Walnut Ridge High School seniors Sam Lewis and Michael Steele made history when they signed their letters of intent to join the Williams Baptist University Eagles wrestling team.
Both competed for the Bobcats on the football field, but at WBU they will take to the wresting mat for the first time.
Steele was a linebacker for WRHS, while Lewis played tackle. WBU wrestling coach Todd Allen said he is more than happy to give the two an opportunity to get their education as they train for the wrestling program.
“My goal is really to increase wrestling in this area,” Allen said. “Their little brothers are in our youth program, and that’s kind of the connection. They have seen them practice a little bit and were like ‘hey I might like this.’”
With no high school wrestling programs in place, Steele and Lewis will be WBU’s first recruits from Lawrence County.
Lewis said being the first Walnut Ridge students to sign with Williams for wrestling is exciting.
“I’ve never wrestled before, but Coach Allen said it’s a pretty easy transition from football to wrestling,” Lewis said. “It’s pretty straightforward, and he said he thinks I’ll do great.”
Steele said it is nice to be leading the way in something.
“It’s amazing to have this opportunity to be a part of a wrestling program that no one has been a part of from this school,” he said. “I hope I do well.”
The highlight of their time at WRHS for both was making it to the playoffs every year.
“It shows how hard work pays off in the end to those who push themselves to succeed,” Steele said.
Lewis said he feels like their coaches at Walnut Ridge have them prepared for collegiate competition.
“The coaches have gotten us ready mentally and physically to compete at a college level,” he said. “Regardless of changing sports, it’s still the same concepts when it comes down to it.”
Steele agreed saying, “I’d say that our previous sport (football) has prepared us in the way of dedication and perseverance, not just in athletics but in life as a whole. I believe that will help us moving forward in college.”