Jack of all trades: Aiden Koontz is prospering in the odd combination of wrestling and golf at West Forsyth

Published 10:20 am Saturday, December 23, 2023

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By Jay Spivey

For the Clemmons Courier

CLEMMONS — Conventional wisdom says that wrestling and golf don’t go hand in hand, but don’t tell sophomore Aiden Koontz of the West Forsyth boys wrestling and golf teams that. Not only does he play both sports, he is excelling in both sports.

Although he’d never really wrestled until just before his freshman year at West Forsyth, he and his parents, Chris and Kim Koontz, along with 12-year-old sister Emery, live at Salem Glen Country Club in Clemmons, which just happens to be the home course for West Forsyth.

“My parents always say I picked polar opposite sports,” Koontz said. “If you think about it, really, wrestling’s very similar. The mindset’s similar. You have to be calm all the time. You have to be methodical. You have to have good technique at all times. And strength is also a big factor; I mean, the only difference is that contact level.”

Timmy Allen, the first-year wrestling coach at West Forsyth after taking over for Jason Hooker, hasn’t seen anything like Koontz.

“I hear he’s a pretty good little golfer,” Allen said. “He doesn’t look like your prototypical golfer. Most golfers aren’t wrestlers, and (he has) a little bit of cauliflower ear and all that stuff. Nah, I was surprised he played all those sports. Finding time to play golf. It’s expensive to play golf.”

Although Koontz has settled on two sports to play at West Forsyth, it wasn’t always that easy growing up. He and the adults around him knew he was a good athlete. He just had to pick a sport or multiple sports that suited him. According to Koontz, the only sport he really didn’t play was football. Ironically, the only reason he didn’t play it was because of the contact. However, he’s a huge football fan.

“Everything else I played, I tried about a year,” he said. “I never loved it. I found golf.”

Like many young people, it basically came down to concentration.

“My attention span was so short,” Koontz said. “I’d get decent at it, and then I’m like, ‘What do I want to from here?'”

It came down to wanting to stay active.

“I always wanted to play a sport,” Koontz said. “I loved sports, but I just never found one that I really loved.”

The Koontzes have lived at Salem Glen for the past 10 years, so it was almost a foregone conclusion that Aiden would play golf.

“At first, it was kind of living on a golf course. It was just the convenience of it,” he said. “But soon, I got better and better, and eventually, I got to the point where I loved it. I go up the range every day after school and I go and hit balls for an hour and a half.”

One aspect of golf appeals to Koontz.

“You can always improve,” he said. “There’s never a time where you’re the best.”

Koontz, who is 15, said he started playing golf at 7 or 8 years old.

Currently wrestling at 144 pounds and hopefully getting down to 132, he says he can drive a golf ball 300 yards.

“It’s really just the technique (in golf),” he said. “Like, I took lessons ever since I started.”

While in Clemmons Middle School, as he prepared to enter West Forsyth as a freshman, he decided to attend a wrestling meeting when Hooker was the head coach for the Titans.

“Everybody would talk about my ability,” Koontz said. “And I didn’t want that to go to waste. And naturally I try and be the best I can be. And so, I think that really helped me.”

With some encouragement from Hooker, Koontz stepped on a wrestling mat for the first time less than two years ago.

“It was really humbling, honestly, because I’d been playing golf for so long that I kind of thought there was no other sport that was hard as it,” Koontz said. “And I got on the mat, and then I couldn’t have been more wrong.”

The task of wrestling became even more daunting as he faced other wrestlers.

“It was scary, really, because with Forsyth County not having any middle-school wrestling, I mean, you always have that thought of, ‘What if this guy’s crazy good?'”

Koontz just couldn’t admit to himself about his new passion for wrestling.
“I’m a passive person,” he said. “Like I don’t like being mean. I’m really laid back, and so it’s hard for me to bring it out, but I think when I get in that moment, I think I can.”

He wrestled backup on varsity last season as a freshman.

“I’d wrestle JV tournaments, and whenever they’d have a varsity one, I’d observe and watch and see what varsity wrestling’s all about. So, I think that really helped me.”

He improved so much last year that he won a tournament at Enka.
“That was a big motivation for me,” he said. “I was honestly surprised because I’m a glass-half-empty kind of guy, so I always think about what I could be, but what I am. And so, it was really eye-opening.”

Then, Hooker announced that he was leaving after last season. Enter Allen as the head coach.

“It’s an adjustment, but Coach Allen’s done everything he can to make it as seamless as possible,” Koontz said. “And it’s really an adjustment for him, too, because he called moves all sorts of things last year. He’s got to get used to what we’re calling them. But it’s not really been that hard.”
Allen saw something in Koontz right from the start.

“When you’re a well-rounded athlete, certain techniques and stuff, agility-type stuff are a lot easier,” Allen said. “You know, he picks up on stuff real fast. And I think that comes from being a well-balanced athlete. He can do a lot of things.”

Keeping weight has been an issue.

“When he’s walking around, he’s around (1) 38,” Allen said. “And we’ve got a senior at that weight class. And we didn’t really want to cut him down because just to keep his strength up for all the golf and everything that he does play.

“So, he was wrestling essentially two weight classes up from where he should be. But I think getting him down to (1)34 after Christmas will be the best option.”

He’s gone out on the mat and done what the coaches have asked of him.
“It’s been really hard wrestling up almost two weight classes,” Koontz said. “But I think I’ve done decent.”

Before this past Saturday, Koontz’s record was 7-8, according to him.
“It’s definitely a mental adjustment, knowing that I’m going to have to go out there and be more technical than the guy and faster than the guy because I know I can’t be stronger than them,” he said of wrestling up in weight.

The plan is for Koontz to drop to 132 pounds after Christmas as the heart of the Central Piedmont 4-A schedule kicks into high gear.

“Once we get him at a consistent weight and keep him there, I think his wrestling is definitely going to take off and start building his confidence back up because when you’re giving up that much weight, you’re doing a lot of things right,” Allen said. “But those guys are so much stronger at 144 when he was up there.

“His techniques and setups would be right, but he still wasn’t getting the takedowns. I know that can have a bad effect on his confidence, but try to keep his right, and I think he’s in a good place. I think he’s OK. I think it’s actually going to make him tougher and better in the long run.”

In the meantime, even though it’s December he’s still going out and playing golf as much as possible as he prepares for the spring season at West Forsyth with Coach Kevin King.

According to Koontz, he normally shoots in the high 70s or low 80s, but if he hasn’t played as much, he can go as high as 85 or 86.

“I kind of just practiced all offseason and just trying to stay connected in both sports,” Koontz said. “You know, last year I just put golf to the side during wrestling season, and then I put wrestling to the side during golf season. And I think this past summer, I really tried doing both sports. I would do wrestling Monday, Wednesday, Sundays, play golf every day.”

Scheduled for graduation from West Forsyth in 2026, the sky is apparently the limit for Koontz.

“I think in the next 2.5 years, he’s going to be pushing for state implications,” Allen said. “I do think he could be that good. I do think he could be a state qualifier. And once you get to the dance, anything can happen. So, you’ve just got to get yourself there.”

Koontz seems to agree with Allen, saying he plans on playing both wrestling and golf until he graduates.

“I think I could be really good in both if I keep it up,” Koontz said.