Athlete excels in multiple sports

Leo Pena enjoys physical sports, so at Seymour High School, football and wrestling are a perfect fit.

“You have to have a strong mind in both sports,” Pena said. “In a team sport you have to have a strong mental attitude and be able to focus and get everyone’s energy together. In wrestling you’ve got to focus on yourself, and focus on the mat as well as on your team.”

He has been a defensive player in football throughout his high school career and is in his third year as a starting inside linebacker.

He began his football career in fourth grade at Jackson Elementary.

“I first transitioned to playing linebacker in eighth grade, and that’s when I found my position,” Pena said. “I found that’s what I wanted to play.”

He is a defensive captain and talked about the importance of teamwork.

“I take care of the box,” Pena said. “The defensive backs have their own (leader). They get to recognize Alex Holt. He’s the captain on that. He recognizes what coverage they need to be in.

“I just tell the defensive linemen where they’re going and where they’re slanting, and if we’re doing any stunts as linebackers, and know what gaps to fill.”

Pena said his movement changes each play.

“Sometimes I will go after the quarterback if it’s on a stunt,” Pena said. “If I recognize that it’s a pass, then I get my head turned to the No. 1 receiver, or the first threat in my eyes which can be a slot or a further receiver, a tight end, and then I work to drop to him.

“You always have to have gang-tackling. One man can’t do it all. We work on getting all 11 to the ball.”

He has had some pass breakups and had an interception against Jeffersonville. He had 32 tackles (13 solo) through eight games.

“Preparation and practice is super important, especially watching film and recognizing plays and knowing the plays,” Pena said. “Every Monday we work on alignments kind of like a slow-paced day, defensive side of the ball. We just work on getting aligned to the ball and learning where they’re going to be every play or even before we go after one-another.

“We just work on knowing where to line up, the linemen, linebackers, safeties and corners.”

Pena said the highlight of his seasons have been reaching the sectional championship games the past two years.

He won 24 matches and was a regional qualifier last winter, and is looking forward to another winning season on the mats.

Pena has wrestled on varsity since his freshman year.

He wrestled at 170-pounds his freshman and sophomore years. He played football this fall at 195, and said he isn’t sure what weight he will wrestle at this winter.

Pena said he ‘scouts’ his opponent before a match.

“I watch how they warm up,” Pena said. “That’s a big key. I see what they’re doing when they warm up. I’ve watched them wrestle in the summer, usually, and the opponents they have beaten, so I determine if they’re really defensive or really offensive, and I take it from there.

“Usually, the first minute helps me realize what kind of wrestler they are, and if I should take them down or if I should take it slower and wait for them to try and do a move and if I should counter.”

In a match, Pena stays on the attack.

“I like to be up close and personal, so I like to use under hooks and use a throw by to a single leg, or just a throw by to a double-leg,” Pena said. “I do that pretty well. My favorite pinning move would have to be a hammerlock. It’s really discomforting. It’s really been successful if I can get it right and do the move correctly.”

He said lifting weights is key in both sports.

“The weight room is really important,” Pena said. “It’s really big in the off-season to get in the weight room, to condition and to get muscle on your body. That way you can prepare yourself for the next season. Your opponents are so you’ve got get bigger, faster stronger every season.”

The senior has enjoyed his time at Seymour.

“I’ve enjoyed all four years I’ve been here,” Pena said. “think I’ve had a pretty good season and a pretty good career and built some relationships that will last forever with teachers and students and coaches. I’ll remember all the bonds I’ve made and all the accomplishments as a team in football and in wrestling.” We’ve broke records in wrestling, too.”

Pena file

Name: Leo Pena

School: Seymour High School

Parents: Katia Elliott, Donald Elliott

Siblings: Caleb, Makayla

Sports: football 4 years, wrestling 4 years

Athletic highlights: wrestling regional qualifier, x award

Organizations: Fellowship of Christian Athletes

Plans after high school: Enlist in Army National Guard, then attend Indiana University for sports medicine

Favorite food: pizza

Favorite TV show: Rick and Morty

Favorite singer: Russ

Favorite movie: Harry Potter

Favorite athlete: Ray Lewis, Baltimore Ravens

Author photo
Arv Koontz is a sports correspondent for The (Seymour) Tribune.