Rey Reyes signing ceremony

Rey Reyes during his signing ceremony Wednesday surrounded by his family and coaches. The senior became the first CHS wrestler to compete in the sport at the NCAA level.

Throughout the history of Central High School wrestling, the program had never featured one of its own in the NCAA. That changed on Wednesday, May 22, thanks to Rey Reyes. 

The senior signed a letter of intent for Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark. to join the wrestling team as a freshman in the fall 2019 semester.

"I'm grateful, I'm ready. I just think it's a great opportunity for me," Reyes said. "This year was definitely the year that everything just clicked for me that wrestling was the sport that I loved."

Prior to Wednesday's signing, Randall Jennings, Zack Lusk and Victoria Stottlemyer had wrestled in the college ranks for Middle Tennessee State University as part of the National Collegiate Wrestling Association.

Reyes closed out his CHS career with a strong senior season, capped off by a trip to the state meet in February. At states, Reyes was the team's highest finisher in the boys' division and advanced to the round of 16.

"Well-deserved. He has worked his butt off for the last two years constantly, only taking a small break in his wrestling for football," Coach Roger Barlow said. "It's something for the younger guys to look up to and aspire to."

Regarding his place in CHS wrestling history, Reyes was excited by the chance to serve as an inspiration for the next generation.

His signing was the latest milestone in a period of growth for the program that included the first female wrestlers to compete and medal at states.

"I feel like I can be a role model for the next wrestlers in our program to excel," Reyes said. "They're doing great and I think they can be way better than they are. We can get way better and even go into Division I."

The Ouachita Baptist Tigers compete in the NCAA Division II Great Lakes Valley Conference. The program was founded in 2010 and have had six top-25 finishes in its nine-year history.

Reyes said he was drawn to the private school's smaller size which allowed for an ideal teacher-student ratio in the classroom. He plans to go into his freshman year undecided on what to study and use the university's discovery program to choose a major. 

Reyes said he was looking forward to making an impact on the team in his first year. He was thankful for the support of his family, coaches and teammates through his career as a Raider. He was also thankful to his competitors from across the state for pushing him to be the best he could be.

With an NCAA collegiate wrestler in the books for CHS, Reyes believed the program was heading in the right direction. The grappler also offered some parting words of advice for his younger teammates who may be interested in college wrestling.

"It's growing, we're getting better and we can compete," Reyes said. "If you really want something or you want to go collegiately, you've just gotta put in your work and dedication. The amount you put in is what it'll give back to you."

Rey Reyes

Rey Reyes grapples against a Tullahoma opponent on Dec. 20.