Lifetime Service Award for Leigh Harris

Lifetime Service Award for Leigh Harris

Christ School teacher/coach has been involved in wrestling for 50 years

Leigh Harris feels obligated to leave something behind, whether it's the classroom or the wrestling mat.

"In my opinion, I don't know how you can teach or coach if you don't want to pass on the lessons and morals that you yourself work with," Harris said. "That's why I got started and why I continue to hang out."

Clearly, the National Wrestling Hall of Fame believes that Harris has done a lot more than just "hang out" in his 50 years around the sport. The longtime Christ School math teacher and coach will receive a Lifetime Service to Wrestling award from the NWHOF's North Carolina Chapter at a May 20 banquet in Chapel Hill.

The announcement was made over the weekend and a total surprise to Harris. He was called to a tournament – Harris is the regional supervisor of wrestling officials in western North Carolina – when the unexpected news was sprung on him by a public-address announcer.

"I don't even have the foggiest idea what was said. I was so shocked," Harris said. "I'm appreciative to (wife Mary Jane Morrison) and everyone who has supported me. The school has been very supportive, allowing me to go to tournaments and meetings when I need to. I'm just very appreciative to everyone who has helped me. I'm truly honored to be the seventh guy from this area, that I know of, to be given this award. Those guys are my compatriots."

Harris is teaching Statistics and Honors Geometry in his 28th year at Christ School. He's been involved in the sport a lot longer than that, dating back to his first competitive wrestling match in 1968.

Harris' first coaching job was at Sylva-Webster High for the 1974-75 season while finishing out his senior year at Western Carolina University. He went on to coach at Christ School, Cross Keys High in Atlanta, Pinecrest High in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., and Asheville High.

Besides his role as regional supervisor of officials, Harris is the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association sports chair for wrestling. That means he will run the state tournament February 16 and 17 in High Point.