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Peyton Prussin Q&A: Success at Life, the advantages of college wrestling, making future World teams

by Joe Wedra, USA Wrestling

Photo of Peyton Prussin by Tony Rotundo

This year, will interview one collegiate wrestling athlete each Thursday as a part of a new Q&A series for the 2021-22 college wrestling season. Stay tuned each Thursday for a new feature, spotlighting these student-athletes both on and off the mat.

This week, we talk with Life University standout Peyton Prussin, who played a key role in the team’s victory at the 2022 NWCA National Duals. Earlier in the season, Prussin was named USA Wrestling’s Athlete of the Week after winning an individual title at the Missouri Valley Open.

Below, Prussin, an NAIA champion, talks about the journey toward another individual championship, being a part of a family environment at Life and her goal of making World teams starting this year.

Q: First off, the Life program gained a lot of national recognition after winning the National Duals earlier this month. What has the start of this season been like for both you and the team as a whole?

A: In the beginning of the season, we all really came together and decided team goals, and National Duals was one of the biggest team goals that we had, along with winning NAIA Nationals. So when we achieved that goal, it was a great moment for us to come together like that as a team and as a family.

It was definitely something we had to go through a lot of adversity for. A lot of us were in quarantine, and a lot of the lineup didn’t get much practice leading into the tournament, with COVID protocols and everything… Our 101-pounders were both out, so we were giving up a forfeit at 101 going into the tournament, plus a couple of other starters were out. So, we were nervous because it was our main goal, but we had situations we weren’t planning on…

But, once we got to the tournament as a team, we came together, competed hard and had fun. And I think that is something that helped us along the way, just enjoying each other and cheering each other on while having fun while we did it.

Q: Keeping with the National Duals win, there was a great video that got posted from the corner after you won the final match with seemingly the entire team celebrating. What did that moment mean to be a part of?

A: So that moment was an amazing feeling, but there were so many mixed emotions because Gabby [Hamilton], our 191-pounder, was actually unconscious in the middle of the match after a throw. So, we were nervous for her and we wanted her to be okay. We didn’t know if she’d be able to wrestle… And at that point in the dual, we were up by two points. So, if we had to forfeit, we would’ve lost the dual. We didn’t want to lose, but we knew she was in a tough situation too. We want the best for our teammate…

But, it was an amazing feeling because she came back and she ended up not just winning the match by a couple of points, but she pinned her. It was just a crazy feeling. Our coaches wanted to win so badly, so it was an amazing feeling to be able to accomplish that for our coaches, for each other and Gabby, who got hurt during the match.

Campbellsville has always been above us, so it was cool to be able to beat them, especially in the finals.

Q: You mention the coaches and being able to compete and win for them. Can you talk a bit about them, the atmosphere they’re creating at Life and what they mean to the program as a whole?

A: Yeah, Ashley and Christian Flavin really care about their athletes more than just wrestling. I think that’s what is really good about our program, because they care more than just about the wrestling aspect of our lives. They care about what we do in school, how we treat other people and who we are as a person. I think that makes the team closer. They’re really big on family as well, so we all are like a big family. They live wrestling. So, they push us to limits that we don’t think we can reach.

Q: There’s a lot of talk of family and culture around the Life program – what is it like to train at a school that emphasizes those values?

A: I think all the girls on this team, we all care about each other a lot. We want the best for each other. So, it motivates you to want to do better and be better and then continue to work hard when your teammates are motivating you and cheering you on. When you’re on the mat and wrestling by yourself and you have your entire corner screaming, it motivates you to keep going.

It’s something that, when we’re in the room and practice is hard, we cheer for each other and root for each other. Even though it’s hard, I have 40 other people there who are going through this with me and motivating me to keep going, which definitely helps.

Q: In your opinion, what are some of the great benefits of choosing to wrestle in college and why do you feel it’s been beneficial and important for you?

A: I think college wrestling does make you stronger. You go through a lot of adversity. Being able to do your school and wrestle, it puts you through a lot of things where you have to challenge yourself. It’s being able to manage your time to still get good grades, have a social life, wrestle… it’s just a good thing. And being on a team with 30-40 girls who are trying to achieve the same things as you and having a bunch of girls you can call sisters and family, it’s a good environment to be in, knowing you have those people around motivating you, people to talk to and who will be there for you for whatever you need.

Q: As you personally look ahead to competition after the college season and getting into national freestyle competition, what will that look like for you moving ahead?

A: I want to continue to wrestle outside of college. I do plan on going to World Team Trials this year… If all goes as planned, I’m planning on being there for Seniors, U23s, and doing whatever I can to continue to grow as a wrestler and a person myself. So, that’s going to be good.

Q: Finally, as you look ahead to the next year or so of competition, how would you sum up your personal goals?

A: Individual goals, I obviously am hoping to win Nationals again, so that will be good. And then, I do want to make a World team this year. That’s one of the big goals that I have been wanting to achieve. I didn’t wrestle in World Team Trials last year or the previous year, so I’m hoping I can go there this year and make a team. That will be one of my biggest goals for the year.

But honestly, one of my main goals is just to continue to grow as a wrestler and continue to get better each day and every practice.