The first time I watched then-Calhoun County freshman Jared Haught wrestle, it was obvious he had a chance to do something special.
After finishing runner-up as a ninth-grader and winning a state crown as a Red Devil sophomore, Haught spent two years at Parkersburg High School and ended his prep career with a trio of state mat crowns.
Now, a redshirt freshman at Virginia Tech for head coach Kevin Dresser, Haught is learning the ropes of college wrestling.
"He's gotten a lot better this year," Dresser said of his 197-pounder who recently won the Wilkes Open (Pa.) as an unattached competitor. "His learning curve has gone way up.
"The number one thing he needs to improve upon, he needs to get more scoring holds. He's got great defense, but we have to get offense."
As an unattached wrestler, which coach Dresser said most of the newcomers at Virginia Tech take advantage of, grapplers like Haught "have to be your own coach and pay your own way."
Haught will be competing this weekend, unattached again of course, back in Pennsylvania at the Millersville tournament.
He said becoming a college 197-pounder is something that is literally growing on him.
"It's kind of a change because I went up a weight class (from high school) and the guys are bigger," Haught admitted. "I'm really not big enough yet."
That's OK because coach Dresser and the Hokies have a plan of action for that.
"Jared weighs about 204 or 205 and we want to get him up to about 210-212 this summer and that would be perfect," Dresser added.
One of the biggest obstacles for the now-smaller Haught is the fact he doesn't physically tower over opponents anymore.
"That's the big thing. The size of the men I'm wrestling now. It's a little different," said Haught, who made a 3.5 GPA the first semester as he begins his trek toward a general engineering degree. "Things are going well. I've had some ups and downs.
"All the practices are tough, every practice we do. I have up days and down days where I wrestle well and not so well. Like coach Dresser says, I need to work consistently every day and try to have a good day every day."
Haught said the biggest things he's learned and taken to heart since going to the Division I college ranks is "moving your feet and moving your hands more and having a good stance.
"I knew what I was getting into when I started. It was just a reality check. I like it and it's good."
If Haught can continue to work hard and stay healthy, he'll have a shot at cracking the lineup next year.
"He's done a great job from day one and he's not been a concern of mine at all," Dresser said, noting that isn't always the case with newcomers to the program.
"Everybody likes him. He fits in in that respect and he's one of the guys already. He's definitely going in the right direction."
Contact Jay Bennett at firstname.lastname@example.org