5 from Owen High sign to play sports in college, reflect on impressive final seasons

Ezra Maille
Black Mountain News

Five Owen High athletes signed April 21 to play sports in college. The five represent four sports: soccer, softball, swimming and wrestling.

"These students have exhibited everything we could've dreamed of to be an Owen athlete," said assistant principal Brad McMahan. "They're going to take that on to the next level, and I'm sure they'll take those horseshoes wherever they go."

Jason Gun, soccer

Jason Gun signed to play soccer at ETSU after finishing his senior season with 20 goals and 20 assists.

Gun signed to play soccer at East Tennessee State University, where he plans to study computer science.

"I'm really looking forward to the change in the environment," Gun said. "It's a whole network of people there that I'm super excited to go work with."

Already with a leg in the door, Gun became familiar with players from the ETSU team from the Asheville City Soccer Club. He said those he's met have been great players as well as people. 

Gun began playing soccer around age 4. This past fall, he led the Warhorses to an impressive undefeated 10-0 conference run with only three losses in the entire season. 

More:Owen boys soccer season ends in Round 2 of playoffs

"Jason is a gifted soccer player that is going to do very well at the next level," said Owen coach David Fiest. "He has a lot of self-motivation and drive that will propel him to be an asset at ETSU."

Reflecting on his high school career, Gun said the biggest challenge was the social pressure of joining the team as a freshman. As time went on, Gun became acclimated, bonding with the team and ending this season as a top scorer with 20 goals and 20 assists.

"Obviously, my senior year, there was a whole lot of expectations and I think it fulfilled all of them," Gun said. 

Bailee Worley, softball

Bailee Worley signed to play college softball at Pfeiffer University on April 21.

Interested in studying nursing, Worley signed to play softball at Pfeiffer University in Misenheimer, North Carolina. 

"I'm really excited for the new experience away from home and getting to meet all these new cultures and new people," Worley said. "Getting the chance to include myself in college softball."

As a catcher, Worley leads the Warlassies with a fielding percentage of .986 so far this season. She also leads as one of the top scorers with nine runs and a .304 batting average. 

Although moving from high school to the NCAA can be intimidating, Worley said, she's already begun practicing with some of her collegiate teammates and is excited to begin playing. 

This season marks Worley's sixth year as a softball player. The Warlassies have an overall record this season of 8-4, ranked fourth in conference play.

"We have a really good chance of going to state," Worley said of the Owen team. "We've just been doing really good, team chemistry-wise."

Chloe Little, swimming

Chloe Little signed to swim at Campbellsville University on April 21. Little finished eighth in the state this season for 100-meter breaststroke.

Little signed to swim at Campbellsville University in Kentucky where she plans to pursue a nursing degree. 

"I'm really excited," Little said. "I started swimming around fifth grade."

This past swim season, Little placed in regionals as well as state where she came in eighth for 100-meter breaststroke. According to coaching staff, this season was the first time in roughly 15 years the team made it to the state championship. 

More:Owen High boys and girls swim team competes at state for first time in 'at least 15 years' say coaching staff

"I'm really sad to leave my old (teammates) behind but I'm excited to see the family  that's there and I'm really hoping to get to nationals," Little said. 

Aiden Noonan and Zeke Grabowski, wrestling

Best friends Aidan Noonan, right, and Zeke Grabowski signed to wrestle at Montreat College on April 21.

Friends since first grade, Noonan and Grabowski signed to wrestle at local Montreat College.

Throughout the past season, both wrestlers faced serious opponents. Owen wrestling held a 10-12 record this season. 

Competing in the 120-pound weight class, Grabowski finished fourth in the state. 

"It was one of my best tournaments ever," Grabowski said.

"It had its ups and downs, but we did it," Noonan agreed. 

As their high school careers come to a close, Noonan and Grabowski reflected on their journey to college. Grabowski said he began wrestling in middle school and was not very good at it. 

Now, with a fourth place in the state finish, he said he was happy to see all his hard work pay off.

"I was not good but I just worked hard," Grabowski said. "I just wanted to be better. I was hungry."

Though collegiate wrestling will be a significant step up from the high school level, both athletes say they're ready and eager to begin. They agreed they won't be intimidated as the season approaches.

"We've been doing this for a while. wWe're just going to go do what we do to our best abilities," Noonan said. 

Ezra Maille covers the town of Black Mountain, Montreat and the Swannanoa Valley. Reach him at 828-230-3324 or emaille@blackmountainnews.com. Please support local journalism with access to more breaking news by subscribing.