Taylon Peters understands the lessons learned from family, coaches and teammates helped make him the wrestler and young man he is today.

But the Salina Central senior also knows that every time he stepped on the mat, win or lose, that result was on him. For Peters, that is the underlying beauty of the sport.

“There is a lot more to wrestling than how it looks to audience members that have never watched it before,” Peters said. “There is a whole other complexity different than any other sport. You have to be aware of everything that’s happening.

“That is what was intriguing to me — how hard it is to be good at wrestling. That’s what drew me in and made me work to get really good at wrestling. It teaches you so many lessons on top of that. If you lose, you can’t blame it on anybody else. You can’t make excuses. You go out and give it your best, and win or lose, you have to carry it.”

Thirteen years of competitive wrestling have brought Peters to this point. He begins the Class 5A state championships at Park City’s Hartman Arena on Friday as the No. 1-ranked wrestler at 195 pounds, hoping to complete his Central career with a state title.

Taylon is part of a family with strong wrestling ties at Central. The son of Lisa and Shannon Peters, Taylon’s father has been the Mustang head wrestling coach for the past seven years. Taylon’s older brother Dalton, a 2016 Central graduate and a Mustang teammate of Taylon’s for one season, is now a member of the University of Nebraska wrestling program.

“It’s hard to describe but something I will cherish forever,” Peters said. “Wrestling has taught me so much and it was an honor as a freshman to follow in my brother’s footsteps. Back then I was taking in as much as I could every day at practice, trying to get better.

“Wrestling has always been such a big part of my life and it helped shape me to be who I am. It has helped with every aspect of my life. Wrestling will always be my second love and it will hurt not wrestling next year.”

 

Washburn football signee

Wrestling did not always come in second for Peters, who imagined early in his high school career that, like his brother, competing in the sport at the collegiate level would be part of his future. A four-time state qualifier, a two-time medalist and a 5A state runner-up a year ago, Taylon certainly had options to continue his wrestling career after graduation.

But his success on the football field was equally impressive. A 5A all-state running back, Peters recently signed a letter of intent to play football at Washburn University.

“My freshman year I was still thinking I was going to wrestle in college,” said Peters, who has been invited to participate in the Kansas Shrine Bowl all-star football game this summer. “As the years passed, I had more fun playing football.

“Our sophomore and junior season of football didn’t go well. We didn’t win a game and I was still having fun doing it. When I looked back and reflected on it, after my junior season of football I told myself, ‘This is what I love to do, even if I am losing.’ ”

 

Sport bonds brothers

Taylon’s success on the wrestling mat began well before his high school career, winning a Kids State Wrestling title in the age 6-under division in his first full season of competition.

“Taylon was in wrestling from the time Dalton got into it, but his attention span was not very conducive to the sport to start with,” coach Peters said. “I took him to practices but didn’t let him practice. You know when a kid is ready and he wasn’t ready for it.

“But he loved the sport like Dalton did. He found his own niche and now it’s remarkable to go back, look at Dalton’s progress and compare it to Taylon’s. I’ve had people ask me how they compare to one another, and when you look back their records have been remarkably similar, which has been pretty fun for Lisa and I.”

With an older brother in the sport, wrestling “practice” would often happen spontaneously in the Peters household, despite the exasperation of a concerned mother. Sometimes it was simply two brothers doing what brothers do. Other times it was for the entertainment of friends.

“I don’t think you could come into our house without seeing me and my brother wrestling in some way,” Taylon said. “We were always wrestling in the living room and my mom was always afraid we would break something.

“Our friends would come over and it was almost like they egged it on. I don’t know if they just wanted to experience it, but then my brother would start wrestling them too.”

With Dalton being three years older and extremely talented, young Taylon learned quickly that he was going to have to improve his own skills if he hoped to stay competitive with his brother. That carried into their one year of high school together, when Taylon and Dalton began the season in the same weight class.

“They’ve always had a pretty good relationship, but brothers can get fired up,” Shannon said. “Taylon took his lumps several times when he was in the room with Dalton.

“It was tough on Taylon that first year. He had to drop a weight class because Dalton was at his weight. It wasn’t always sunshine and rainbows between the two in the room.”

“My brother is the biggest reason I am as tough as I am,” Taylon said. “He would beat on me as a kid when we wrestled and at times I hated him for it. Now that I’m older with a broader spectrum of views, I know he helped toughen me up and helped me get to where I can endure more in competition.

“I can’t thank him enough for that.”

With the season finale approaching and no plans to participate in a high school sport this spring, Peters has been preparing for his last time competing with Central teammates.

“These guys are like my brothers now,” Peters said. “I don’t want to make a military reference, but it’s kind of like the brotherhood that forms in combat training. We go through the conditioning together and all the early mornings, the losses and the wins, and you form a brotherhood that is really strong.

“It’s a special kind of relationship and I’m going to miss having that bond.”

 

Wrestling a family affair

Saturday will also his final opportunity to wrestle with his father in his corner on the mat. While it will be tough to see that come to an end, Peters is also concerned about how his parents will react when, for the first time in a decade, they don’t have one of their children competing for the Mustangs.

“I think my dad is going to go crazy when I finally leave,” Taylon said. “I think both of my parents will go crazy. My mom and my sister (Brooke) are at everything I do and now my parents won’t have any kids at home.”

“I haven’t really thought about it too much,” Shannon Peters said of coaching his son for the last time. “I don’t know how I’ll handle that. I don’t know how it’s going to be. We’ll take it one step at a time.

“I will say it’s been an honor and privilege to coach him. One of the gifts that people cherish is the opportunity to coach their own son and know I have. I was able to coach both of my sons and I don’t take that for granted.”