Peyton Hammerich didn’t get to wrestle his senior year at Princeton High School last year. He sustained two herniated disks in his lumbar spine weight lifting and could only watch from the sidelines, unable to make a return trip to state.

With his injury behind him, Hammerich has made up for lost time wrestling for Central College in Pella, Iowa, this year. He’s back in his happy place.

“I’m learning a lot, meeting people, getting tougher. Everything I was hoping for,” Hammerich said recently when he returned home for the IHSA regional hosted by Princeton.

Hammerich finished with an even record of 13-13, going 2-1 with a fall in the Last Chance Invitational in Pella. He had five falls on the year and three major decisions wrestling at 174 pounds.

“I’m just learning, getting a ton of matches. More than I thought I would, because I’m not a starter on the team,” he said. “So that was also a big transition. Here (PHS), you’re the starter right away. There, I’ve got to earn my stripes and get the respect of the coaches and teammates. I feel like I’m doing a good job at that, but my time is not this year. So hopefully, I can make my way into that starting lineup.

“There’s a lot of hammers in the new room I’m in. I’m kind of taking the beatings as they come and giving the beatings to guys that are more my age.”

Hammerich feels right at home at Central with his girlfriend and fellow PHS classmate, Hallie Taets, on hand serving as team manager for the Dutch.

“She’s doing great. She’s getting paid. She likes to travel with us and see me wrestle,” he said.

While healed, Hammerich avoids the dead lift in the weight room now, and avoids sitting in bleachers with no lumbar support. He also had to become mentally ready to wrestle.

“The injury played a part of it, but it was also the fear I had coming back to the mat,” he said. “Definitely, right now, it’s bigger for me to overcome that fear of just wrestling in general. I don’t fear losing or looking bad or anything like that. Just let it rip and let it fly and have fun.”

Getting to wrestle again helps the big picture of college life for Hammerich.

“I feel like with wrestling in college, it makes the studies better, too. That kind of discipline gives me more structure to get to my studies,” he said. “I feel if I didn’t have wrestling, I’d have too much free time on my hands and really wouldn’t make the best use of my time I have. Now, we’ve got practice and then you’ve got to get right to studying before you do anything else.”

Hammerich, who is studying to become a physical therapist, encourages any Princeton wrestler who wishes to continue wrestling to join him at Central.

“Anybody who wants to come, should come,” he said. “One thing I love the most about it is being a part of that family. I think that’s something I was searching for, to be part of team where everybody around you is surrounded by the same goal — to be the best wrestlers they can be. Be part of a true brotherhood. I feel like that’s made great strides for me, both as a wrestler and a person.

“We’re a different kind of family. It’s bigger than wrestling out there, bigger than wins and losses. It’s about being the best person you can be. You can be the best person while you’re becoming the best wrestler.”

Kevin Hieronymus is the BCR Sports Editor. Contact him at khieronymus@bcrnews.com

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