The way Peter “Pierre” Thomas sees it, he really had no choice.
When his older brother, Thomas, a multi-sport athlete at Torrey Pines High School, experienced a back injury that ended a promising wrestling career, Peter had every reason to walk away from the sport he loved, despite its potential risks. (Note: Peter’s brother’s name is “Thomas Thomas.”)
His brother, Thomas, injured his back playing soccer after a standout sophomore wrestling season at Torrey Pines. Peter, who’d started out wrestling in the Falcons’ junior program since he was in second grade, said that his brother’s injury only made him more determined.
“When I saw my brother’s injury it didn’t so much provoke fear as it did anger,” Peter Thomas said. “It was sort of a motivating anger.”
That motivating anger has propelled Peter, now a rising star on the Falcons wrestling program.
Competing as a freshman on the varsity team in the 152-pound weight division, he’s posted an impressive 11-6 record. He’s also competed in freshman and junior varsity tournaments, highlighted by winning the La Costa Canyon Southern California Freshman Tournament championship.
“It’s not every day” you see a freshman having success on the varsity, Falcons coach Martin Brown said.
“You see it from the big schools; it’s very exciting that he’s here at Torrey Pines. He has a lot of school spirt and he wants to represent Torrey Pines, and considering we’re an up and coming program, it’s going to help us build for the next three or four years.”
Peter’s energetic persona already seems to be having that impact.
“When he wins he punches his fists, then he celebrates on his way back to the coaches,” Brown said. “He’s having a really good time out there.”
Peter’s older brother remains a force in his wrestling development. The older Thomas continued his athletic career at Torrey Pines, competing on the school’s diving team after recovering from his injury. He’s been coaching Peter since he was in elementary school.
“It was obviously disappointing to see my brother getting injured like that because he was such a big motivation for me,” Peter said.
“It actually motivated me to follow in his footsteps and complete the things that he wasn’t able to do because of his injuries. Every time I walk onto the mat and go to a tournament I have the weight of this. ‘I’m doing this for my brother’ on me. I’m doing this for my school, my family and my brother. I’m not just doing this for myself.”
Peter takes pride in the fact that to date he has not been pinned. Some of his opponents have been highly ranked upperclassmen who’ve competed in the Master’s tournament in recent years.
“It’s very hard to not to get pinned, that’s a big thing,” he said. It’s important from the team aspect too, as it limits the amount of points an opponent scores in a dual match (teams are awarded three points for each victory by decision, and six points for wins that come via pin).
Thomas has overcome significant injuries on two occasions in recent years.
He was in sixth grade when he suffered a freak skateboarding injury, cutting his Achilles in a skateboarding accident (he was skating on a modified snowboard that hadn’t been property sanded down).
After the injury, Thomas competed on the Brazilian jiu jitsu circuit. He placed as high as second in a national Pan-American tournament.
In February of last year, he suffered a broken leg practicing at La Costa Canyon. That injury left him in a cast for three months, and facing a tough rehab if he had any chance to reach his goal of competing on the varsity this year.
“It was bad,” Thomas said. “I actually have a picture of my leg after I got out of my cast where I’m fully flexing both legs and my left leg that hadn’t been injured was all muscular and my veins were popping out and my right leg looked like a small dog’s hind leg.”
Resiliency, however, runs deeps in Thomas’ family.
His grandfather was one of the few survivors of the French Union’s Far East Expeditionary Corps in the Battle of Dien Bien Phu at the end of the the First Indochina War in the spring of 1954.
“If you dwell on fear too much you act on fear,” Peter said, summing up a philosophy that’s guided his family for generations.
Peter said his older brother continues to coach and mentor him. Peter’s memories of his older brother having to stand up in class wearing a giant brace remain fresh in Peter’s mind, and continue to motivate him.
“My brother is a big reason I’m the man I am today,” Peter said. “This is the type of person that’s in my family. This is the type of legacy that the people in my family are setting. I feel that I not only have to reach what they’ve done, but also build upon the foundation they’ve laid down for me.
“That’s a big motivating factor.”