As the final seconds elapsed and the buzzer sounded at the 2023 Oklahoma State High School Wrestling Championships, Choctaw senior Peyton Hand was overcome with a wave of emotions.
First, there was the exhilaration of victory as she let out a yell. Then, after the official raised her arm in triumph, the magnitude of her accomplishment set in. Hand broke down as she was embraced by Yellowjacket coaches and walked off the mat for the final time in her prep career.
“And that’s it!” said the Jim Norick Arena public address announcer at the conclusion of the title match. “The pressure is off! How about a round of applause for the first-ever, four-time state champion in the girls. Ladies and gentlemen, Peyton Hand. She will always be remembered as number one.”
To put it into perspective, 45 boys have been four-time state champs in Oklahoma. Stillwater’s Cael Hughes added his name to that list last week after capping off an undefeated prep career by winning the Class 6A 132-pound title.
Hand, who went 28-0 this season with 25 pins, lost just once in her high school career. She came up short in a regional match her junior year but avenged the loss at the state tournament.
For her efforts, Hand was also named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler.
Video of Hand’s championship victory has already gone viral. The clip shows the final moments of the title match and Hand circling the mat with four fingers raised. The video has accumulated more than 500,000 views in just one week on social media.
Participation in high school girls wrestling has exploded during its brief existence in Oklahoma. It began on an experimental basis in 2020 and the first officially sanctioned tournament took place a year later. One hundred and twenty-four female wrestlers competed that inaugural year. This year, more than 500 girls took part in the state’s two regional tournaments.
As girls high school wrestling continues to grow in Oklahoma, the list of four-time champions will obviously expand. Choctaw’s Peyton Hand can take pride in knowing that she was the first to accomplish the feat.