Reading Tim Hester's wrestling resume isn't something that can be done at a glance or even a few seconds. It's something that needs to be dwelt upon and appreciated.
Three-time state tournament qualifier. Two-time state placer, including a Class 6A state championship at 170 pounds in 2012. Sectional champion at 170 in 2012. School record holder for most career wins by over 30 wins. A perfect 48-0 record this season.
However, what makes that resume even more impressive is that it's incomplete.
Yes, Hester has a chance to add even more accomplishments to his already-lengthy list of achievements. The first step in that quest comes tonight, when the Smiths Station senior competes in the Class 6A Sectional at Prattville. Wrestling continues through Saturday and the top four finishers in each weight class qualify for the Alabama High School Athletic Association State Tournament Feb. 14-16 at the Von Braun Civic Center in Huntsville.
Wrestlers from Georgia high schools will also begin competing today in the GHSA Western sectionals at various locations around the state.
Smiths Station coach Tommy Sanders said Hester's drive to be the best is his top asset as a wrestler.
"A lot of what makes Tim so good is his work ethic," said Sanders. "When a lot of kids are laying up at home in front of the TV or playing video games, he's trying to find somebody to practice with. He always wanted to be a state champion and he made that happen last year. Also, he has an innate feel for wrestling. He'll try a move, his opponent will counter and he's already making his next move because he knew what his opponent would be trying. A lot of wrestling is instinct and reacting to the next move and Tim works hard at it. A lot of that just comes from the time you put in on the mat."
Hester's success at the high school level smacks of someone who's been wrestling since he was very small, but Hester has only been wrestling for six years.
"I had a cousin wrestle at Pacelli, so I knew about wrestling," said Hester. "My seventh grade year, there was a tryout and I thought I'd try it and see how good I was at it. From my first practice, I loved it and loved everything about it. I love competition and I guess you could say I'm an adrenaline junkie. Once I started it, I couldn't stop."
Like Sanders, Hester points to his work ethic as his biggest asset.
"I've been able to do what I've done just by working hard and refusing to lose," said Hester. "(Sanders) stays on me and never lets me get complacent. I just want to do my best every time I step on the mat."
One of the ways Sanders keeps Hester on his toes is by having him "wrestle up" at 180 pounds despite the fact that Hester usually weighs around 167 pounds at match time. Hester recently wrestled at 180 against a defending Sectional champion and won the match by nine points (a major decision).
"I tell my kids not to think about losing, just to think about doing what it takes to win," said Sanders. "Tim's just worried about how he's going to score the next two points. He's never worried about losing. He seems to excel in the biggest matches, when guys usually slow down because they're worried about doing something wrong or they just use a few moves. Tim doesn't do that."
Hester -- who is being looked at by Division I members Gardner-Webb, Tennessee-Chattanooga, Kent State and Appalachian State -- said he embraces the challenges Sanders throws his way because he knows it'll make him a better wrestler.
"I love when I wrestle up or when I face a good opponent," said Hester. "If you want to be the best wrestler, you have to wrestle the best wrestlers. I just wrestle who (Sanders) tells me to wrestle. Whoever it is, I'm just going to beat the guy in front of me."
Hester also has been wrestling year-round, competing in two national-level tournaments and recording a pair of top-seven finishes to earn two All-American honors.
"Wrestling in those big tournaments gets you mat time and a lot of experience," said Hester. Wrestling against better people makes you better and now when I see those top-level guys, I know what to do to be successful against them."
Even though another Sectional title and a berth in the state tournament seem like a foregone conclusion, Hester said he knows he still has to take care of business starting tonight.
"I've got to take it one match at a time," said Hester. "I can't take anybody lightly because on any given night, any one wrestler can beat another. If I wrestle my match, I should be fine. I want to be in the state final again. I know that sounds like I'm bragging, but everybody's got to have some cockiness. The difference is not to let it show. You have to have that confident mindset, but not take anybody lightly."