When Cam Westray walked into Alexander High School in Douglasville on Saturday, he wasn’t just getting ready to compete in West Forsyth’s first wrestling tournament of the year. He was also righting a wrong.
During his first two years as a varsity starter for West Forsyth’s wrestling team, he was a state qualifier, but as his junior year approached, the desire to hit the mat again just faded away, and he ended up sitting last year out.
As his team competed and won without him, his decision to quit reentered his mind multiple times, and ultimately, he began to second guess it. He not only missed the sport, but the teammates he’d shared bonds with.
Ultimately, with one last year remaining at West, he rejoined the team, and on Saturday, he made his grand return with the Wolverines, helping them to a tournament win to start his senior year.
“I thought I didn't like it or I thought the weight cutting was getting too hard on me or something like that,” Westray said. “I kind of think I thought too quickly. I made the decision too quickly. I kind of just thought I knew what I needed, but in reality, I didn't really know. I realized that after I quit.
“It was fun. I just realized how much I missed it and I wasn't stressed out or anything. I just kind of had fun with it.”
Westray’s return is just one of the reasons for West’s optimism this year. Despite losing a significant number of seniors, the Wolverines have depth and numbers to go along with some key returners. Their potential as individuals remains to be seen, but the defending Area 5-7A dual champions have certainly been encouraged from a team standpoint.
“We had a more committed offseason that we've ever had,” West wrestling head coach Evan Goff said. “It's only my third season as head coach here, but each year, it's improved and we've changed the culture. We've got guys that are excited about it – the energy's high. I feel like even though we lost a little more experience, this year's team's got a little more grit, it seems.”
And that was certainly evident this past weekend. West was not at full strength, with heavyweight Dylan Fairchild and 220-pounder Spencer Bovenizer still out of the lineup because of football. While those names will no doubt be important ones for the Wolverines going forward, they managed quite well without them against Alexander to take the top spot.
“We can put guys in there that are backups and still get wins for us, and that's what happened this weekend,” Goff said. “I think our backups were strong and we didn't really lose a step.”
Other returners include Ethan Rickert, who lost a close overtime match at state last year to finish fourth. Fairchild is another state placer from last year, along with Creston Lorenzo. Christian Walker and Chase Murray were close last year, but Goff thinks they’re much improved.
While Goff will certainly be pleased to see any of his wrestlers place at state, the Wolverines have more of a team-focused mentality, which plays better to their strengths.
“We've got a true team,” Goff said. “You have certain teams out in the state that will be in the top five or 10 each year in the traditional state tournament, that their team is a horrible team, but they have three individuals that all place in the top three, and so they finish fourth or fifth in the state. That's not representative of a good program or a good team. You had three elite guys that trained elsewhere that just joined your team.”
West’s previous state finishers will all do their part to be big point-scorers. Still, there’s a certain allure of an individual title, and for Westray, it would be quite the way to complete his comeback.
“I would like to place in state, if not try to win it,” Westray said. “It's a lot coming back, but I'm going to do everything I can. It's my last year, so I might as well go all out.”