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Press Release

Release Date: February 17, 2022
by Chickasaw Nation Media Relations Office

Aggression, determination, perseverance and dedication are words used to describe wrestler Payton Thomas by his father and coach, Tim Thomas. A junior at Moore High School, Payton recently took top honors at USA Wrestling’s Brian Keck Memorial Preseason National Tournament in Des Moines, Iowa.

With more than 3,000 wrestlers in attendance, Payton competed against nearly 50 wrestlers from across the nation. Payton won his weight bracket at 182 pounds.

“What makes Payton a great wrestler is his aggressiveness,” Mr. Thomas said. “He isn’t afraid to make mistakes. If a mistake does happen, he bounces right back.”

Wrestling has become a major component in Payton’s life. He trains and practices for hours each day, and his nutrition revolves around the sport. There is no such thing as an offseason, as Payton wrestles for private organizations throughout the year. These include StandFast Wrestling Club (StandFast) in Oklahoma City and USA Wrestling.

“StandFast Wrestling Club is an organization that I learn different wrestling techniques from. They have many different coaches,” Payton said. “I learn a lot practicing with them.”

To say that Payton is devoted to wrestling is understating his commitment to the sport. Training begins every day at 6:30 a.m. with weightlifting. After school, he practices with his high school team. After high school practice, two days a week he travels to the StandFast gym to practice with teens from other schools and receive instruction from some of the best wrestling coaches Oklahoma has to offer.

“I work out every morning at the school gym,” Payton said. “I do a lot of heavy weight with a lot of reps. I eat an extremely clean diet. The only days I don’t work out are the mornings before or of a tournament.”

During the high school season, Payton will typically train more than 25 hours a week, or on average about four hours a day. He participates in nearly 30 tournaments throughout the year. Payton competes in the 182 pounds weight bracket. He practices many styles of wrestling, such as Greco-Roman, Freestyle and Collegiate, among others.

Wrestling and competitive sports are a family tradition. His older brother and younger sister are involved in sports as well. His father, Tim, has been involved in wrestling for nearly 25 years. He is currently one of Payton’s coaches at Moore High School.

Payton began wrestling when he was 8 years old. He believes wrestling has taught him many life skills, but the most important has been a leadership ability used in everyday life.

“I have to set a great example for the people on my team,” Payton said. “I feel like I have gotten better over the years, both physically and mentally. Wrestling is not just a solo sport. You have to worry about your partner and teammates. Partners put you in new positions every day. We wrestle solo, but we win as a team.”

While winning is always a good feeling, Payton believes the relationships he has built are the most important part of wrestling.

“I feel like I am part of a family,” Payton said. “I am on close-knit teams. In both my high school team and StandFast, I believe we have strong relationships. We have nearly 50 people on the wrestling team at school.”

Payton receives his Chickasaw heritage from his mother, Christi. He enjoys belonging to a people who have helped shape Oklahoma’s history and continues to shape the future. According to Christi, she believes his warrior spirit and aggressive nature on the mat comes from his Chickasaw heritage. While wrestling is a very high priority, Payton is also aware of the importance of education. He maintains a 4.0 grade-point average.

“I want to go to either Nebraska, Oklahoma State University, University of Oklahoma or Iowa for college,” Payton said. “I would like to become an electrical engineer. In my opinion, they also have the best wrestling programs in the U.S.”