Tuesday, Feb. 5 didn’t start differently than any other day for Oakdale Junior High School eighth grader Payne Perkins. Recovering from a tailbone injury, the Ram wrestler was ready to get back on the mat and take on his opponent later that day as the team hosted a match with Patterson’s Creekside Middle School.
Setting up the mats for the meet that day quickly took a change, as Payne was approached by team coaches, Steve Roche and Erik Tavares inquiring if he would let his opponent win.
Not a usual occurrence in any sporting event; yet the opponent wasn’t the usual junior high wrestler. Seventh grader Owen Tyler has Down syndrome and as it would turn out, Payne was the perfect match for the aspiring wrestler.
“I felt like it was a great opportunity, because my little brother has autism,” Payne said of being matched with Owen. “So it felt pretty good helping him out, knowing my little brother goes through close to the same thing.”
Payne’s younger brother Tyler Perkins is eight years old and his only sibling. The eighth grader shared he has a special relationship with his brother and saw this as an undeniable opportunity to do the right thing.
“Socially it’s a little bit harder for my brother to go through certain social situations and learning’s a bit more difficult,” Payne stated. “I kinda saw that similarity between both of them.”
“When I saw it, my perspective was that of a father. I was very proud,” OJHS Principal Jon Webb said. “One simple act had incredible outcomes. Hopefully it inspires other students, that one simple thing can have such a huge impact.”
Webb shared he was not at last Tuesday’s meet, but video of the competition quickly found its way to him. As it did the eyes of thousands as the video clip quickly went viral, via social media, as well as being played on the evening news.
“It was moving,” Webb said of seeing the video clip of the match for the first time. “Our brand this year is ‘greatness today’ and in the last three years it’s been about greatness.
“Payne’s act, to me, exemplified choosing greatness,” Webb continued. “What he did, to me, exemplified that brand of ‘greatness today.’ He did wonderful, he did something beautiful. The success is he made another young man’s day.”
“My parents I really feel shaped me, into the person I am today,” the OJHS wrestler shared.
“I hope that people learn, just because you’re different doesn’t mean you should be treated different,” Payne added of the example he hoped to set. “You should be treated equally no matter what you are.”
“Hopefully someone else sees that and the trend continues,” Webb said of the Patterson wrestler and the selflessness exemplified by Payne, as well as his team. “Hopefully he (Owen Tyler) goes to another meet and someone shows another act of kindness to that young man.”