Columbia Wrestler Overcomes Tragedy and Loss to Become One of the Best
Columbia senior, Payton Lanningham, has had a rough couple of years. Despite a tragic loss and a potentially career-ending injury, Payton stuck with the sport of wrestling to become one of the best in the state.
According to the Idaho Press, while at a wrestling tournament near Pocatello in 2017, Payton and her grandfather decided to make a stop at Lava Hot Springs. Unfortunately, while on the way, they were involved in a fatal accident that left three people dead. According to Idaho Press, Eric Neibaur, 15, and his 13-year-old sister, Lauren Neibaur, drove into oncoming traffic striking the white suburban Payton's grandfather was driving. Payton was the only survivor.
Her grandfather was her biggest fan. Offering to travel to tournaments while Payton's parents had to work. He even helped coach the team while she was in middle school, with no experience, just to able to support her. The Idaho Press describes Jay Lanningham's support:
Jay also gave the boys who forfeited instead of wrestling Payton a little piece of his mind and was seemingly always in charge of supplies. Jay didn’t go anywhere without a backpack full of jerky, trail mix, tape and Band-Aids. He also carried around a little cooler stuffed full of mini Gatorades.
The loss was hard on Payton, but returning to the sport she loved later that fall, helped. Although, as the Idaho Press reports, it wasn't the same without her grandfather Jay at mat-side. So, when it came time to name the tournament that would take place at Columbia the following February, Coach Todd Cady knew what it had to be: the Jaybird Memorial.
After a great season, Payton received another setback. According to the Idaho Press, Payton received -what could have been- a season-ending injury 18 months after losing her grandfather. During a match, she hurt her foot. X-rays revealed a Lisfranc fracture. She was finally cleared to come back to the sport last May and since has been proving that she's one of the best in the state. Her record this season 25-1. She looks to continue her legacy this Saturday, at the third annual Jaybird Memorial Tournament at Columbia High School.