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Enka's Ownbey nurtures Olympic dream

Ex-Enka wrestler aiming for 2016

10:54 PM, Aug. 07, 2012 EDT

Enka graduate Daniel Ownbey now wrestles for UNC Pembroke. / John Coutlakis/jcoutlakis@citizen-times.com


Enka wrestling coach Mark Harris learned a long time ago to never doubt Daniel Ownbey.

After all, they are kindred as the only two-time state champions in the history of the program.

So it's not particularly surprising to Harris that Ownbey is now talking openly about the dream of representing his country in a future Olympic Games.

The 2010 Jets graduate and current wrestler at UNC Pembroke even makes it a point to write out the numerals "2016" daily as a reminder of his goal.

"Daniel has always been confident in his skills," Harris said.

"And he has been like that since before he was in high school. Daniel never believes that anybody should beat him. That's a rare trait."

Ownbey is about to begin his second year at UNC Pembroke as a redshirt sophomore.

He earned All-American status at the NCAA Division II tournament in March by wrestling at 141 pounds. And then in June, Ownbey followed that up by placing second in his division at the ASICS University and FILA Cadet National tournament.

Based off his performance at the June event, Ownbey qualified for this month's University World Team Trials in Colorado Springs, Colo. Ownbey said Monday that he will be unable to attend the trials.

"I know some people will say it sounds cocky, but I knew I was capable of wrestling this well," Ownbey said.

"I just really have to give thanks to the coaches I've had. Coach Harris at Enka, Norman Osteen (with the locally-based Strong and Courageous club) and now Othello Johnson (at UNCP). I've been blessed to wrestle for them. And without them, none of this would be possible."

Ownbey was named the Citizen-Times All-WNC Wrestler of the Year in 2009 and 2010.

He signed out of high school with UNC Greensboro, but only wrestled there one year before the Spartans disbanded their program. Ownbey said he prefers not to comment on the situation, but is grateful that he ended up at UNCP.

"What stands out to me is that Daniel had a major setback and was faced with either abandoning his career altogether or changing schools," Harris said.

"It's not easy to get back on track when you have a break like that. But it's unbelievable how far he has jumped at Pembroke. It's pretty exciting to think about what he could be able to do now that he can just focus on wrestling."

Harris rarely gets to see Ownbey wrestle these days. But when he does, the coach says his former pupil's progression is clear.

"Daniel's skills are improving and he's physically better. A lot of that comes with just being older," Harris said.

"But again, I'll credit his background. He's been pushed since he was a little kid. It's not like Daniel is the kind of wrestler who dominated locally and never got outside the area."




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