If there is a seasoned veteran on the Longhorn wrestling roster who can successfully lead the younger team members into the prestigious Southwest Duals Tournament, it could be Ben Lee.
Last year, Lee won six of seven matches in the duals while competing against some of the best grapplers from a six-state area.
Which means, he’s no stranger to the rigors of the tournament and won’t be awed by the sheer magnitude of it.
This year, the tournament will be held Dec. 3-4 at Rio Rancho High School, located just outside of Albuquerque.
While the number of teams who participate and the quality of the wrestlers is sometimes intimidating, the physical plant can be daunting for those who’ve never competed.
The main gym holds six full-size mats and there are another two full-size mats in the auxiliary gym.
Because of the facilities, Southwest Tournament officials have long been able to find individual wrestlers the most matches possible over the course of the two-day event. That makes the event a real drawing card for coaches who want to condition, train and evaluate their wrestlers in the early season.
The duals are expected to draw 24 teams including ones from Colorado, Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona.
Some of Payson’s younger wrestlers and those who didn’t place in last year’s state tournament will enter the Southwest Duals fresh off competing in a junior varsity shoot-out Nov. 27 at Perry High School near Gilbert.
Following the Horns’ return to Payson, first-year PHS coach Casey Woodall said, “As a whole, I was pleased with our team, we definitely have a lot to work on, but I felt the kids were listening, and performing well. We had a few standouts who will receive spot time on varsity this year.”
The Longhorns will not make their home debut until Jan. 21-22 when the team hosts the Payson Invitational in Wilson Dome.