For the past year Coach Buck Watkins has been encouraging athletes at West Stokes to consider wrestling. The conversations have paid off. Last season the Wildcats finished with 10 wrestlers and this year that number has doubled.
“I think we have a strong team of guys who are willing to work and learn. We have a lot of younger kids who are learning what it means to be a wrestler,” Watkins said.
Eight of Watkins wrestlers attended camps to further their skills at Ferrum, Campbell, and Duke University.
“I work with a lot of college coaches in the wrestling community. I think it was a real eye opener for our guys to finish a tough camp. I wanted some of them to see what it really takes to wrestle Division 1,” Watkins said.
The coach is hoping to change the wrestling culture at West. He believes the school is blessed with solid athletes, but the sport has underachieved in the past.
“I don’t know why that is. I’m here to win and if that means being here at 6 a.m. to get a workout in or until 10 at night to help a kid cut weight, I’m going to do it whatever it takes,” he said.
Thanks to a successful fundraiser, Wests’ wrestlers are sporting new gear this season and a banner that hangs in the gym marking the programs fresh start.
Watkins is thankful for the support he’s seen from administration and expects the new outlook to open opportunities for college recruitments in the future.
“This year on social media I use the percentage one percent because it’s for my team to know they are a part of one percent of the world who’s willing to do the work. Others, 99% aren’t willing to go through what they do on a daily basis,” he said.
That commitment is being seen on the mat.
After a promising intersquad meet two weeks ago, West hosted the Turkey Duals against Reagan, Starmount, and North Forsyth on Saturday.
“We went 2-1 and lost a close 42-36 match to Starmount. It was hard fought; it came down to the final match and Starmount came out on top. It was a learning experience that really woke us up and we won the next two matches pretty handily,” Watkins said.
West is preparing for a tournament in Virginia after Christmas that will host over 30 teams from seven different states.
“This will be great competition. Teams from as far as Pennsylvania will be there to wrestle. I want the competition for my guys. I want to chase the top teams across the country and then beat them,” the coach said.
Watkins goal for his team is to win, graduate, and do things the right way.
“If you do a 1,000 little things the right way throughout your day then winning becomes easier. This sport is a lifestyle and not something you do as a hobby if you want to be great at it. You have to live it. There’s a slogan on the wall in Duke’s wrestling room that says, ‘Toughness, Discipline and Hard Work contribute to building a total student athlete.’ That’s what I want to build here. I want them to be the best men possible.”
Amanda Dodson can be reached at 336-813-2426 or on Twitter at AmandaTDodson.