PRESCOTT- All-American and Prescott High School standout wrestler Max Payne is back in a comfortable area, the mats of his old high school as a coach.
“I loved wrestling here,” Payne said. “I am trying to bring back some of the tradition and bring back whatever I learned from my father and my brother and give it to these guys.”
Payne has been on the wrestling scene in the quad cities since he was six-years-old. He competed throughout his schooling-including the Prescott High School team where his dad was the coach-and later grew into one of the best wrestlers in the country achieving All-American status during his collegiate career at Montana State University Northern.
“I had wrestlers over with big ugly ears for my whole life for dinner so I was just born right into it and I loved every bit of it,” Payne continued.
Payne and his wife, Laurel Jean Payne, were living in Montana following college but they both decided it was time to come back home and leave the frigid temperatures behind. Once Payne was back in the quad cities, he got a job at Affinity RV and began returning to familiar places.
“What brought me back to Prescott was pretty much the sunshine,” Payne said. “Of course I ended up in the wrestling room up at (Embry) Riddle a little bit and came in the room a little bit last year.”
When the opportunity to coach at his old high school appeared, it was too great to pass by. Payne was thrilled that Laurel stood by him on his aspiration to achieve his dream.
“Really it came down to my wife,” Payne said. “She was there when I was wrestling in college and I was gone for seven months. She supported me all the way, especially coaching high school (and) just being able to influence these young guys.”
“Of course it’s always been a dream of mine to coach my old high school and I’m happy to be here,” Payne continued.
Payne is inheriting a diverse age-group of talent in his first year as head coach of the Badgers. The team is filled with young as well as more experienced players who are soaking up every bit of information Payne teaches during practice.
“I’m really excited because I think he’s going to start a great new program,” said Colton Amos, a sophomore at Prescott High School who has been wrestling for eight years. “His experience is really going to show through this year so I think we are going to be a really good team that way.”
Payne’s first task for the team is to teach the basics as well as mental and physical toughness to last an entire season. Once the foundation is built, Payne will teach his wrestlers some techniques he learned-not only during his time at Prescott High School-but information taught during his collegiate career.
“We’re focusing on standard technique, good position, tough wrestling, hard hands and that’s where their foundation will expand from there-especially in the years to come,” Payne said. “They enjoy having some new technique and some college level technique and everybody’s been responding great.”
A Max Payne practice is tough. It includes running, jumping and of course a lot of wrestling. The training even continues outside of the wrestling room. The team has been running miles before each practice and even ran a couple of mountains in Prescott. During each of these trials, his players have passed with flying colors.
“Honestly these guys have surprised me,” Payne said. “The harder I push them, the more they want. I’ve loved it so far.”
What keeps the wrestlers pushing forward is the skill learned and the physical toughness achieved.
“It makes us as a team feel better knowing that whatever we put in, we’re going to be able to cash out at the end of the season,” said Badgers sophomore wrestler Andrew Salberg.
After weeks of training, The season begins in late November and runs until at least early January.
“Please come out and support our team," Payne said. "We’ll have posters up around town, and we would love to see everybody there.”
The first meet is the Yavapai County Duals at Embry Riddle, November 26.