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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Payne a solid building block

St. Maries High wrestling coach Chad Ripke is trying to rebuild the Lumberjacks’ program.

The cornerstone to his project has been one of his lightweights – 119-pound senior Kyle Payne.

“He’s helped turn our program around,” Ripke said. “He may be a small kid in stature, but you can’t measure how big his heart is. He’s an inspiration to everyone in the program.”

Payne, who will open the State 3A tourney today seeded second in his weight, has been awarded an ROTC scholarship. After attending the University of Idaho, he will fulfill his commitment to the military and enter the Army’s special forces.

After that he hopes to teach and coach – thereby giving something back to both education and the sport he so dearly loves. He carries a 3.85 grade-point average and is the school’s student body president.

When we arranged to do a profile on Payne a couple of weeks ago, we received two unsolicited e-mails about him. The gist of the e-mails certainly emphasized what a good athlete he is, but, more important, what a good citizen he is, with a character beyond reproach.

Consider this from Bonnie Schueller, a secretary at St. Maries High for 21 years:

“He’s held in high esteem by his teachers and peers,” she said. “He’s one you wish your daughter would date.”

Payne reached the 100-win milestone this year. He’s 39-2 this year and 111-39 overall. He went 5-0 at the River City Duals in mid-January and was named the tourney’s outstanding wrestler – an award voted on by the referees.

If Payne makes it to the state title match, he will likely face Jeremy Ensley of Homedale, a state champ a year ago in 2A. Ensley, a junior, takes a 38-0 record into state.

No matter what Payne accomplishes, it will be a special state tourney because his younger brother, Brett, a sophomore, also qualified for state in the same weight.

Kyle Payne hopes to go out as a state champion.

“It’s been my goal for as long as I can remember – ever since I started wrestling,” he said. “There’s some added pressure. I’m the only senior in my bracket. But this is it for me. I probably won’t compete in the sport after high school. So it’s now or never. I’ve put in a lot of hard work and I hope it pays off.”

Bonners Ferry coach Conrad Garner wouldn’t be surprised to see the Payne brothers fare well.

“Both Paynes are sitting well,” Garner said when asked to evaluate the seedings of Intermountain League wrestlers heading into state.

A Payne vs. Payne showdown for a state title? “That would be a dream matchup,” the elder Payne said.

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