A solid core of dedicated wrestlers has emerged early in the season to provide the leadership and work ethic needed to lead the Longhorns to the wrestling promised land.
They include Jake Spear (112), Joey Spear (135), Keith Williams (145), Derek Williams (160), Ben Lee (130) and Ben Sandoval (140).
Freshman Matt Schreur, who has moved to the 112-pound class from the 103-pound class he wrestled early in the season, has also shown plenty of promise as evidenced by his four wins at the Show Low Invitational.
The weight classes the PHS grapplers will compete in the remainder of the season could change depending on how coach Travis Koppenhafer wants to juggle his line-up, and how the wrestlers handle their assigned poundage.
Although Sandoval has been sidelined with a serious leg infection, he is expected to return for the Mingus Invitational when it is held Dec. 29 and Dec. 30 in Cottonwood.
The senior, who has been wrestling competitively since elementary school, is projected as a possible region and state weight class champion.
Among the most successful of the Horn matmen is Joey Spear. He finished 5-0 in the Show Low fray, and his only loss this season was Dec. 5 to a New Mexico wrestler in the Rio Rancho Duals in Albuquerque.
Also, Ben Lee — the youngest of three brothers to wrestle at PHS — shined at the Show Low Invitational, losing only a one-point decision to the Cougar’s Ricky Ryan, a three-time defending state champion.
At the New Mexico tournament, Lee won six of his seven matches.
Koppenhafer is predicting that Lee has improved enough to eventually defeat Ryan, his longtime nemesis.
Derek Williams, who started the season at 160, but has wrestled in the 171-pound class, was 3-2 in Show Low, and has the talent and dedication to go a long way this season, coaches say.
Keith Williams was third last season at the All-Arizona freshman competition and is on the verge of stepping up to varsity action.
Jake Spear, a sophomore, was third at state last season in the 103-pound division and is now wrestling well at 112 pounds.
As good as the Longhorn core appears to be, the team does have some shortcomings to overcome.
They include finding a wrester to fill the 215-pound class and also a heavyweight.
J. B. Thornhill was penciled in as the team’s heavyweight, but has been out of action due to a wrist injury suffered in football.
Koppenhafer is predicting the Horns, led by the veteran leaders, can become a force in the East region title chase.
“I’m confident we can win it,” he said.