Prep wrestling: Payne tries to set tone for younger teammates
Park City • There is a quiet confidence behind Matthew Payne's eyes.
The stocky Park City wrestler's strength is equal parts physical and mental during his preparation for a match. He pushes himself to the limit in the training room to master takedowns, reversals and pins.
But Payne believes that every match is won before it ever starts. In clearing his mind before a match, he refocuses all of his energies on besting any challenger brought onto the mat. He dispatches the butterflies and patiently awaits the beginning of the bout.
"I love getting focused, kicking out the butterflies and wrestling my best out there," the senior said.
Payne wrestled at 170 pounds and went 8-5 last season. He moved up to 182 for his senior season.
"You have to work hard to be prepared before the matches," he said. "There isn't an offseason for me between playing football, tennis and wrestling."
The Park City native is one of two seniors on the team. Along with heavyweight JJ McDonough, Payne chooses to lead by example. Nobody will outwork him on the mat, and he uses his leadership to help the underclassmen with their focus and skills.
"The best way I can use my senior leadership is to stop what I am doing and show them how to do it right," Payne said. "They know who I am and they know I want them to do it correctly."
An average practice for the 22-member roster is a grueling two-hour affair, but Payne isn't afraid to leave everything in the wrestling room. Coach Kaleb Moritz treats Payne as an example of a student who has confidence and success in the classroom and on the mat.
"He's a good kid. He listens. He works hard," Moritz said. "He has the kind of attitude that makes him successful and a good representative of Park City."
Payne will lead the Miners at the Panguitch Wrestling Invitational this weekend, and he is ready to do anything for his team during his final year of wrestling.
"Last year was tough, but I know we are so much better because we've worked the basics and have prepared for this season," Payne said. "It's time for us to leave our mark."
By the numbers
Matthew Payne is a three-sport athlete who plays football, wrestling and tennis.
He is interested in attending Louisiana State University next year to study either premedicine or architecture.
Payne works with his brother, David, who is a freshman on the team.