Everything is looking up for Owen senior Cole Leighton this wrestling season.
Everything but his weight.
Leighton (26-1) is currently ranked No. 2 among NCHSAA 2-A wrestlers at 182 pounds and has won 63 matches in that weight class the past two seasons.
But soon, Leighton said he hopes to settle in at 170 pounds after shedding some leftover flab from football.
Leighton has been an all-conference performer in both sports and was the Western Highlands 1-A/2-A Wrestler of the Year as a junior.
“I’ve practiced hard and put in the hours. And I’m so blessed with all that has been given to me,” Leighton said.
“It’s a great feeling to finally get the final product out of it. It’s a good feeling to be one of those guys who has a target on his back. I try to lead the team the way I should and be a positive influence on and off the mat.”
Leighton has pinned 12 of his 182-pound opponents with his only loss coming to the state’s top-ranked 3-A wrestler (North Gaston’s Collin Johnson). Leighton won his 100th career match on Jan. 3.
Once Leighton can comfortably make weight at 170 pounds, Warhorses coach Jeff Foster likes his chances in a wide-open division at the NCHSAA 2-A tournament.
The three-day state tourney will return to the Greensboro Coliseum and last from Feb. 28 to March 2.
“Cole has definitely responded to the call of duty for us again this season,” Foster said.
“He is once again our spark plug and a lot more focused on what he wants. If the stars align good, he could have a real special tournament in a few weeks.”
Leighton and the Warhorses (5-7) were 3-0 in the WHC entering Tuesday night’s contest with Polk County. Owen’s dual team championship from last season was its first since 1992. The Warhorses also went on to win the WHC tournament with senior Matt Tamari (152 pounds) earning that event’s most outstanding wrestler award.
“The bar has been set high,” Leighton said.
“We want to be two-time conference champs. It puts a lot of pressure on us, but we just have to set all of that aside and get done what we need to get done.”