Wyatt Lehman wraps up Owen career in impressive fashion

Fred McCormick
Black Mountain News
Wyatt Lehman receives the Owen High School Male Athlete of the Year Award from athletic director Anthony Lee.

Earning the trophy awarded annually by Owen High School to its Male Athlete of the Year said a lot about Wyatt Lehman and his four-year multi-sport career as a Warhorse. What he did with the hardware a few days later said more about him as a person.

Plenty of folks were impressed by Lehman’s accomplishments on the soccer field, or the basketball and tennis courts, but few were in as much awe as Jonah, his 6-year-old brother.

“He thought it was the coolest thing ever,” Wyatt said. “So I took the trophy, and a piece of paper I received for getting a Top Scholars Award, to his class at (W.D. Williams Elementary School) to talk to them about what they could achieve if they put their minds to it.”

Not many people could speak on that topic better than Wyatt, who will graduate among the top 15 in his class on Saturday, June 15.

“I knew when I came to Owen that I wanted to play as many sports as possible,” he said. “I really wanted to try to play them all.”

His high school athletic career began in the fall of 2015, when he was on the junior varsity soccer team.

“At first I was angry that I didn’t make the varsity team,” said Wyatt, who had played the sport for years before his arrival at Owen. “So I channeled that anger into trying my hardest and going all out on JV. In hindsight, it was probably better for me because I got to play every minute of every game and I got a lot of experience I wouldn’t have had on varsity.”

His efforts quickly began to pay dividends as Wyatt was called up to play five matches on the varsity squad that season. That winter, he turned his attention to the basketball court, where he found a spot on the Warhorses junior varsity team. 

"I was pretty timid as a basketball player," he said of his early years in the sport. "I knew I wanted to play, but I knew I'd have to work hard to get better."

That spring, Wyatt tried a sport he had little experience with. 

Wyatt Lehman looks up the field in a 7-0 win over Western Highlands Conference foe Mitchell on Oct. 24. Lehman and the Warhorses went 10-0 in the conference for the second straight season this year.

"I had a friend of mine who played tennis," he said. "He told me I should come play on the team and I thought that was something I could do. I was awful at first."

He proved a quick study in the sport, however, as he went 4-1 in singles matches as a freshman and 8-3 with doubles partner Hunter Haynes. 

Undeterred by the adversity he faced early in his high school athletics career, Wyatt was eager to begin his sophomore campaign. 

"I really learned a lot from those experiences," he said. "I found out that being successful in high school sports wasn't going to be easy and I was going to have to work at it."

With the fall of 2016 approaching, Owen soccer coach David Fiest felt confident Wyatt would be an improved player coming into the season.

"He has a strong competitive drive," Fiest said of Wyatt. "He's the type of person who is going to do whatever it takes to accomplish what he sets out to do."

Four games into his first full season on the varsity roster, he delivered in a big way against a T.C. Roberson squad that was ranked among the nation's top 4A teams at the time. 

With the Warhorses and Rams locked in a 0-0 tie at the end of regulation, Wyatt fed former teammate Matt Coward, who scored a goal from 25 yards out. The game finished in a draw, but set the tone for an Owen squad that would go on to upset number 1 seeded Forbush in the playoffs that season on their way to a trip to the third round. 

"That was a big moment for me," Wyatt said of the assist. "To me it's never about who scores, my focus is on doing whatever I can do to put my team in a position to win."

Wyatt pushed himself to improve on the basketball court and earned a spot on the 23-win varsity Warhorse squad late in the season. 

Wyatt Lehman makes a play on the ball in a 2-1 Warhorse win over Foard to open the 2018 playoffs.

"That was a great team with a bunch of amazing basketball players on it," he said. "I worked really hard to make it to varsity that season, and even though I didn't play much, I really enjoyed getting a chance to be a small part of that."

The same dedication he showed in soccer and basketball, Wyatt brought to the tennis team, according to head coach Chris Barcklow. 

"He's incredibly motivated to improve," Barcklow said. "He put in a lot of time and energy into his growth as a tennis player."

The upward trajectory continued through his junior year, when the Warhorse soccer team returned to the third round of the playoffs. 

Entering his senior year, he was a leader on Fiest's team. 

"He's very well-liked by his peers," the coach said. "I think of him as kind of a role model for a lot of them."

Wyatt was a key player for the Warhorse soccer team as it went 10-0 in the Western Highlands Conference in consecutive seasons. He earned all-conference honors in soccer, basketball and tennis as a senior. 

The doubles team of Wyatt Lehman, left, and Hunter Haynes finished as the runner-up in the regional tournament on May 4, earning a number 2 seed in the state championship tournament. The duo fell to Clinton in the second round of the state tournament after surviving a tough opening round match against a doubles team from Carrboro.

He capped off his athletic career at the school with a win with in the opening round of the state doubles championship in May.

"Hunter has been my doubles partner since I started playing tennis," he said. "It felt really special to be able to go out there and pick up a win with him in that environment."

In spite of those accomplishments, he was "shocked' when his name was called as the Male Athlete of the Year for 2018-19. 

"It was amazing," he said. "I am so grateful to all of my coaches here at Owen because they've really helped me grow, not only as an athlete, but as a person."

Wyatt will attend University of North Carolina Charlotte, where he is considering trying out for the tennis team. As he looks back on his high school career he takes pride in what he's accomplished at Owen, which is why he was eager to share those accomplishments with his brother's class. 

"I set a lot of academic and athletic goals for myself in high school," he said. "I put a lot of pressure on myself to succeed, but that helped me accomplish everything I set out to do. I wanted them to know they can do that too."