Wrestlers Host Van Horn Tourney

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Tim Van Horn

Coolidge’s Anthony Garcia won the 2008 Tim Van Horn Memorial Trophy for his pin of 5A defending state champ Ryan Miller of Tempe Corona del Sol.

It is those types of efforts that render the trophy one of the most prestigious individual awards given out in Rim Country prep sports.

It is awarded at the conclusion of the Van Horn Invitational to the individual grappler who best exemplifies the traits of fair play, sportsmanship and aggressive wrestling.

The trophy is given annually in memory of Tim Van Horn, who was killed in an out-of-state automobile accident in 1988.

Van Horn was an ardent wrestling team supporter and had two sons, Ansel and Doyle, who won state championships as members of the PHS team.

The two sons have traditionally joined other family members each year to award the memorial trophy.

Tournament director Don Heizer said he expects the family to again be present when the 19th annual award is given out at the conclusion of the Van Horn Invitational Jan. 24 in Wilson Dome.

The tournament tips off one-day prior.

Past Van Horn winners from PHS include Nate Lee, Zach Lee, Porter Wilbanks, Larry Wilbanks and Matt McCarty.

The current Longhorn team features a number of wrestlers who could contend for the trophy. They include Ben Lee (125), Ben Sandoval (130), Nick Goodman (160), Bryan Burke (215) or possibly even freshman Jacob Spear (103).

Last year, Goodman was in contention for the Van Horn trophy before losing his final match to Gilbert Highland’s Ty Johnson on a fall in the second period.

Goodman finished as the 160-pound tournament silver medalist.

Also last year, Sandoval was third and Burke fifth.

In addition to the success Payson grapplers have enjoyed, the tournament has also featured its share of heartbreak.

One of the toughest losses occurred last year when Mark McCarty advanced through the 152-pound division undefeated before losing a 10-9 heartbreaker in the championship round.

In losing, McCarty had a one-point lead, but gave up a takedown with less than 20 seconds remaining in the match.

Team honors

As weighty as winning the memorial trophy is in PHS wrestling circles, it is the overall championship that will be a team goal.

The Horns will be looking to improve on last year’s finish when the team took third behind champion Corona del Sol and runner-up Gilbert Highland.

While Corona will not return this year, there are plenty of other top-notch teams in the 14-school field to fill in the void.

They include Tempe McClintock, Higley, Yuma, Mountain Ridge, Flagstaff Coconino and Queen Creek. Highland will also return along with several 3A schools.

In the tournament format, each of the 14 weight classes will feature at least four seeded wrestlers, determined by earlier season results, as well as last year’s state placing.

The wrestlers will be placed into two pools of eight athletes each, and then they will have seven bouts to determine the top four wrestlers in each weight class.

Friday’s first session of wrestling will be 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on four mats.

On Saturday, the conclusion of the round robins will be held 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., the consolation finals from 3 to 4:30 p.m. and the championship finals from 5 to 7 p.m.

Trophies will be awarded to the top four teams and medals will go to the top four finishers in each weight class.

Awards for outstanding wrestlers will be given in lightweight (102-125), middleweight (130-152) and heavyweight (160-275) divisions.

Admission is free.

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