When William Wells started talking about his Alcovy wrestling team after the Newton Cup last Tuesday, his lip began to quiver. Then his voice followed suit.
Shortly, you could clearly see moisture gathering between his eye lids.
He apologized for his showing of emotion, but he didn’t have anything to apologize about – nothing at all.
You see, Wells wasn’t crying because Alcovy lost the Newton Cup for the first time in four years. He wasn’t crying because of any frustrations that may stem from trying to coach up a young group of inexperienced grapplers. His tears were a product of his passion, not just for the sport of wrestling, but for the wrestlers themselves.
Wells has been coaching at Alcovy for four years, but he’s a product of the Newton County schools system. He wrestled in the county under the guidance of coaches like Greg Brickell and Mike Mostek. And before he came to Alcovy as coach, he spent several years at Cousins Middle School in Covington.
So that means Wells doesn’t just know wrestling. He knows Newton County wrestling, and it has a special place in his heart.
So when he begins talking about kids like senior Vance Ellis – arguably Alcovy’s best wrestler who’s high school career got cut short by injury – or when he speaks of his younger athletes who are making progress despite being wet behind the ears, the emotions are reflexive.
“I’m gonna try not to cry,” Wells said with a chuckle this past Tuesday as he was getting interviewed about his team’s performance. “I’m soft.”
Later, Wells shared with me that a large part of that perceived softness comes from gratitude – the kind of gratitude that comes from simply being glad to be alive.
“I’m a cancer survivor,” Wells said. “And I think that’s where those tears come from. It’s just a joy of being alive, and living and having the chance to make a difference with these kids.”
There’s absolutely no disputing the fact that Wells loves his Alcovy Tigers, and just Alcovy and Newton County in general. He apologized to me a couple of times for not quickly responding to a couple of messages I left for him. I don’t usually take those things personally, though. People are busy – especially high school coaches who double as full time teachers and shapers of students, whose jobs don’t stop when the bell rings or after the game or match is over.
But seeing Wells at work Tuesday as Alcovy hosted both the Newton Cup and the South Metro Invitational last week truly put into perspective how much he wants to pour himself into his program and his kids. And quite frankly, any time I see that, I consider it a refreshing rarity.
He scurried around making sure guest teams and coaches were okay, talking to officials, making tournament updates and announcements over the PA system and just making sure things are moving smoothly. I’m not 100 percent sure, but I think at one point I even heard him giving fans directions to the concessions area.
“I need more coaches,” he said with a laugh. But make no mistake about it. Wells wasn’t complaining at all.
“I care a lot about the kids here,” he said. And he wasn’t just talking about his own Alcovy bunch.
“I grew up around here, so I’m just proud to be a part of it and still help contribute to all of these programs,” he continued. “I’m excited to see these boys successful and to pour into them just like coach Mostek and Brickell did for me. It feels good when you can come home and do it in your community.”
You ever get the feeling that there’s a whole lot more to a person that what meets the eye? Yeah, me too. I got that from Wells in our brief time chatting. He didn’t share a ton about his non-wrestling challenges at that moment because things were moving at rapid pace around us. But I’m looking forward to getting to know him more over the years I spend covering sports here.
But perhaps I already know the most important thing about him – that even the harshest difficulties of life can prepare you to become the biggest advocate of living life, and living it well.
By the looks of things, I’m willing to bet his wrestlers know this about him also.
Gabriel Stovall is the Sports Editor at The Covington News. He can be reached for tips and story ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GabrielStovall1 as well as our sports Twitter page @CovNewsSports.