Brandon Leliefeld, 18, sits in the cafeteria of Deer Park High School on a Tuesday after school. Blue-eyed and already a little sunburned, he’s watching his friends leave in the dusty wind outside.
Leliefeld is Deer Park High School’s notable student of the year and he’s just a tiny bit shy talking about that.
“I think my history teacher Ms. Frost nominated me,” Leliefeld said. “I guess I’m a good student and I’m involved with the school.” Leliefeld, who is the vice president of the Associated Student Body at Deer Park, said he really likes history and he hopes to become a high school history teacher.
“I find history interesting. I don’t mind doing the coursework as much as I mind doing some of the other classes,” he said, laughing.
Another thing he really likes is wrestling. He is on Deer Park’s state champion team and he has wrestled since he was about 4.
“We have pictures where I’m this tall,” he said, holding his hand out level with the cafeteria table. “My dad got me started early. You got to start early if you want to get good.”
Leliefeld has also started on the football team since he was a sophomore, playing running back and defensive line.
“He’s a student I’m really close with, I’ve coached him for four years in two sports,” said Keith Stamps, head football coach and assistant wrestling coach at Deer Park High School. “He is very respectful and he cares about the school. As an athlete you can’t ask for anyone who works harder. He’s just great to have in class.”
It’s wrestling that’s gotten him a scholarship to Montana State University Northern in Havre, Mont.
“They have a very good program there and I’m totally excited about it,” Leliefeld said.
But before he heads to Montana, Leliefeld is heading to Cancun, Mexico, with a couple of friends.
“We’ve been planning this for a long time so we’re going, even though the timing with the swine flu isn’t too good,” Leliefeld said. One of his best friends, Cody Miller, is going as well.
“He’s graduating too; we’ve known each other since we were 7 or 8 years old,” Leliefeld said.
This is the first big trip he’s taking with his buddies and the week on the beach in Mexico is all the vacation he’ll get.
“When I come back I’m headed to Colorado to work on gas lines with my dad,” Leliefeld said.
The money he’ll make over summer will go toward college and, hopefully, toward a truck that will make the long drive to Havre a bit easier.
Leliefeld is the youngest of a family that counts a brother and a sister, as well as a stepbrother and a stepsister.
When his parents divorced, Leliefeld stayed with his mom.
“I would say that me and my dad are really close though,” he said.
Leliefeld said he liked growing up in Deer Park, though there’s not a lot to do there for a high school student.
“Here’s no movie theater, not a lot of places to hang out,” he said. “There’s a skate park, but I never really got into that.”
So what does he do on his spare time?
“Mostly we hang out at a friend’s house and watch baseball or basketball,” Leliefeld said, and he spends a lot of time at “the lake” fishing and hunting.
“We go to Williams Lake and Badger Lake,” Leliefeld said. This spring, he landed a 6.5-pound rainbow trout on opening day of fishing season.
“It was just great – I had to fight it a lot and really work it to catch it,” Leliefeld said.
Deer hunting, his first buck was “a nice five-by-five” he said.
Overall, Leliefeld is leaving Deer Park High School with mostly fond memories.
“I’ve liked most of my teachers here, and we really haven’t had that many problems,” Leliefeld said.
Actually, he wouldn’t mind being back in Deer Park 20 years from now.
“By then I hope I’m a high school history teacher and the head wrestling coach,” said Leliefeld. “And I wouldn’t mind at all if I was back living here in this area.”
That’s a dream he’s shared with Stamps.
“He has told me that often,” said Stamps. “And he would be fabulous at it. He is an all around neat kid, we are going to miss him, that is for sure.”