As a singer, Cole Lewis is a natural.
As a wrestler, he’s had to work a lot harder.
But this year, the Cypress Lake High junior has excelled at both. He earned tenor lead with the school’s chorus while the 285-pounder is 31-3 in the heavyweight division and was crowned district champion last weekend.
“It’s a cool contrast,” Cypress Lake High vocal director Gary Stroh said. “That independence with going out for wrestling brought him out of his shell. In music theater class, we made him have a solo part. He reluctantly did it and by the end of the number, he did it full out, and it was fine.”
Lewis performs in front of his teammates — raps, beat boxes, anything that comes to mind.
“He sings all the time,” Cypress Lake coach Paul Rothenberg said. “I wish he wouldn’t.
“No, he’s good. He’s definitely entertaining.”
Jalen Soto, defending state runner-up at 132 pounds, said while Lewis is a better singer than wrestler, he also was quick to say he’s the most improved grappler on the team.
“He started scrapping better and became tough,” Soto said. “Wrestling turns you into something.”
Lewis comes from a musical family.
His mother Heather played trumpet for the Blue Devils Drum and Bugle Corp, a World Class competitive junior drum and bugle corps based in Concord, California. “She’s really good,” he said.
Father Robert played trombone, which his son played when younger. Robert now judges marching bands all over the country and runs marching band clinics in the Midwest.
And Michelle, Robert Lewis’ second wife, was a piano player as well as band director at Fort Myers Christian School before cancer took her life. She persuaded Cole to audition with the vocal program before his freshman year at Cypress Lake.
“Cole started singing on pitch when he was 3-, 4-years old,” Robert Lewis said. “At 8 or 9, we are Phantom of the Opera fans, and he used to sing those songs in soprano and nail it. In seventh grade, he changed to tenor, but he can do falsetto.”
Lewis can be shy but his pride breaks through when talking about his ability where he can sing Italian, contemporary or just about anything.
“Since I was a little kid, I was real musical,” he said. “When I wanted to choose a high school, I saw Cypress Lake as a center for arts and a top-notch choral program.
“I played trombone but I’m better at singing. I’ve sang in all the concerts. We do a spring concert and another one around Christmastime. It’s magical.”
As a tenor leader, Lewis is responsible for making sure other tenors have the right pitch and are singing the right notes. Stroh said he’s also working with younger singers.
“I have to memorize everything first,” Lewis said. “It’s actually surprisingly easy.
“Sometimes I get a little frustrated when they don’t know what I mean. But it’s really fun.”
Lewis also is finding wrestling a lot of fun this season after a frustrating freshman year where more than half his seven wins came by forfeit.
“I thought he’d quit after that first year,” Robert Lewis said. “When he said he was going out for wrestling, I thought, ‘Oh boy, it’s a brutal sport physically.’ He dabbled in T-ball, soccer and volleyball. But he has a perseverance, a stubbornness.”
After winning half his matches as a sophomore, Lewis joined teammates for a three-day camp in Fort Lauderdale with N.C. State wrestlers.“They basically beat the crap out of me,” Lewis said, but Rothenberg said it showed him what he needed to do to get better while giving him more confidence.
This season, Lewis has been the one dominating.
“I felt like I deserved it,” he said of the district title. “I’ve put so much time in the sport. I worked so hard.”
Lewis said he needs to keep working hard to have a shot at another Cole, Riverdale’s Cole Schneider, the top-seeded heavyweight in the state.
The optimistic Lewis said if he could get Schneider at state and take him into overtime, he feels he has a chance to win.
“I’ve got a vision,” he said. “The first time he pinned me in about five seconds. The second time, I took him to the second period but he got really frustrated with how resistant I was. I’m not really aggressive but if you throw something, I’ll counter it.
“But he’s an explosive guy.”
First, Lewis must get through regionals.
The guy who can carry a tune has been offered a huge incentive by his vocal coach.
“I’ve told him, if he wins the state championship, we’ll make a life-size Fathead and put in the choir room,” Stroh said.
Then he’d really be large and in charge.