Layson West doesn't have time to be nervous about this weekend's Area 7-AA wrestling tournament. Actually, he can't spare time to worry about much of anything the next two days. The Sonoraville sophomore's itinerary the next two days will fill every extra minute.
West will wrestle his first 135-pound match tonight around 7 at Dade County High School, and if he wins, his next match would be Saturday morning at 11. But it's the chaotic schedule between those two matches that make his attempt to advance a step closer to the state tournament so impressive.
Weather permitting, West and his family will fly from Calhoun to Athens at 6 a.m. Saturday so he can make an 8:20 appointment to interview with a panel of judges for a place in Georgia's Governor's Honors Program. Following that half-hour interview, he will fly back to Calhoun, then hustle to Trenton for his second match.
"When I saw the schedule and how close together both things were, I was worried I would have to choose between them," West said. "But my teacher worked out the interview schedule so I can do both now. I want to study plant genetics and hopefully learn to develop a plan for seeds that will help wildlife.
"I've always liked the outdoors -- hunting and fishing and stuff like that -- and once I started taking classes and learning more about plants, I decided this was something I would be interested in making a career. I always wanted to make a career out of something I like doing, so I feel pretty lucky about already knowing what I want to do.
"I'll be ready for my interview that morning, and when I get back, I'll be ready to wrestle. No doubt, I'll be ready to wrestle."
West, a straight-A student, began taking Sara Clark's agricultural class at Sonoraville as a freshman, and the class struck a chord with him. He has taken a second ag class this semester.
Noticing the interest he showed, Clark referred him as a candidate for the program that invites promising students to study their course of interest for four weeks at Valdosta State. That certainly would help his college resume.
"It's a great opportunity for him, but it won't be easy doing both," Clark said. "The GHP takes the brightest students in the state in all subjects and puts them together in one place and lets them feed off each other and share ideas. We'll find out in about a month if he gets invited, and if he is, he's pretty much assured of getting accepted into the University of Georgia."
West will know much sooner than that if he will represent his school at the state wrestling tournament. Depending on how he finishes this weekend, the sectional round is next week and the state tournament is the week after.
After sitting out much of last season behind a senior captain, West overcame his inexperience and became a key member of one of the area's top wrestling programs. He has won 30 matches this season.
"He obviously excels at both academics and on the mat," Sonoraville coach Eric Elrod said. "He probably would have started for a lot of other teams last year, and he's been a starter since day one this year. I expect him to be wrestling in the state tournament, and, honestly, he's our biggest wild card. He's dangerous enough to make a deep run.
"What I like about him is he has that internal drive to go back to work and get better even after he wins matches. I'm not worried about him being ready. Hopefully he'll do well in his interview, and when he gets back to the tournament, I know he'll be ready to go."
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 20 years, starting at the News-Free Press as a 19-year-old reporter. He has been with the Times Free Press since its inception and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers in the nation ...