific-10 tournament held in Eugene, Ore.
In the weight division championship finale, Lee defeated No. 3 seeded Tyler Bernacchi of UC Davis, 4-3.
Entering the third period, the match was tied 2-2 before the former Longhorn gave up an escape.
With Bernacchi leading 3-2, the two grapplers battled tooth-and-nail until about one minute remaining when the ex-Horn scored a two-point takedown to assume a narrow lead.
In the final seconds, Lee held off Bernacchi's last-gasp efforts to score a match-tying point.
The Pac-10 title was the first for Lee who was third at last year's conference championships.
Lee, the tournament's No. 1 seed, opened pursuit of the title with a 13-5 quarterfinals victory over Michael Williams of Cal Poly.
In the semifinals, Lee beat Portland State's Dale Seley, 8-4.
The former Horn's weight division victory helped lift Boise to the Pac-10 team championship with 152.5 points.
The only other former Longhorn to win a Pac-10 title was Colin Robertson, who captured the title in 2002 as a member of the Boise State team.
With Lee's Pac-10 victory, he will now represent the Broncos in the NCAA finals to be held March 20-22 at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Mo.
Lee's parents, Brent and Jacqueline, both plan on being in attendance.
"You bet. We wouldn't miss it," Brent said.
The road to the crown
During Nate Lee's tenure on the PHS team, he was the only PHS wrestler to ever win four regional and state titles. In compiling a 196-3 record, he went more than three full seasons without a defeat.
Following the 2004-2005 campaign, he was named to the All-Arizona Wrestling Team. Later, in a voting of Arizona Wrestling Coaches Association members, Lee was chosen Arizona's "Co-wrestler of the Year" along with Tucson wrestlers Nick Gallick and Matt Lopez.
In 2005, he was featured on the front cover of Wrestling USA magazine.
In November 2004, Lee -- then a PHS senior -- accepted a wrestling scholarship to Boise State University.
Prior to signing the letter of intent, Lee took a recruiting trip to Boise State and returned saying he was impressed with the school, its wrestling program and the academics.
"They push you to be a good student," he said. "Wrestlers have mandatory study hall two hours a day, four times a week."
Lee red-shirted during his first year as a Bronco, but did compete unattached in two open tournaments posting a 2-2 record.
During his first season of intercollegiate competition, he barged on to the national scene posting a 28-13 record.
Following the regular season, he advanced to his first NCAA tournament. There, he was unable to post a victory losing a pair of close decisions.
Nate's older brother Zack is a member of the Western State College of Colorado wrestling team, and a younger brother, Ben, recently wrapped up his freshman season on the PHS squad.